By Vartika Mishra
Aunt Flo. Crimson Tide. Girl Flu. And finally, “lady business”. These are the various names we have given to ‘that time of the month’, but here’s the thing – periods are not just a lady’s business and today, I’m going to tell you why we need to include men in the conversation about menstruation.
In a culture where women themselves are unknown to the parts below their waistline and exploring the same is besharmi (shamelessness), men have naturally been kept completely out of the conversation. A 2016 study titled – ‘Menstrual hygiene management among adolescent girls in India’ involving nearly 100,000 girls in India found that almost 50,000 did not know
about menstruation until the first time they got their period. The study further explains how many girls even think that they are dying or have caught a horrible disease the first time they menstruate, due to the pain and blood. On the other hand, when several YouTube channels such as ScoopWhoop and POPxo took to the streets to ask men what they knew about periods, the responses by the clueless red faces of the Indian men varied from “This is not a decent thing to
talk about with men”, “I don’t know” to absurd answers such as “Periods is the attainment of moksha for women”. And while its easy to blame them, we need to take a closer look at how we, women, approach menstrual conversations around men – for example, quietly whispering to our girlfriends for a tampon so no men hear us.
There are several reasons so as to why this divide in information has emerged. Firstly, our culture and society teach men to be “manly” by disengaging in any sort of feminine affairs ranging from kitchen matters to menstruation. This toxic notion of masculinity needs to be uprooted to create not only a more inclusive environment but also a safer one for men in society. Secondly, sex education is often gender-segregated in schools. Teaching children about important topics such as menstruation is imperative to the development of empathetic, taboo-free communication between all. Moreover, it prevents the perpetuation of stigma and the aura of mystery around such topics. Lastly, most men simply find it unnecessary to actively make themselves aware of the causes, biological as well as social implications of menstruation since they are not the ones experiencing it and according to them, it doesn’t impact them in any way.
Enabling the next generation to perceive periods as a normal bodily phase rather than a matter of shame and embarrassment is key to create a more egalitarian world. From issues like period poverty to menstrual pain experienced by women, there is a need for men to sympathize and understand menstruation in the first place. The hush-hush around menstruation is a product of patriarchy and is highly problematic.
So, my dear men, let me educate you on some things that you must know about periods:
1. Not all women menstruate and not everyone who menstruates is a woman. The popular belief that menses does not impact men is particularly excluding and stigmatizing for trans men, who menstruate.
2. Hormones regulate the menstrual cycle in 4 phases-
● The follicular phase: This lasts from the start of menstrual flow to ovulation. During this time, the body prepares for ovulation (release of the egg).
● The proliferative phase: After the menstrual flow is over, the uterus lining starts
rebuilding itself to become thick for the potential implantation of an embryo, if the egg is fertilized upon ovulation.
● The luteal phase: After ovulation, the body continues to prepare itself for a possible pregnancy by a surge in hormones such as progesterone.
● The secretory phase: If the egg is not fertilized, chemicals are released to prepare the lining to break down and shed if pregnancy doesn’t occur which leads to menstrual flow.
3. Period blood is not impure, dirty, or full of chemicals that the body wants to eject.
4. Period pains can be very painful and difficult to endure. We are not being dramatic or over-reacting.
5. You can help. Ask us what we need and get it for us, ask how you can help, and just follow along – and you’ll be golden! Oh yes, while you’re at it stop joking about PMS and period pains.
Destigmatizing periods is a pressing need in today’s society. Effective communication is vital to bring the right change and the more we desensitize men to talking about menstruation by normalizing it, the easier it will be to get them on board with dismantling the societal stigma around it
van Eijk AM, Sivakami M, Thakkar MB, et al. Menstrual hygiene management among adolescent girls in India: a systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ Open 2016; 6:e010290.doi: 10.1136/BMJ open-2015-010290
Youtube.com. ScoopWhoop (2018). Retrieved 13 December 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMx3YGRNeJw
Youtube.com. POPxo Daily (2018). Retrieved 13 December 2020, from https://youtu.be/aou4T77KQNI