If we’re talking red, why not worry about love, why not imagine about the Chinese flag, why not want a Bloody Mary cocktail, why not crave KFC? Then why does the color red need to be stereotyped when it comes to period blood?
Why is red on athletic jerseys, or Apple products, or Mc Donald’s logo advertised, but red on a girl’s jeans is hidden?
We haven’t asked ourselves these questions for a while now; and we haven’t because our learned perceptions of the society are scared of accepting the answers.
In an Indian family, everyone waits for the news that the newly wedded bride bled on her first night because that is supposed to be a sign of her purity, her chastity; but the same bride for three days of every month is called ‘impure’ for bleeding.
In an Indian family, everyone wants to have a child, everyone wants to have a biological heir, keep their bloodline running, but the one thing that indicates that the woman has a healthy reproductive cycle is called ‘unclean’.
And both of these examples just show that, on one hand while the Indian cultures have evolved, some lingering hypocrisy is still stuck with us. However, you are reading this and I am writing this today to make you aware of other such myths in the Indian society. And the only reason we have reached this point today is because we have, in fact, evolved with the cultural influence, the liberal mindset of the world.
Myth #1: "One cannot enter the kitchen."
Now, saying something like this back in the days when sanitary hygiene was undiscovered made a lot of sense. A time with no sanitary napkins, or menstrual cups or tampons would probably call it healthy to not cook for someone when you are in a position of slightly compromised health. But why anymore? These sanitary hygiene products are the reason women are a lot more prepared for menstruation today, women keep themselves a lot more clean today. And it is just insane to still call them ‘unclean’ while they’re on their periods.
If that wasn’t enough of how messed up a certain chunk of our society is, a religious leader from Gujarat has said that menstruating women who cook food for their husbands will be reborn as dogs in their next life, while men consuming food prepared by women having periods will be reborn as bullocks.
Myth #2: "One cannot enter a place of worship."
All Hindu temples, and also mosques, have an entrance restriction on women; they are not allowed to enter during their menstrual period. Apparently, taking part in rituals requires a state of purity, being undefiled, and period blood is ‘polluting’. In the same temple where most worship goddesses.
They say, “you can only enter a place of prayer once you’ve washed your hair on or after the fourth day.” And I believe this is just another way of demeaning women; it is just another way of telling women that they still have to live under certain restrictions.
Our most prestigious festivals, like Diwali, we worship Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. On Navratri, we celebrate Goddess Durga. Jesus Christ was born from Mother Mary, she is the most spoken of in The New Testament and the Quran. And sometimes, while trying to put women down, our society tends to forget the importance of these females, the strength, the beauty and the purity of the feminine gender.
The four Vedas, the most respected religious books, never state anywhere that a woman's body is impure or that she cannot participate in rituals during menstruation. This belief, the prohibiting of women from entering temples, and labelling them as impure is squarely against the teachings of our holy manuscripts.
Myth #3: "One can't wash their hair."
And this one is my personal favorite because no researches have ever suggested a reason to not wash your hair, or take a bath. In fact, a nice, long, hot water shower can help relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual tension.
But this is not the best part; the best part is there is another myth that says that you must wash your hair on the first day of your period to clean yourself completely. Yes, just like you, we also have so many questions about this right now. When there is something that we have been told to believe in since we gained our understanding, then how come these things contradict themselves?
It is completely okay to take full body showers, or go swimming, and if you are worried about the mess created by the blood, again, there are sanitary products like tampons and menstrual cups to keep your surroundings clean.
If we look at all of these things carefully, we will clearly see that these are just baseless superstitions that we have passed on from generation to generation. These are ways of this patriarchal society to keep women under check, means for narrow-minded people to make women feel inferior, and a source for most conservative men to protect their ego. There is no reason to be ashamed, worried or conserved about your menstrual cycle.
And if the Indian mindset wasn't enough to stain such an important bodily function, we have the unaware humans of our society.
Myth #4: "Only women get periods."
Not every woman gets her periods, and it's not necessary that each of the ones that do consider themselves as a woman. There are transgender men who go through a menstrual cycle and then there are transgender women who don't.
Menstruation isn't a "woman's" concern; menstruation is a human concern.
Myth #5: "Periods is a personal problem."
Now, each person's perspective on menstruation might be a personal issue, but in 2014, the United Nations declared it as a humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, period hygiene is a public health issue.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has taken several steps to ensure awareness on this issue.
Taught more than 10,000 boys and girls in Bolivia about menstrual health and hygiene.
Used community outlets and radio stations in Niger to promote, discuss and debate menstrual health, including sketches and songs in French and Hausa.
Distributed almost 100,000 water, sanitation and hygiene kits in Nigeria, including reusable menstrual hygiene pads.
And these are just a few to name. Some UN experts also state; the stigma and shame generated by stereotypes around menstruation have severe impacts on all aspects of women’s and girls’ human rights.
Myth #6: "Periods should happen at regular intervals."
Surprisingly, not all bodies function similarly, and so the menstrual cycles also differ. The most widely used, the 28 day cycle is just an average marker of when one must probably get their periods, but it is not set in stone. For most women, even teenagers, sometimes the onset of the monthly menstruation is irregular. So, the gap between period cycles may vary between 21 days to 35 days.
Myth #7: "One cannot get pregnant while menstruating."
Now, while uncommon, one can get pregnant while menstruating.
Ovulation and menstruation can be unpredictable, and ovulation can happen anytime before, after or maybe even during the bleeding phase.
Therefore, it is highly suggested and imperative, that one uses protection while having sex. Always practice safe sex, because during this time, women are also highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
What you women need is to get into a hot tub, pour yourself a glass of wine, play your favorite playlist and embrace the beauty of being a woman.
Treat yourself nice, and treat other women right; being on their periods does not make them untouchables, it does not make them ‘unclean’, ‘impure’ or ‘polluting’, it just gives them the freedom to take rest, and be pampered.