Recently, students at BNU Lahore protested against the stigmatization of the ‘M word that should not be mentioned’ because it is supposedly every female’s dirty little secret.

They used shock value to get their message across by sticking sanitary pads on a wall – each with a different message.

“I am not flawed or poorly made”

“Don’t hide me”

Some girls even walked around with stains on their shirts.

One thing that everyone needs to understand (wanting to see bodily fluids out in the open or not) is that this does not mean they are saying women should walk around bleeding everywhere as is being thought by many. It’s quite simple, accidents can happen, and a female should not be shamed for it. It should be regarded the same way as perhaps a mayonnaise… or let’s go with a ketchup stain on anyone’s clothes. There should be no tears of embarrassment. It should not be a big deal.

But apparently it is a big deal; wars can break out on Facebook because of it, with major newspapers rushing to ‘cover’ it everywhere. 

Hush about the M word but the fight it caused – Everywhere.

Putting all that aside, is this really that important an issue? Women for centuries have dealt with it with no problems. Or have they?

In some societies, the M word is associated as being unclean.

Some church fathers do not want women ministers because of this very notion.

In many households in the Subcontinent – especially India as the kitchen is considered a pure clean even sacred zone – the ‘6-days-every-month-untouchable’ women are not allowed to enter it. They can’t even go in to butter a simple toast.

Apparently, the food they prepare or handle can get contaminated. According to study by Kumar and Srivastavain 2011, through very ‘rigorous science-ing’ methods, they found that during that time of the month, the body emits some specific smell or ray which turns preserved food bad.

So sour foods like pickles, tamarinds and curd are a definite no. They also believe eating these foods will stop the flow.

In Judaism:

“In the Torah (Leviticus 15:19-30), a menstruating woman is considered ritually unclean - "anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening" (New International Version). Touching her, touching an object she had sat or lain on, or having intercourse with her also makes a person ritually unclean.“

(Source: Wikipedia)

As they are considered dirty and impure, all places of worship become no-fly zones. Where in the case you do enter and someone finds out, you will be hit with God’s ‘Hell’s Fire’ missiles.

Or not. Since I am assuming that God himself designed the female body to be such.

Some of other bizarre rules include (from various countries) –

·         She should not bathe

·         Sleep during the daytime

·         Wear flowers

·         Ride a horse, ox or elephant (because all three are always just sitting around waiting for women)

·         Have sex

·         Touch other people

·         Talk loudly

·         Exercise

·         Even ride a car

·         If you throw a pad with other garbage it cancause cancer (this gem comes from Bolivia)

·         No salt (Zambian geniuses)

In Suriname, (South America) it is believed that the blood can be used for black magic called ‘Wisi.’ So the cloths, which they use, is usually buried so the evil spirits can’t use them. They also think the blood is so dangerous that a woman can use it to have her way with men. (That’s definitely not the love potions we heard about)

There also exists the Chaupadi Tradition (outlawed but still in practice) in Nepal in rural villages where women are usually sent to live in a shed in isolation for a week until their time of “shame” and  “impurity” is over.

The word unclean is thrown about so freely by people, I do wonder if they worry just as much when they shake hands with people who don’t wash them after going to the bathroom.

(Next time you shake someone’s hand, think about that.)

Ever see a female Sushi chef in Japan? It’s almost like anfable. There are virtually none. They believe that when “the M word that must not be mentioned” is happening, women’s taste becomes unbalanced. So this job is left to the man with the oh-so-steady taste.

Women have cramps, painful backs, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, the constant nagging anxiety that something might leak, exhaustion, hot flashes, cold sweats and if that wasn’t enough, then the added taboos. Do women really need it?

What does all this amount to?

According to Unicef, 1 in 10 women in Africa miss schools during the M period. This obviously leads to a higher drop out rate and the girls don’t learn to their full potential. (This is due to inadequate care and cramping).

In Bangladesh, (as per Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management) 73% of female factory workers are not paid for 6 days every month because they don’t come in to work.

Almost 50 per cent of Pakistani girls in rural areas and underprivileged circumstances miss school during their time of the month as well.

For the poor, using sanitary napkins are infact a luxury and they make do with cloths, which are used, washed, then reused again. And when not disinfected properly, lead to various infections that may eventuallycause issues related to infertility.

In India, only about 12% of women have access to it.

Sanitary pads are taxed in Pakistan as a luxury item.

Taxed and quickly hidden inside a brown paper bag so no one can see it and with virtually no eye contact. Uhm, the brown paper bag kind of makes it even more obvious that someone in the buyer’s household is about to hit the “unclean” time of the month.

Someone clearly did not think this through.

Let’s just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Which is what most of the people do anyway. They don’t talk about it, don’t mention it, and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s all hush hush as if talking about some grave sin.

The “M” word is really not that hard to say. Nothing will happen to you or anyone else who says it.

Let’s try it here and see if our respective laptops burn down.

Menstruation!

See, nothing happened.

It is a natural process of the female body. There is nothing wrong with it, and should not be treated like a disease. It should not cause shame. Men need not cringe everytime they hear the word menstruation and women don’t need to hide or be shunned.

It’s not a dirty little secret.

And once we cross that, it will spill over and we can finally get rid of the orthodox customs, increase education regarding it, and rampant misconceptions will die a much needed death.