There! I finally said it! I had been contemplating on writing this article for some time now. Coming from my cultural background where going through menstruating period is termed as being “untouchable.” Restrictions could be as sever as living in a shed outside the house to not entering the kitchen and not offering prayers at home or in temples. I, for one has never felt like talking about “this particular topic”, because it is a cultural stigma. There are many cultural variations and variations in the severity of “untouchability” depend across sub-cultures and the regions. There is in fact a festival, Rishi Panchami, that “allows” women to “wash all their sins that they may have amassed from touching what they should not have during their menstrual cycles throughout the year.” Marriages are postponed; women swallow pills after pills to push back their periods during important festivals; women are refrained from attending or being a part of the many cultural festivities, and the whole family and even the neighborhood (depending upon the social ties and the flow of neighbors and relatives to one’s house) are informed of the woman menstruating and they remain vigilant to purify themselves after their encounter with the woman; the list can possibly go on and on. The irony is that women have embodied this stigma as part of their religion and follow it religiously.
Why did I feel the need to talk about it now besides the obvious reason that I now have a weblog to write about “stuff” that I feel like writing about?
I have always been a rebel when it came to this cultural stigma, a rebel who believes that the phenomenon that gives women the power to give birth is not and should not be something to be looked down upon or for them to be discriminated against. However, I am a quiet rebel, the one who tries to defect when she can, protesting meekly, and going along at times. It is perhaps because of the prevalence of the “untouchability” stigma, perhaps speaking out would seem like a travesty, and perhaps speaking will hinder any of the social roles that I want to continue with. Acting against the norm, especially when it comes to the beliefs and your identity (in a way) is always a tough decision.
So what changed? With education, with some grey haired wisdom, and with much contemplation, I started feeling the responsibility to speak out for what you believe in growing stronger. And then this article by Garima Kushwaha began circulating on facebook. As I shared it on my facebook page with these comments:
Till women feel or are made to feel like untouchables four days every month, claiming that men and women are equal is pure hypocritical.
I felt someone had spoken out for me and then another article, this one by Mythri started circulating on facebook which educated me on some things and made me look for more. I would have never known that menstrual blood was ever regarded as powerful and sacred. I would have never known early education could have helped me when I reached puberty.
While I cannot speak on behalf of other cultures and their practices, the stigma seems to cross borders and cultures. I do not intend to put the blame on any one person or even a society. There are many issue that have to be brought up, talked about, and decisions made. For any issue to gain importance, it has to be a talking point, it has to become a subject of discussion. A taboo that impacts women but are “best to keep it a secret” to most men, has to find its space and its voice.
The quiet rebellion no longer has to remain a rebellion or needs to conform to the taboos. If I can add a spark to this issue then I will.