by Kimberly Flanagan
PMS or as I’d like to call it, Please Make it Stop! comes month after month terrorizing women and girls of various ages from the dawn of the ages. You would think that we would be used to it by now, right?
For some reason ‘Aunty Mary’ as I grew up referring to that dreaded red river, never seizes to surprise us.
Those stabbing, twisting, pinching cramps and pains seem to get worse every other month and let’s not forget all the other issues that accompany it; skin break-outs, diarrhea, mood swings, and strange cravings. It’s like you’re pregnant except there’s no baby.
I can’t decide which one is more preferable; periods or babies.
At least babies are cute, there’s nothing cute about having your period.
Anyway, I digress.
I’m not going to tell you how to treat your period pains or how to deal with your monthly curse (or blessing, depending on how you look at it) We all know the standard procedure; stuff your face with chocolate, have your hot water bottle ready, put on that romance movie from the 80’s that you’ve seen a million times and cry. Done.
What I do want to share, however, are some interesting facts about how different cultures see menstruation. Did you know that in some countries having your period is considered unclean or embarrassing? Imagine being put to shame for something as natural as having your period every month.
On the opposite spectrum of that, in other traditional societies, having your period is seen as protective and empowering and allows a woman to be safe from unwanted sexual advances. Such as the women in the Kalasha Valley in Pakistan. These women have a menstrual house which is considered their most holy place.
In some historic cultures such as the Cherokee, a woman on her period was seen as strong and powerful and her menstruation blood was seen as a weapon that could destroy her enemies.
Now when it comes to religious views, in the Islam faith, a Muslim women on her period is excused from fasting during Ramadan and performing prayers until her period is over whereas in Judaism a woman who is menstruating is called a ‘niddah’ and is forbidden from doing certain things such as simple things as physical touch, Just the mere act of handing someone something is forbidden. After her period is done, a woman then has a ritual bath which is called a ‘mikvah’
In Afghanistan many women don’t wash down there during their periods and many girls are subjected to using torn rags as sanitary towels while in India, when a woman is on her period, she is forbidden from entering the kitchen or cook food, because some people believe it will make the food go bad or rot.
All these customs and traditions are so outdated and might seem so crazy considering that the average women menstruate for 3000 days throughout her entire life.
There are many other cultures and traditional societies all over the world who have various ways of treating menstruation and who consider it to be something strange or odd.
In Africa, we have our own problems when it comes to menstruation. Not in the way we see it or understand it but because we have to climb literal mountains to get school girls to receive sanitary towels.
The taboo around menstruation will take a long time to die down but I would like to think we are making strides. Even when we have to climb mountains and suffer the expensive costs of pads and tampons, I’m hoping the controversy around this issue will bleed out soon enough.