by Sanda Gcadinja
True to social and cultural form, issues pertaining to women’s healthcare and biological bodily functions continue to exist within the confines of lowered voices, shame, period jargon, extensive efforts to conceal ‘sanitary’ products and under a plethora of senseless reasons that further nourish the notion that menstruation is dirty and embarrassing.
Public Health England, in June 2018 published a report that stated that women’s concerns about their menstrual cycles and period pains were the 3rd biggest reproductive concern. You’d think that a concern that ranks so high up would be an issue of collective concern. Sadly, the need to keep it coded and contained vibrates louder.
Keeping menstrual cycles and its by-products neatly tucked away in a shroud of ancient shame further perpetuates stigma, miseducation as well as creates heavy reliance on myths to supplement what could otherwise be an opportunity to adequately equip young girls to be receptive to the inevitable biological changes that their bodies are due to undergo.
While each of us has their own distinctive bodily scent, menstrual blood inherently has no odor. It comprises of blood tissue that sheds from the uterus – that, combined with natural body bacteria may emit an odor a little less than crisp. Hardly a viable cause to legitimize misleading misnomers such as ‘feminine hygiene’ and ‘sanitary products’. Women are not dirty and their vaginas have the ability to take care of themselves.
The squeamishness that encompasses menstruation can be traced directly back to the ever-ripe prejudice against women, which generally seeks to unearth weakness and insufficiency from its victim. Consequently, suffocating and silencing those who’re left to wonder “What does spotting mean?”, “Are my breasts swelling a normal occurrence?”, “Is diarrhea normal?”, to self- diagnose.
Women menstruate, and with it comes a cocktail of inconvenience, every phase of the cycle either has a hormonal change, discomfort, Pain or overt sickness.
More serious and important than an inconvenience, menstruation ushers with it questions of health – which if not correctly addressed can have detrimental or life-changing effects.
The raging silence around menstruation is a breeding ground for reproduction related infections, diseases, and misinformation. It is counter-productive to our pursuits of a progressive and equal society. It endangers women. Right at the heart of a just and free society, lies women and their right to access healthcare and education.