Period Taboo

Nicole Sanchez

As you may or may not know, we have been trying to destigmatize period conversations and deal with period taboo through our blog. There are a lot of conversations that we want to have regarding menstruation and if you haven’t read our two previous blogs, you can read them here. As we continue this conversation, we want to share some research and compare it to the period story of our next interviewee, Zahra Kamranian. Zahra is 46 years old, she is a bridge management engineer and has one child.

“I was 15 years old when one day, I was in physics class and I felt my legs hurting quite a bit. I assumed the pain was just because of my boots being strapped too tightly. I brushed it off and didn’t check right away so I waited until I was home. I went to the bathroom and saw blood - I was immediately shocked. I was a shy person but internally, I felt positive about the situation because it gave me a sense of maturity. This was also because I was always a year younger than the students in my grade and I always felt “behind” in the sense of growth and maturity level, but getting my period really confirmed that I was caught up with them,” shared Zahra.

Listening to Zahra’s story and appreciating the fact that she celebrated and viewed getting her period as a positive experience, is always encouraging to hear. There are a lot of menstruating people who didn’t view it as such and hearing a story like Zahra is very comforting as a woman who hopes to eliminate period stigma. As I got involved with Ruth, I realized so many things and my eyes were definitely opened to some realities that I never thought about and one of them is period taboo. I guess I experienced it first hand too, but never viewed it the same way I do know and just thought it was a normal reaction. As our journey continues and as we get connected with more people, we hear more stories, read more articles, and get more involved with the community. We realized how much work still needs to be done in terms of destigmatizing period conversations, and even though we have this platform, we need to keep doing more.

Period taboo is worse in third world countries, as you may or may not know. We have talked to a few people about this and I wanted to share this one article that came out early this year by BBC titled “Period-shaming' Indian college forces students to strip to underwear.” The article talks about how “68 young women were pulled out of classrooms and taken to the toilet, where they were asked to individually remove their knickers for inspection.” Now as a reader, I was immediately shocked by the title and I recognized that that in it of itself is a privilege. It talked about how the hostel had rules regarding entering a temple, the kitchen, and how menstruating people were not allowed to touch others when they were on their period. If you want to read the full article, you can read it HERE. It is devastating to hear stories like this and although there is definitely some cultural and religious aspect to it, there must be something we can do to avoid situations like this. Knowing that this article was published in February of last year is a little too upsetting, and it shows that we truly have a lot of work ahead of us. As Zahra shared, “I personally became comfortable with the topic and the fact that I had to experience this from that moment on. However, it was not a big topic of discussion in my household.

In general, I was taught to hide my menstruation from any men in my family as the whole topic was considered to be taboo and “shameful.” One thing I remember was that every time I had to dispose of my pads, I had to wrap it around in a newspaper and secretly throw it out in the trash located outside of the house.”- Zahra Kamranian

Being that menstruation is a natural bodily function, it’s strange to hear these stories, yet somehow it is more common than you think. In fact, in India, “many girls and women are subject to restrictions in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating. Not entering the “puja” room is the major restriction among urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books. The underlying basis for this myth is also the cultural beliefs of impurity associated with menstruation. It is further believed that menstruating women are unhygienic and unclean and hence the food they prepare or handle can get contaminated. According to a study by Kumar and Srivastava in 2011, participating women also reported that during menstruation the body emits some specific smell or ray, which turns preserved food bad. And, therefore, they are not allowed to touch sour foods like pickles.”

Although there isn't any scientific proof on most of these claims, the cultural and social influences that have brought this period stigma forward have not been fully abolished, so as we keep on saying in our social media and in our blogs, there is still so much work to be done.

How to Destigmatize Period Talk?

“I think that womxn should be proud to have and get their periods. Getting your period is a sign of having the ability to reproduce and have children and that in itself is a celebration of life that should be recognized and acknowledged. It is important to get educated on the topic and it is a natural thing that women can’t control and should never be ashamed of.” - Zahra Kamranian

What’s Next?

We know that some of these facts and research are not always the most exciting to read and it is often uncomfortable to share since we know there are a lot of aspects that contribute to it. We recognize that we are privileged enough to be able to talk about this and be a platform for these stories. It is sad to think that some cultures still scrutinize women for menstruating, so we need to keep hearing these, we need to keep sharing them, and we need to start talking about them. The conversations might be rough and uncomfortable but it has to be done. We hope that this blog, specifically, gave you some education and some light as to how big this issue is and how big it can be in some countries. So, let’s keep talking! Share your period stories with us HERE. If you want to stay updated on any upcoming events or what’s next with Ruth, subscribe to our newsletter down below.

You can always check our website too for any updates and stay connected on our social media. If you want to be one of the first people to get your hands on Ruth Pads, sign up HERE.Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to wear your masks when you go outside and wash your hands regularly. Stay safe!