Of Women and Menstruation…

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Menstruation and general menstrual health issues are some of the shunned and rarely discussed topics. If you come from one of those families where your parents are frank enough to talk about such issues with you then consider yourself really lucky. The truth is that majority of the girls never really get good guidance once they start receiving the red lady. Somehow, you’re conditioned into thinking that it’s something that you should boldly speak of in front of people, something to be hidden behind dark doors and shut mouths. You’re made to think that it’s something to be kept secret, something you should somehow be ashamed of.

I remember the first time I received mine. I was thirteen. It was a Friday.  I still recall vividly the events that culminated the very day. I had felt a bit of wetness on my panties at about 3 pm. I rushed to the washrooms and confirmed my worst fears. I remember the shock that gripped my body. I was paralyzed with fear. It couldn’t be. Something had to be wrong. I didn’t want to be a woman yet. I was scared stiff. I remember walking out of that toilet, thinking that everyone knew my secret; like everyone could see right through me. My head was a jumble of nerves even as I sat down in that class, waiting for 4:10 so that I could go home.  I grabbed my bag and was out of the gate even before the bell stopped ringing.

That day I did not want to wait for my friends. I did not want to talk to anybody. The 20 minute walk home felt like a trance. I reached home, dropped my bag in the bedroom and locked myself in the toilet. I cried, not wanting to accept the reality. I remember saying “Hail Mary’s”, telling our mother to tell Jesus to just take them back till I was 15. But sadly, she never heard. What was done was already done. I could reverse time. I was now a woman. I hadn’t noticed just how long I had been inside; it was roughly past 7 when I finally came out. The house help was standing outside. She had been knocking on the door all that time. Worry was written all over her face as she asked what was wrong. When I told her I wanted “Always” she immediately knew.  She fed my mind with all these ideas on how to carry myself. Taught me how to stick the pad on my panty. Told me that I should stop playing with boys, that I needed to always carry an extra pad in case of an emergency, you never know. So the most important period in my life was handled by a house help, something that has always made me bitter for some absurd reason.

Looking back, I wish I had all these vast knowledge resources available to themodern age teens. Maybe my transition into womanhood would have been smoother, less traumatizing. Perhaps the reason I was so scared of having my menses was because we had taunted a classmate who had received hers at age 9. There had to be something wrong with her, we had convinced ourselves, and in the innocence yet cruel manner of childhood, we had bullied her unknowingly. If there was a moment I could erase from time, then it was those 4 years that we made her feel embarrassed about something she had no control over.

While most women nowadays are very vocal about menstruation, there still exists a larger percentage of women who still believe that their periods are something they should keep secret, never to be spoken about. And these women are passing their retrogressive beliefs to their young girls.

I hate how society treats the issue. I hate the awkward silences in our homes when tampons or sanitary towel adverts are played on the TV, or the quick fumbling for the remote to switch stations. It leaves me wondering whether all this is because of conservativeness or merely ignorance.

To be in a world where grown men still call periods or tampons “hizo vitu zao or vitu za wamama” is sickening. I detest how quickly they assume that you’re on your days simply because you are in a bad mood or woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Can’t a woman just be in a foul mood without it being attributed to her menstrual cycle? Aren’t we human after all?

And I am disappointed how even in this age, a man will still find it shameful to go out and buy his girlfriend or wife a pack of tampons if the need arises.

Why must women feel shame for something that is biologically natural? Why must girls belabor themselves trying to connote codenames for their menses? Why is it considered so crude when you simply say you’re menstruating? Is it a third world country problem?

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