When I was in class 6, my mother told me about the period and what happens during that time. I remember, I cried a lot that night. I kept thinking that this is why everyone says that women are weaker than men. Because our vagina bleeds for seven days every month which does not happen to men. I cried and asked my mother with fear in my voice if it would make me weak also. My mother hugged me tightly and said that it definitely would not make me weak. Moreover, it is a natural process that will make me stronger.
I got my first period after some months. It was the time of Eid-Ul-Adha. I saw blood stains and I felt weak inside. My mother bought sanitary napkins and showed me how to use them. I was… shy, confused, weak, and frightened?! I was in the toilet and thinking, this is why TV channels are changed when ads of sanitary napkins come on; this is why the packets are covered with a brown packet so that none else can see what is actually inside the brown cover; this is why men are so boastful about their muscularity and consider women to be fragile. My thoughts were interrupted when my mother knocked on the door to know if I was okay. I tried sounding okay but I was petrified. As a 12-year-old, I started feeling weaker than my younger brother, my male cousins of my age. And the reason was one thing- my vagina bleeds.
It took me time to realize that this feeling was given to me by the patriarchal society that we live in. Various ads showing “You can’t run, you have to lie down during your periods” made me scared. After Eid, my mother went out of town to visit her maternal side of the family. My father couldn’t go so we all stayed back in Dhaka. It was my second day of the period. I got a call from my father asking if I was okay if I needed anything if I was feeling any pain or not. I was so embarrassed that I ended the conversation only by saying “hmm”, “hmm” and “no”. After that, I called my mother and told her about my embarrassment and she told me to relax and take the whole matter easily. She assured me that was nothing to be ashamed of. She also told me that she and my father, both are equal. If I can speak about this issue with my mother, I should be able to do so with my father as well.
Now coming back to the present day when I am 24 years old and all grown up! Now, the issue of secrecy regarding sanitary napkins and periods has reduced a lot but still, there are some “cool” people around who make an unnecessary fuss about it. These people have degrees and certificates but do not possess the light of education. I have seen and heard of uncountable insensitive jokes about periods in real life and on the internet that it triggered me to write about it. I may be no one important in the eyes of the society but I am just another woman who has had enough about these jokes.
As I am a Pharmacy Graduate, let me state some obvious facts about menstruations (which is the original term) that one in five people needs to know for keeping their nonsensical remarks to themselves.
- It is not only that your vagina bleeds, but the blood also carries chemicals, hormones and terminated eggs from the uterine wall and sends it out the body.
- Regular menstruation is the testimonial of a woman’s healthy body.
- A woman’s ovary and uterus both are considered to be in good condition if she has regular menstruation.
- Irregular menstruation can cause complications in a woman’s health. It can cause problems while conceiving a child. Menstruations testify that a woman’s uterus is fertile. In another sense, it means that she is capable of carrying a child.
These are some simple and very well known facts about periods. I came to know about these via textbooks, YouTube, and Google during my adolescence. Not to mention my father and mother who were supportive and open about it from the very beginning. These facts help me understand, how powerful a woman’s body and mind are. A woman goes through this every month for days where she suffers from abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, irritation, and uterine shedding with blood. But she does not get to stop all her activities and relax on those days. She keeps on working, studying, and doing what she needs to do. Sometimes, she faces some unwanted situations like- a leakage from napkins that get stuck in her clothes and is seen from the outside, standing in the workplace almost the whole day with painful cramps, dealing with the damp feeling around the vagina the whole time but still managing to end the day with grace. So, why would I call periods or let anyone call periods a catalyst to make a woman weak?
All I am saying is, every teen girl goes through these feelings when they get their first periods. My humble request to the parents is to look after your girls on those times and be as much as supportive and open about it to them. Make them feel strong. And my advice to others, if you cannot make a girl feel strong about the physiological functions of her body, then don’t make her feel weak or don’t humiliate her. Because, a day may come when your daughters will face the same embarrassment, shyness, and humiliation from other “cool” people like yourselves.
Tahiya Islam completed her graduation from the Department of Pharmacy of East-West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is currently living in Selangor, Malaysia. Apart from her love for writing, she has a knack for public speaking as well. Her career goal is to become a teacher and be a motivational speaker.