Dirty. Impure. Filthy. Moody. Irritable.
Five words. Words that have negative connotations. Words that garner disgust and annoyance. Words that no one wants to be associated with.
Despite the fact that people do not want to be labeled as being any of these things, women still are, at different points in time during the span of approximately 38 years. For about three to five days in each month, women are called all of these things and more, simply due to a biological function commonly known as menstruation.
When a woman menstruates, it is clear that much of the world does not know how to react, and much of the world has created a stigma around it. Women around the world face shame in different ways for getting their periods, even though menstruating is a part of a woman’s life that cannot be changed.
In certain countries, women are banished from parts of their houses and cannot go to school because they are afraid of being shamed. For example, in rural areas of Nepal, women are banished to a small hut in which they must live for as long as they have their period. The hut barely has any protection from the elements, leaving some women and young girls to die from exposure to the cold, smoke inhalation or even animal attacks. This practice is known as “Chhaupadi” and is a deeply rooted tradition.
Menstruation is a natural process, and women should not suffer for it just because of the fact that they have two X chromosomes. It is not dirty, and girls and women across the world should not be shamed for this biological cycle.
In certain countries, especially in developing nations, girls often do not go to school if they get their periods because they are afraid that it will stain their clothes and they will be humiliated for it. This humiliation leads to a decline in mental health among girls, as many of them become depressed from this experience.
Females are not impure when they get their periods, and society should not humiliate girls and prevent them from getting their rightful education just because their clothes are stained. No one should be afraid of going to school just because they drew “incorrectly” in the lottery of the 23rd chromosome.
People in more developed countries may disagree, claiming that this is not a worldwide issue. However, the stigma around periods is often not as significant as girls being sequestered or facing humiliation.
I remember being embarrassed going to the bathroom with a purse that had a menstrual pad in it, thinking, “Oh my God, what if someone sees? What will they think?” Ever since most girls learn about menstruation, we are taught to keep it a secret. For a long time, I felt awkward speaking about it even to my close friends or family.
Later on, I realized that I, along with many other people, was making a big deal out of nothing. I never should have felt embarrassed because of a cycle that I could not control—a completely natural process that women and girls go through; frankly, it was no one’s business as to why I was carrying a small purse with me into the bathroom.
There is also a stigma around a female’s emotions during her period. Let me clear the air: women and girls are not moody or hormonal during their periods. This is just commonly misunderstood; premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs days before a female gets her period, not during the period itself. During PMS, a female’s hormone levels fluctuate, which can affect her mood. However, this does not occur during a female’s period, meaning that while a female is menstruating, her emotions are just fine. Next time, when you think a girl or a woman is being “moody” or “irritable,” I can promise you that it is not because she is on her period.
Everyone around the world should stop stigmatizing a biological process. When a woman menstruates, she is not dirty, impure or moody. Menstruation is a part of life. It is time that people recognize and accept this simple fact.
Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.