“Without menstruation and the sciences of measurement women developed from watching first the moon and then the stars, there would be no clocks or watches, no astronomers, no mathematicians or physicists, no astronauts, none of the architecture and engineering which have been born from exact measurement and proportion.” -Blood, Bread, and Roses by Judy Grahn
Unfortunately, her crossing the finish line isn't all of the story. Oh no. It couldn't be that simple. Man, or in this case, woman, has to over think and deeply complicate even the most benign of situations. This race, on that day, wasn't about running for Kiran. You see, Ms. Gandhi, who had been training for a year for the marathon, got a visit from "Auntie Flow" the night prior to her big run. Yep, ole Kiran started her period. You may be asking how I know this tidbit of information or why it matters. Well, what sets Ms. Gandhi apart from the other gals who were menstruating during the marathon (because statistically speaking many of the other women taking part in the race would have also been experiencing their menstrual cycles) was that she decided to run the 26.2 miles without a tampon. Or a pad. Yes, you read that correctly. She ran 26.2 on the first day of her period without using any form of feminine products. *sigh*
Why, Ms. Gandhi? Whyyyyy?
This is what she wrote after completing the race:
"As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50% of us in the human population share monthly. By making it difficult to speak about, we don’t have language to express pain in the workplace, and we don’t acknowledge differences between women and men that must be recognized and established as acceptable norms. Because it is all kept quiet, women are socialized not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see it happening. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably “not a big deal.” Why is this an important issue? Because THIS is happening, right now." (I chose red red lettering in honor of, well, you know...)
Ladies, please, I am begging y'all!! We have got to quit making mountains out of mole hills. Or in this case, private streams into public floods. If we want to be taken seriously we have got to quit feeling sorry for ourselves when life is, well, just life. We have to be able to see the difference between biological and anatomical differences and gross societal discrimination. Especially in situations where there is no malice. No victim. No perpetrator. Like a girl with a period running a marathon.
Because here are the facts: There are women in this world facing horrendous obstacles for simply being born female. There are babies aborted or killed immediately upon delivery because they have a vagina instead of a penis. There are women being abused mentally, physically and emotionally because they are deemed by their families and/or their partners as the weaker sex. There are women being sold and traded as sex slaves. There are women being raped and mutilated and killed for no other reason than they are women and therefore, deemed by some cultures and monsters, as disposable and replaceable.
There are real issues in some countries and cultures of this world. And I have no doubt there are people capable of bringing about change and female empowerment. But we can't have it both ways. We can't demand equality and then blame our period on our bad mood or our depressed demeanor. We can't demand to get the same jobs as our male counterparts, but then demand that the criteria or standards be changed or lowered for our sake. We can't fight like men, demanding the same physical respect and then, cry abuse when a man responds with like force.
There are differences between our genders. But instead of us being ashamed of or bitter because of those differences, we should begin to embrace what it means to be women. We should be proud of our gender and all of the natural, biological power that accompanies our sex.
Ms. Gandhi is right about one thing: Women shouldn't be embarrassed of or made to feel ashamed of our menstrual cycles. These annoying little "monthly visits" are our gift from God telling us that our bodies are healthy, strong and able to have children. Our periods are a sign of our unique abilities and reproductive powers and should be seen as such. There is absolutely no shame in bleeding. None at all.
However, we live in a society and in a time when nothing is sacred, secret or holy. We have allowed social media, 24-hour news cycles and blogs (I am guilty of this more than most) to infiltrate our families, minds and bodies. We are over-exposed and it is bloody dangerous, y'all. *No pun intended*
I don't know what Ms. Gandhi was trying to prove. I don't know what message she was intending to send. But it was gross. There are some things that should remain hidden, not because they are negative or nasty, but because they are private and personal. Tampons are not oppressive tools developed and marketed by chauvinistic men trying to keep women in our place. Feminine products are a sign of our time and the remarkable advances we, as humanity, have made in hygiene.
Yes, girls, PMS is real. Cramps hurt like a moe foe. Hot flashes are miserable. Yes, periods can suck. But it is the purpose of our menstrual cycles that should be seen as the blessing. (And Tampons should also been seen as a blessing, too!)
Ms. Gandhi is a rock star for being able to successfully complete a 26.2 race on what was no doubt a bad-feeling day for her. She deserves every accolade she received for completing the marathon. However, her methodology in regards to highlighting women's issues is questionable. Conversations, healthy, honest and open conversations, about menstruation, reproduction and feminine products is completely okay. Necessary, in fact. But let's keep it classy, y'all. Let's be ladies about this. Let's be dignified.