Each month for at least 3 days (it could last up to 10 days when I was an adolescent) I bleed! As my unfertilized eggs leave my body, my womb refreshes itself for the next month, so that I can reproduce. I bleed each month so that humankind can continue, but how dare do I bleed?
22 year old student and poet from Ontario, Rupi Kaur, just like most of the other women, bleeds each month. She also faces some health problems due to her menstruation. She shot a series of photos of menstruation in order to turn this into a school project and she shared these photos on Instagram. How dare she?
Because these photographs got reported as “inappropriate content” Instagram deleted her photos, not just once but twice. How dare could Rupi Kaur upload those photos on a platform where women, even preadolescent girls are being sexually objectified?
Instead of celebrating our fertility that leaks from our womb, from our legs, they impose this on us as a source of shame! As if it’s the storks that brought us to earth. As if nobody knows that it’s that blood, which they describe as filthy, gross, as a sickness, that brings life to earth when it’s fertilized! You were created from that blood that leaks; it’s that blood which gave you your life!
Just like Rupi Kaur said, it’s not our blood that is leaking, “their patriarchy is leaking, their misogyny is leaking!”
Before patriarchy virus has taken over the planet, during the Paleolithic and Neolithic Age, women were blessed as they were the only ones to combat death, by giving birth. I’m not talking about being blessed in terms of being decent and modest; I’m talking about how women were respected because of their fertility and how their fertility was being celebrated.
Celebrating that? How dare we?
I grew up in Turkey and I remember when I first had my period, my mom slapped me. So that my cheeks would blossom just like my womb. This was just one example of many other superstitious beliefs of hers.
During middle school, we talked about our periods with my girlfriends in private. We had code names for it such as “there’s a bloody war” or “I have a visitor”. Learning the tricks on how to hide the sanitary pads inside our school skirts and making it to the toilets was a marathon itself!
We did all of these because we were taught to gentrify our menstruation. Anything that’s gentrified turns into a taboo and all the taboos turn into an exaggerated subject of attention. So boys’ interest on this subject and their willingness to embarrass girls over this has increased as well. I remember the boys going through the bag of a girl in our class, finding a sanitary pad and sticking it on her desk. If she’s reading this right now, I apologize with all my heart that I kept quiet and did not defend her just like the rest of the class!
I do not dare to talk about tampons as they did not exist! I believe they’re still not so accessible in Turkey. Do not dare to stuff a tampon in your vagina and risk breaking your hymen, so that the mentality infected with bigotry could go on! On an emergency situation, we had to survive with the sanitary pads that we bought from the local store covered in newspaper, the ones that had the nylon surface which irritated our vaginas. Plus, even though that we needed those pads for natural reasons, we had to and we still do pay 18% tax on these products!
We grew up and turned into women who have sexual lives. “My partner does not want to have sex with me during my period because he gets grossed out.” I heard this so many times from women. Or I hear men say: “there are some men out there, who are so desperate that they could even f.ck a woman who’s on her period.” I listened to women saying “I forgot to hide my sanitary pads in the bathroom when my boyfriend came over, I’m so embarrassed.”
Thus and so, our period, that is the proof of our fertility, which was associated with abundance back in the day, turned into a sickness, something that is filthy and worst of all, turned into something confidential.
Last month, Elone Kastrati, a 19 year old feminist activist living in Germany did a great protest by herself! She wrote feminist quotes on sanitary pads and she stuck them around in Karlsruhe, the city she lives in. I believe the one that was the most meaningful was: “imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods.”
Just like Elone Kastrati’s protest went viral, Rupi Kaur’s story got viral as well and Instagram has apologized from her and uploaded her photos back. As you can see from these examples this issue is not only specific to Turkey or conservative cultures. Patriarchy’s pressure on the fertility of women is universal. These success stories are the ones that begin the change, but it’s us who will continue to make this change happen.
Us women, we bleed, each month. Because of us, humankind can survive. We produce and reproduce. How dare do they try to turn this into something to be ashamed of, something confidential and how dare do they humiliate women with this? We will continue to bleed each month, so that humankind can go on, and neither we’ll be ashamed of this nor we will hide it!