What I remember about my first period went something along the lines of “Congratulations you’re a woman and your period is a marker of this beautiful life event and we’re never going to talk about this again because it’s disgusting. Here are some pads.” The implicit premise here being: women have periods, a marker of their womanhood and femininity, but periods are disgusting and have to be kept secret. Does that mean femininity and womanhood also has to be kept secret, discussed only in a sterile classroom (which is a hotbed of misinformation and ulterior motives) or only in the embarrassed, hushed whispers of “Do you have an extra tampon?”
Of course all bodily functions are disgusting at a certain level. Disgusting, but natural. I don’t want to hear about someone defecating (no matter how satisfying) as much as they don’t want to hear the bloody details of the crime scene in my pants. The topic of human excrement and periods is not something for polite company but, it makes me wonder why people treat periods, this supposedly beautiful womanly thing, literally like shit. I take that back — worse than shit.
Those of us who have asked for any spare feminine hygiene products will understand the struggle of asking for this seemingly trivial item. Asking for a tampon is an entire mission. Throughout the transaction, the tampon must remain unseen. When buying tampons, the overwhelming majority hopes that the cashier is of the female variety. God forbid if, gasp, a male knows that you are menstruating. It’s a ridiculous train of thought.
Last month, Rupi Kaur posted an image on Instagram of herself laying in bed while her menstrual blood leaked through her pants and onto her sheets. The intention behind the post was to illustrate that this natural process, a monthly process that is integral to continuing the human race, is largely vilified and dubbed taboo. Instagram removed the image, but very quickly reinstated it after the incident gained more attention. In Instagram’s community guidelines, it states that images that “include photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” are not allowed and that posts should be appropriate for “a diverse audience.” Addressing the former part of that policy, Kaur does not violate any of those stipulations. No intercourse is depicted and her buttocks are fully clothed, if a little leaky. Addressing the latter half, please tell me how many images on Instagram are one-hundred percent appropriate for the entirety of Instagram’s “diverse audience.” For Instagram to remove the post means that enough people would have had to flag or report the image that they would have to remove it. Enough people found this post of a normal woman doing normal woman things offensive, yet the myriad of import models gazing seductively back at the lens and feces continued to remain untouched by the good samaritan flaggers of IG. Oh the irony.
In the caption to her reposted photo, Kaur stated, “i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human.” Those who disapprove of Kaur’s photograph only serve to prove her point.
If we can all agree that people all excrete waste, what is the difference between that and menstruating? It happens to half the entire population. It shouldn’t be so awfully embarrassing to ask for a pad for either party involved. The next time you’re buying super tampons in bulk, just remember that you can’t help having a wide set vagina and a heavy flow. Hold your head, and tampons, up high.
Rachel Heng is a fourth-year Psychology student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.