The Red Dot
In a 30 sec ad, a young schoolgirl wearing a white skirt at her P.E period feels awkward and is reluctant to perform exercises.
‘‘Why do I feel so uncomfortable when it’s that time of the month ?”, she whispers to herself. Her friend looks at her face and takes brings aside and the scene cuts she is handed a sanitary napkin and her she is hopping around and playing tennis.
If you haven’t guessed already, this is the commercial; for a sanitary pad. Most of these ads end up with a girl hopping around in a white outfit. The regularity of these ads is less and they fail to provide clarity.
Period stigma is the biggest barrier to the global advancement of women," agrees Cotes-James, adding: "Periods can still cause us to feel dirty, ashamed, and frustrated. If menstrual taboos persist and society continues to devalue our fundamental female biology, what hopes do we have of ever being seen as equal?
To this day, the stigma around menstruation exists in many parts of Asia. Women feel ashamed and they feel bad to even talk about it which sounds ridiculous. There needs to be some serious action to normalize periods. In many parts of Asia, this exists because of the deeply rooted cultural and religious beliefs and they are passed on from generation to generation which causes periods to be seen as taboo. In potions of South Asia, it is considered impure and several restrictions are imposed on basic things like eating, movements, and behavior. Most of the girls tend to skip school while menstruating. Most of them don’t even know about periods until they hit puberty. It is a hush-hush topic and is rarely spoken in public.
The most intriguing aspect is how it is seen as a taboo and at the same time contrary to the belief Hindus in India view menstruation especially the first cycle. In South India, girls who experience their menstrual period for the first time are given presents and celebrations to mark the occasion. Even though this is seen as a positive thing and is celebrated among family members the same girl has to face the restrictions and follow things such as being denied entry to the temple and the kitchen. They have to miss school and work. The restrictions differ from family to family and culture to culture in some cases women are not allowed to touch other members of the family.
Hindus in Nepal traditionally keep women isolated during menstruation, when women who are menstruating are not allowed in the household for a period of 3 nights. This practice was banned by the Nepalese Supreme Court in 2005 but still continues. In Bali, a woman is not allowed to enter the kitchen to perform her usual duties. She is to sleep apart from the family and has to keep the clothes that she wears while menstruating away from any clothes that she could wear to the temple. One of the most important regulations is that a woman is not allowed to attend the temple while menstruating. Most commonly women are seen as impure in Asia.
This further brings my point to period poverty which is a common sight in many Asian countries. Everyone who menstruates deserves to have access to sanitary products, safe and hygienic spaces to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma. Nobody should be held back because of periods.
To sum it all, menstruation has evolved into a shameful event in this part of the world. Menstruating women are shunned and indoctrinated as inferior and they do not even fight against the practices but accept it as normal. The root of this is mostly based on religion, culture, and belief. In the past campaigns like #YesIBleed have stirred conversations and efforts are being made to normalize periods and there are many organizations working actively in this field to create a tangible difference. While the knowledge surrounding menstruation is increasing and women are talking more openly, there is still a long way to go in the fight to end period poverty and normalize the red dot.
Written by Vaishnavi Bhojane & Edited by Pooja Manjakandy