It’s 2015, and you would think that there would be nothing left that leaves folks wanting to cover their mouths and clutch their pearls. But alas–in the age of social media, where we document our every thought and catalogue our every move to complete strangers, we still have a topic that is almost too taboo to discuss. Well, almost.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s the stigma and perception that women are inherently impure and filthy.
The Atlantic wrote about the shame that women felt just from having their feminine hygiene products seen, but it goes deeper than that. Just last week, Donald Trump spewed a line of sexist insults to the way of Megyn Kelly at the GOP debate (he remarked that she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”), and although he has since stated that he intended this statement to reference her nose, the interpretation for many is clear–Trump’s comments were meant to belittle and ridicule Kelly for being a person that experiences menstruation. In Trump’s eyes, this was reason enough to inflict any justifiable punishment onto her.
This is not the first time that women have encountered this thinking that somehow our natural bodily functions are signs of our impurity of character. In feudal times, women would be seen as impure if they did not bleed on their wedding nights, confirming their virginity. Women would also be seen as less than for bleeding during her menstrual cycle.
In this sense, women’s natural body functions are seen as extension of punishments that we must endure, after the crime of being female.
Women, of course, are doing what we do best and are making our voices heard. Twitter has erupted with #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult, a campaign started by Femsplain creator Amber Gordon, aimed itself at correcting Trump’s misconceptions that having a period is something to be ashamed of or to insult. Kiran Gandhi, a 26-year-old from India, ran a marathon to bring awareness to the issues of sexism and menstruation, as she reflected on her blog.
Too many of us contribute to this dangerous thinking that women must be dirty for undergoing this ritual each month. This has very real, violent consequences–statistics show that homeless women are frequently without any feminine hygiene products to use during this time, and trans individuals that have their periods undergo further shame and guilt, with fewer resources due to the sexism surrounding menstruation. Periods are not only not an insult–they are also not a sentence for any further punishment.
It’s far time that we stop punishing women for being human. I’m tired of hearing remarks of dismissing menstrual pain or jokes of “not trusting something that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die”. I’m tired of feeling the heat rise in my cheeks when the rustle of my tampon cover raises louder than a whisper, but most importantly–I’m tired of women around the world feeling ashamed for a natural function that their bodies undergo, that they have absolutely no control over.