I’m not going to be running any marathons with my period blood running freely anytime soon for two main reasons.
1. I hate running.
2. I don’t get a period, having had a medically necessarily hysterectomy after my third child.
But for M.I.A. drummer Kiran Ghandi, when she got her period the night before the London marathon, she chose to run without using sanitary supplies. She did this as a way to spark conversation about period shaming and “to take a stand for women around the globe who don’t have access to menstruation products or who have to “hide [their period] away like it doesn’t exist.” She had an opportunity to make a statement to the world on a prominent stage, and she did.
If you’re a woman and think period shaming isn’t a thing, you’re very, very lucky. But remember that having not experienced it yourself doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for millions of other women in the world.
Kiran’s act has sparked conversation in every forum I’m engaged in. I’ve discussed it at least 10 times over the weekend with various groups of friends, and my eldest daughter and I will have a conversation about it when she returns from camp. If menstruation wasn’t a problem for women, we wouldn’t have organizations like Femme International. From their website:
Femme International is one of the only NGOs dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene education, and the only organization promoting menstrual cups as a sustainable solution. Effective menstrual management results in increased rates of school attendance among girls, lower instances of reproductive infection and disease, and reduced engagements in prostitution. Accessibility to accurate and relevant information allows women and girls to understand and manage their reproductive health and gradually lift the restrictions and stigmas associated with menstruation.
By focusing on menstrual health education, Femme is enabling women and girls to take control of their bodies in safe, healthy and effective ways. It is Femme’s firm belief that all women deserve the right to manage their bodies hygienically and with dignity. Menstruation is a natural occurrence that ought never to cause shame or hinder opportunity. The culture surrounding menstruation is one that directly contributes to overall gender disparity within societies and one that deserves unyielding attention.
Kiran ran with blood staining her pants, knowing she would be called gross, disgusting, unsanitary, an attention whore and worse. And not just by career Internet trolls, but by other women, smart women, women who consider themselves feminists.
I’m reminded of the quote by Dr. Suess in The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Kiran had a chance to do something extreme to bring attention to an extreme problem. She cared a whole awful lot, and I am impressed.
I’ve made a donation to provide a Femme Kit to a girl in Africa. These kits are designed to contain everything a girl needs to stay safe and healthy, every day of the month. They include reusable menstrual management supplies, such as a menstrual cup or reusable pads to help her stay safe, clean and comfortable. These kits are given to girls who have completed a series of workshops ranging in topics from puberty, essential hygiene, menstruation and more.
If you’re in a position to do so, I hope you’ll donate as well.