Menstrual Hygiene Day Special with RJ Shruti Sharada: Calling All Cis Men(struation) Allies!

RJ Shruti Sharada is the Communications Manager at Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz.

This blog post is part of a special campaign dedicated to the ‘Men Take Lead’ ride series. The aim is to involve more and more men in the conversations about menstruation.

Millions of persons across the world experience menstrual bleeding. A large portion of this number is forced to deal with lack of information, misinformation, lack of access to menstrual tools like sanitary pads/clean cloth, social taboos, harmful myths, ostracisation, and a lot more.

Menstruation is a biological process. But all the social stigma and restrictions attached to it make it a huge social phenomenon. So, when we speak about periods, we are speaking about cultural and societal challenges as much as we are speaking about the process itself.

Which is why, we need persons from all gender groups to come up to task when it comes to menstruation. The myths and ignorance around periods continue to limit people in multiple ways and, tragically, can even be fatal. Cis men especially need to challenge all practices that violate a menstruating person’s rights, dignity, and visibility. As partners, colleagues, friends, employers, employees, and fellow human beings, cis men should insist that it is no longer acceptable that periods be relegated to the background because it is a ‘women’s issue’. It is time that they raise their voices to say that periods should not be shameful or a tool of suppression. They need to assert more and more that periods need to be normalised, because they are normal!

If you are wondering how this ally-ship can start sailing, following are a few tips:

Retire the Jokes: Why? Because it is 2019 and any equation of anger/mood swings with ‘PMS’ is plain sexist and ignorant. Plus, it was never funny.

Educate Yourself: I always say this – if you can plan whole vacations sitting at home, then you can definitely look up basic terms and concepts to understand them. When it comes to menstruation, there is a fantastic trove of multimedia material, including personal testimonials, advocacy details, medical information, and more, available online. Please read up and stop expecting menstruating persons to come up to you to enlighten you.

Look Beyond Your Circle: Every person’s menstrual experience is different. Your circle may seem progressive, but the reality beyond it should also concern you. Period poverty can push people to use leaves or ash as blood absorbers. The research into endometriosis is so poor, that patients struggle for years to be diagnosed. Menstruation is a complex subject, so always be open, non-judgmental, and ready to listen.   

Do Your Bit: Don’t hesitate to purchase sanitary pads. Refuse to hide these sanitary pad packs in black bags. Stop squirming at words like ‘vagina’, ‘period’, ‘tampon’, etc. If someone speaks of a period concern, ask if and how you can help out.

Start at Home: Help create an environment where persons are not hiding their period experiences. Insist on the use of the right terms and not euphemisms. Understand and live by the fact that period blood is not impure or unholy. Its sight should not lead to Armageddon!

Think Policy: As a part of an organisation, start thinking of concepts like period leaves, provisions for pads, clean toilets, and basic medication in the work space. Try organising mixed-gender sharing sessions or talks on sustainable menstruation practices, menstrual taboos, PCOS/PCOD, and more.  

This is a menstruation ally starter-pack. Using these tips should help you see through ‘traditions’ and ‘customs’ and recognise how it disproportionately affects a certain set of people. Only when you are aware can you fight back. So, begin today!

Written by RJ Shruti Sharada.

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