As a society, we’ve failed to understand menstruation.
All along, we’ve called it unclean, impure, limiting, and unutterable. We’ve refused to talk about the pain and the blood, cloaking it in shame and stigma. Then, we misunderstood it: Menstruation only happens to women. By women, we meant individuals who were assigned female at birth and female-identifying.
What if we've not failed to understand menstruation, but have failed to understand humans?
Sex is the biological attributes of a person; their anatomy, chromosomes, hormones while gender, is the identity of a person and the social and cultural roles that they relate to. Sex is what you’re assigned physiologically, while gender is who you are yourself, regardless of sex. Neither of them are binary. They’re fluid, and this fluidity gives us a spectrum of identities.
However, in our normative vocabulary, we’ve always used sex and gender interchangeably without realizing that they represent entirely different things.
Therefore, the practices around the menstrual process are and have always been riddled with exclusion and discrimination. The discourse around periods has denied the existence of menstruators across the gender spectrum by being uninformed or misinformed about their experiences.
The truth is not all menstruators are women and not all women menstruate!
Menstruation is a challenging experience for all menstruators, and it is not limited to cisgender women. Transmasculine individuals and non-binary individuals menstruate. Individuals who menstruate that do not adhere to the hyper-feminised idea of womanhood, have different and unique relationships with their menstrual experience too.
“Menstruation has not been easy for me. It has not been something that is easy to talk about, not something that is easy for me to go through. And it's not just because of all the pain that all menstruators go through, it is also because of the added dysphoria— the physical repulsion that I have to it, because it is a constant reminder that society will always see me as a woman even though I am a man who menstruates.(...)There is a lot of physical discomfort that comes with it. But more than that, I know that everytime I go to purchase a menstrual health product there is always going to be an assumption that I am a woman because I am purchasing it, that I am a woman because I menstruate— and that is not true. I am a man, I put the 'men' in menstruate, you could say. There has been, in the industry of menstrual healthcare, a lot of gate-keeping. It has been referred to as ladies' time, it has been referred to as women's health and it just has always felt like there is no space for me and that has made it difficult for me to embrace the fact that I am a person who menstruates, I am a man who menstruates." - Krishna, 19, a transmasculine menstruator.
“I hate my period now, it is quite painful, and I face emotional upheaval before and during periods. Usually, on the second day, I am physically unable to move due to period pain. There is also a feeling of period-associated body dysmorphia. Since I have been experiencing dysphoria, I have been contemplating what causes it. I realised that because the blood and the process of menstruation is quite visual that adds to my dysphoria.(...)” - Kris, 28, a trans and non-binary menstruator.
So in this shared experience of menstruation, let’s expand the focus of our conversation without focusing only on the idea of femininity and womanhood, without alienating those who do not identify as women, and without alienating those who are women but do not menstruate. Despite being heavily gendered by society, menstruation does not have a gender. To be inclusive of different gender identities, we have to discuss, advertise, and advocate menstruation from a gender-neutral perspective.
Change is possible with collective action! Let's get down to business!
Growing up we’ve always read, FEMININE hygiene, WOMEN’s products, LADY parts, FEMALE problems, leading to every menstruator feeling inadequate, incomplete and invalidated. Let's change that shall we?
Join India’s first movement to make menstruation gender-inclusive, with Boondh Social Foundation and Schbang For Good.
If you want to be a part of this movement to #UngenderMenstruation, join by
- Signing the petition to make menstrual hygiene brands change the advertising around the products to make them inclusive
- Take screenshot of products/ articles on the internet that call menstrual products feminine and strike out the same
Identify any menstrual product, advertisement or blog article that feminises the menstrual process and simply sharing a photograph/screenshot of it on your social media. Simply strike off the feminine words and replacing it with “menstrual/menstruating/menstruator” along with the text 'End Exclusion.'
#UngenderMenstruation so that no young menstruator feels limited in their bodies again, and knows that they aren’t incorrect. They never were. The society was!