Menstruating Discrimination

MENSTRUATION – This is a topic, I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but never found the courage to write abt it.  I always tell myself, this is very personal and I should not cross lines.

But a recent incident, made me ponder on this issue and I just decided to get it out of my system.

I have a wonderful neighbour, M.  She is kind and quite helpful.  And we have a common maid-servant.  The maid finishes work at M’s house and then comes to mine. We’ve such an arrangement and so the timings are clear.

Last month, one day, the maid came to my home almost an hour earlier. I was totally surprised, as she sticks to time generally. So, I asked her whether M has gone out somewhere.

But the maid replied that since she is menstruating, she is not allowed into M’s house.  I was SHOCKED.  People follow such rules, even today ?????  🙄

Then, my maid asked me, if its OK to work at my place, during her menstruation time.  I told her that as long as she feels physically well to do the work, she can do it.  If she wants to rest, then just go home.  My maid was quite happy at my response and she started doing the work.

Yes, long time back, they had this tradition of making the menstruating women, stay alone and away from household work. They were not allowed into the kitchen or puja room.  If you look into the do and don’ts from a Brahmin’s point of view, its just mindboggling and I’ve gone through most of them.

Those people’s only explanation is that the body needs its rest and we should listen to our body and take the required rest.

But, it was not put across correctly. Explanations were not clear.  And so, over a period of time, people started discriminating those women who menstruate.

Menstruation is a natural process, which every woman undergoes.  It goes on to say that the woman is healthy and happy.  So, why discriminate her ????

If God gave us this body and the menstruation along with it, they why discriminate the women during these physically uncomfortable times ????

If all she needs is rest, then why the Dont Touch Me syndrome ?????  🙄

Even though I’ve gone through all these in my home and my grandparent’s home, I’ve decided not to follow all the stupid things, for my daughters.  I’ll give them all the rest they need, but never will they feel alone or left out, because they are menstruating.

Let us be  more sensitive to this issue and treat women for what they are. Lets not discriminate women based on a natural process called MENSTRUATION.

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57 Replies to “Menstruating Discrimination”

  1. yeah.. me too heard that in some customs women were not allowed to go to temples druing menstruation period…

    Our customs didn’t have a proper reasons for them and forces to follow without questioning… which is quite ridiculous… and what you have mentioned is right… if they feel strong enough to do a work they can work….

    Nice and courageous post 🙂 🙂

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  2. I find this custom so discriminating too! I have never faced it at home but my in-laws follow it very strictly and I make sure that I am never there when I am having a period – I just cannot follow it. It is almost humiliating if you ask me.. Especially in today’s world – why do people follow all this is beyond me! Your daughters must be so delighted to have you as a mother 🙂

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    1. Humiliating – thats the word, Smitha. Its embarrassing too, when visitors look at you with that look – becos all the tell-tale signs are up in the house to indicate that somebody is menstruating.

      Yes, I am trying to do the best to my daughters, without hurting the elder’s sentiments – its a tough game.

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  3. I did not know such traditions still exist, although having lived in Canada for many years, perhaps I was not aware that such stringent expectations were still followed. Every culture, background and belief all have their own merits and rules which I wholly respect nevertheless. Menstruation is a wonderful thing in the female body – yes, it is not the greatest feeling in the world or the most convenient, but it is because of the existence of menstruation that we are alive.

    Many men still have a very negative opinion of menstruation and it is something this world needs to change. It is a very good explanation that during that time of the month a girl needs rest, something I fully agree with, but as you mentioned, definitely not a good reason to be discriminated against. I am not sure how a person is supposed to TELL you’re menstruating anyways, unless you make it very obvious.

    Menstruation is not a “very personal” thing and although you might not go to means of broadcasting it to everyone around you, it is a very good topic to touch on. Thank for making this post!

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  4. sick practices created by our forefathers for god knows what !!!

    But then, if you have no qualms about discussing it and stuffs like that, why should you even mention that you never had courage to write till now 😀

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      1. I respect you for the courage.. I have always wanted to write on this topic, but could never muster enough courage!! Maybe this post of urs will inspire me too 🙂
        Me : Thanks for the kind words. I was in a dilemma, when I published this post. Now, at the response I got, I am happy I wrote this. 🙂

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    1. Sols, these ppl are scared. Becos it has been sculpted into their minds, when they were young, to be discriminated during menstruation. So, even though they feel bad, they are unable to shed those inner fears !!!

      At least the younger generation shld learn to come out of it.

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  5. Wow, Umi.. It does take guts to write about these things. Petty people, petty issues. When I was younger, my mother told me not to touch the bible or go to church during this time. Since I was not interested in going to Church every sunday, I did not bother. But in College, we used to sometimes walk towards the chapel and spend some quiet moments there. There is something very nice about sitting in a Church when it is not filled with sounds.
    One day as my friend was heading there, he asked me to come along. i refused on these grounds. He just walked to the Father walking by and asked him if a lady who is menstruating should go to church or not. His response was simple : “What is Sin? It is some wrong that we do willfully. What God has given us, we have no control over. It cannot be considered as sin.” I was liberated that day!!

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    1. I just loved what Father told you. Its the right thing. If God has given it to us in our body, how can it be considered as a sin ????

      But it is very difficult to live with elders at home, who want to follow all these silly customs. One cannot be fighting with all of them everyday. Its a tough life, out here.

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  6. this discrimination is really frustrating sometimes… though its not that strict at my hone… but ya we need to follow all those rules if at somebody else’s place… can’t even touch food can u imagine…

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  7. Oh! I had heard that certain sections used to follow this custom but thought it was in the past! I am surprised to hear this is still practised by some! At any rate this is wrong and giving rest is a different matter to ostracising!

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    1. Even I was taken aback at my neighbour’s practise. I thot it was all with the elders and we, the next generation, was far better. But I was shocked !!!!

      They dont treat it as a physical condition that needs rest, Indy. That’s the sad part.

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  8. Sigh! I hv never been treated this way even by my grandmom and MIL ws sweet enuf to tel me even before the wedding that she does nt believe in all this .. so lucky me 😦
    But I hv seen many such cases … the sitting in a corner for 3 days, no bath .. eeeks! too much!

    U know, one person I know asked me recently if its ok for me to eat what she hs cooked as she ws hvng her periods then 😦

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    1. Lucky you !!!!

      That’s what that person is going thru at home. She is scared to share the food she prepared – its very true and is still happening in so many homes, here.

      We need to change for the better.

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  9. I don’t know what to comment on this (one reason is i don’t think any of my closed ones have gone through this situation ). Yeah these are the rules of nature ,for that very reason these kinda stupid customs should be scrapped off.

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  10. As you have yourself said that there are explanations for this like giving rest to the body but have never been put up properly but sadly we still stck to the traditions blindly. Thankfully we never had any such thing at my place but have seen many of my “Marwari” frenz going thru these issues.

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  11. What a horrible horrible practice! And total descrimination!!
    I have written about it too.. long back…

    I hate this practice and it gives life, so how can it be “impure”??!! 🙄

    These baseless customs piss me off.

    You have taken a very brave and strong stance for your daughters Ums! Hats off!
    I can understand what it might feel like to go against your elders, because my parents took the same stance for me when I was a kid and I know how tough it got for them sometimes…
    Hugs…

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  12. Great post Uma. I had mixed experience on this growing up. My mother did not follow this and we felt lucky to be not discriminated. However we were very conscious if we were visiting someone, as to what their take is on this. Somehow my MIL also is liberal. I cannot imagine a life being discriminated. Like you say, it is a nature’s process and why be ashamed of it?

    I applaud on your stance on your maid. If she is upto working, why deny her work?

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  13. Very nice post.. I was forced to follow this tradition in my house, because of my aunt and grandmother. But lucky, my in laws does not follow these things. My mother in law just tells me to take rest. thats it.. But still my sister and others at my granny place, is still following this..One plate and one glass will be alloted to them. it just feels as if we are in jail.. disgusting.. Thanks for posting this article..

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    1. Welcome here, Kavya !!! Am so glad that so many women are openly talking abt the disturbing syndromes associated with their monthly cycles. Its high time such discriminations are removed and ppl are more sensitive to emotions !!!!

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  14. These things should be talked about Uma. If it is personal then how does every woman feel announcing it to the entire world so that she can stay bout of a temple/puja room/home etc?
    Me : Thanks IHM. But, I had to convince myself a lot before writing this post.

    We did not follow it at my home and when I first heard about it as a teenager, I remember the first thought was, “How embarrassing! How can you tell everybody!” That is a shy, sensitive and awkward age and I just don’t understand how do our customs on one hand talk of modesty (though I find ‘modesty’ a very dangerous term) and on the other expose young, girls to such humiliating scrutiny and attention about something about which they might be uncomfortable at that sensitive age anyway!
    Me : True !!! When the teenage girls themselves are not comfortable with it and have not got adjusted to the physical changes in the body, this discrimination and humiliation just adds to the woes.

    If we really see we have been conditioned to think of it as something that one does not talk about, but so many times women have gynaec problems and they won’t even visit a doc out of this uncomfortable feeling… 😦 So many cancers can only be deducted if discovered in time, but women are known to avoid such tests because of the same embarrassed feeling.
    Me : I know !!! So many women in their late 30s and 40s are still hesistating to take these tests !!! They make a hue and cry, when somebody goes thru a natural process called menstruation but keep quiet when they have to take a test for cancer !!!! Irony at its height !!!

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  15. As a boy, I used to visit my native village and observe that once-in-a-while, women have to stay out of the house (as in – not cross the “Pradhan Dwaar”) for 3 days. I never saw this in the city. I always used to be puzzled by this.

    When I learnt the real reason it made me sick – it almost made me want to rebel against the despicable “system”. Why should girls not even be allowed to take a bath during periods? Why should they be made untouchables? Why should the whole world come to know that they are menstruating? It must be highly embarassing for the young girls who have just reached puberty.

    But then it is very easy to ask these questions as a boy – from the sidelines. Only the girls who have to abide by the system in the rural hinterlands (even today, mind you) will really have to bear the torture. Such it goes.

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  16. Hi Uma

    Thank you for this. Having never experienced this discrimination I always shuddered at the practice (as far as I know only in South India) of announcing to the world the girl’s first period. The girl is first isolated and fed with all sort of stuff to build her strength (thereby ingraining in her that a period = sickness) and then inviting all the neighbors and family for a party to celebrate her period!! How embarrassing – but if you look deeper it was a way of announcing to the world that the girl is ready for the marriage market!
    C

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    1. Now, I’ve to come know that many North-Indians too, follow this practice, Corinne. Its very embarrassing, in the true sense.

      Yes, when child marriages were more prevalent, in those times, these functions were actually held to announce that the girl is ready for marriage. But, just entering puberty is not enough to get a girl married, right ???

      But, why even today, all these are practiced ???? Haven’t ppl become more wiser ????

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  17. Hello,

    I’ve been through this myself but after a few months I just stopped practicing it. My mother was initially upset but she could not make me do it and that paved the way for my sisters. My poor mother though had to hear a lot from relatives who held us responsible for all the troubles and travails that my father and family went through at that time. I do not follow it now but still cannot make myself light the deepam during those days (its something ingrained that i have not been able to shake off though i consider myself a rational person). Hopefully a few generations down this practice will disappear.
    Good luck to your daughters and courage to you (to hear all the rubbish outcomes if you have an orthodox family set up).

    Gayatri

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    1. Welcome here, Gayatri !! And thanks for writing in your views.

      “cannot make myself light the deepam during those days (its something ingrained that i have not been able to shake off though i consider myself a rational person” – Absolutely true as I share the same sentiments with you !!! Its difficult to undo what those ppl have done to your thinking !!!

      Thanks !! I wish to keep my daughters away from all these !!!

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  18. Kudos to you for discussing this.

    I just remembered something.

    40 years ago, my mother had to be in the US to visit family and was away for 3 months. My paternal grandma came to stay with us then. My father had office, I had to attend University. Grandma belonged to the old school, carried her own gods with her everywhere , and had some very involved puja rituals which she did in her room, where she set it all up. . In my parents house, the daily Puja was a more simple, personal thing for my mother, and in her absence, I would do the puja daily (as I had seen her do it) , before I left for University. When I had my period, no one knew because of the activity level, and I had reasoned to myself, that if God didnt like “periods” , he wouldnt have given them to me. Now that he knew about them, the matter was solved.

    On her return my mother was pleased that I did the daily simple puja, and asked me what I did on the so called impure days, did I request grandma , and so on.

    When I explained my reasoning to her, and told her about doing the puja myself on all days of the 3 months she wasnt around, she actually felt first amused, and then proud. But she did tell me that I should avoid these discussions with grandma , as she was 2 generations behind, had different standards and may get very upset. I needed to keep quiet out of respect.

    I often feel that my grandmother must have been aware that I blithely continued to do the puja even on “restricted” days. Maybe a little part of her very regimented mind enjoyed seeing the sort of independence she never experienced, in her teenage.

    She was married at 12.

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    1. OMG !!!! My patti was married at 12 and stayed back at her mom’s place for one year, till she started menstruating…

      But Bravo Suranga…liked ur take on this, that too so many years back, when ppl dont think like that generally. 🙂

      And I am also glad abt the way ur mother dealt with that situation…its exactly what I do, now. There’s no probs at my place…but I tell my girls to respect the sentiments of my amma or patti.

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  19. This practice is prevalent even among the Gujratis.
    My neighbours do this to their daughters and the maid. And my mom does it to the maid.
    Both the girls are well educated in early 20s, studied in convent schools in Mumbai,
    now pursuing higher education.
    They should have talked about it to their parents.
    I don’t have a sister. i think i will talk to my mother about it when i marry.
    i am 21 yrs old.
    Good you wrote about it.

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  20. You know my views about this subject, Ums. Kudos to you for raising your girls with such a broad mindset. I wish everyone thought on the same lines as you and stopped harboring such ridiculous and regressive beliefs in their minds.

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  21. Without really meaning to, I seem to be contradicting your posts !
    Yes, I grew up being discriminated during “those days”. I had vowed that I would never do it when I had a family of my own. I don’t. I have an eight year old daughter, and while she knows the science of the whole thing, she is not aware of the taboo of menstruation in society. I intend to keep it that way.
    But of late, I am beginning to feel that there was something almost humane about the forced rest of the four days. When the stomach is cramping, the flow threatens to drown and the hormones are all over the place, I’d do anything to just sit in a secluded room, reading a book, and not stirring a little finger. As is, I am running around like any other day, and at the end of the day, the mental and physical exhaustion is simply overwhelming.
    Welcome here…and I agree to what u r saying. I am not insisting that u keep quiet about what u undergo…pls feel free to talk about it…of the things u undergo – the pains, the uncomfortableness, the irritation, the temper, the hormones. Its not that the men are not aware of it now a days. Its those times when the family should be able to understand your health requirements and give you the rest and comfort u need. If this is not family, then what it is ???
    But there are days, when I long for someone to make my tea, during those tiring days !!! Sigh…

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  22. great post Uma.. i hope many women can relate to your post like i did.. i experienced it and also felt i wont do the same for my children and i think there is nothing wrong in praying God or sleeping on bed with comfort on those days..

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  23. Are you passionate about Gender Equality, Education, or Human Rights?
    Did you know that numerous Tanzanian girls are being forced to drop out of school and give up on their education when they get their periods, just because of the school’s lack of sanitary facilities?
    Sign the petition on the link below (initiated and run by me) to encourage the Tanzanian government to enforce and monitor the National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy, so that girls are able to continue with the education that they deserve. All it requires is one click, to agree to this great cause and leave a signature – it’s not about donations or money; everyone anywhere can make a difference. I need your help! (Also I promise that although you will have to share your name to sign the petition, the site is reliable and won’t spam you)
    Interested to learn more? For further information about this issue of how the educations of Tanzanian girls are affected by menstruation, visit my website.
    Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/provide-quality-sanitary-facilities-in-schools-for-tanzanian-girls-to-continue-with-their-education

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