By Marwa T. Faqihi
We have been taught to lower our voice when we talk about it, make sure that boys aren’t around us when we do and be discreet about experiencing it.
I am 24-years-old, and I first got my period when I was 12-years-old. That means that I have been trying to hide it for half of my life! And let me assure you, it wasn’t pleasant.
When I was younger, I used to get severe period cramps. I always had to return home from school whenever I got my period and I would spend the rest of the day in bed. After taking a few painkillers and one to two rounds of throwing up in the toilet, I would force myself to sleep to avoid the unbearable pain.
I may have outgrown being shy about it now, but almost all the ladies I know make sure the aisles are empty at the supermarkets when they want to choose between sanitary pads, and pretend to look for something else when a man passes by; not to mention going to a female cashier when they want to checkout, and if one is not available, they avoid making eye contact with the male cashier.
“When we, as women, constantly hide parts of ourselves or feel shameful about them, it can feed into the societal narrative that we are weaker.”
Hiding my period experience always felt wrong to me, and if we want to be respected as the women we are, we shouldn’t be hiding big aspects of our womanhood. Obviously everyone chooses how much they want to expose from their lives, but feeling pressured to hide a certain part of it is not a healthy option, nor is shaming others when they express it freely.
Not only are we oppressing women from experiencing their femininity freely by doing that, but we are also preventing knowledge from men. When we prevent educating men from understanding the huge role the period plays in a woman’s body, they mostly grow up either feeling disgusted or really confused when they hear about it.
Grown men in our society tend to shy away from asking about periods. When they do, they are very cautious about it ; the question has to be thoroughly studied beforehand, the woman they would want to ask has to be understanding and it seems to always starts like this, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
For many generations men have believed that it is shameful to discuss menstrual cycles out loud and that it’s a private,“ladies topic”, hence their general lack of interest in knowing more about it. It is only natural for a person to feel uncomfortable or confused, or become defensive when they are introduced to a new topic that contradicts their beliefs and knowledge. Thus, forcing grown men into understanding it now through rebellious acts, like publicly insulting them or starting virtual riots against those who do not agree with them, should not be the method used to enlighten them and change their minds.
“When we prevent educating men from understanding the huge role the period plays in a woman’s body, they mostly grow up either feeling disgusted or really confused when they hear about it.”
If we, as women, want men to be understanding about our bodies we need to be understanding about their current state of mind as well. Instead, one of the things we should focus on is normalising women’s menstrual cycles to the younger generation since they are still learning life’s necessities.
As two genders, we need to be cohesive in living together and we need to dispose of this stigma that has been slowly feeding into inequality. Subconsciously, when we, as women, constantly hide parts of ourselves or feel shameful about them, it can feed into the societal narrative that we are weaker. We should all drift away from debating which sex is stronger, and instead appreciate that we are both just different and that is what makes us both unique.
Ladies, it is your body, your experience and yourselves that you’re hiding. Break free from this stigma by owning up to it. And gentlemen, you are half of society, so make an extra effort to understand the other half.
The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.
Marwa T. Faqihi is a 24-year-old designer from Bahrain. Art, sports and plastic pollution have been her motive to hustle everyday and work hard to make a difference in this world.