Saturday, 7 November 2015

Menses - let it just be!

This post has also been published in The Huffington Post and Women's Web

Menses somehow have been the pick of the season for a while. People slept, ran and selfied in what they believed to be a statement, a protest.

In Kolkata from where I come from, the city which if not anything else much at least stands today as the face of Student Revolution, (only to be seen how many and how much they remain with the revolution after the fire of the moments taper off) – they launched a new, landmark style of protest. They wrote activism slogans on sanitary napkins - to be displayed and clicked, to flood the visual media with what they, again in their very own way, considered a protest, and awareness drive.

And, as would be usual and predictable, we on social media have adequately, if not excessively, followed up these sudden surges with a full-mouthed sharing, apparent caring and a-little-too-uncomfortable debating! While it seemed that many of us were absolutely sure they were doing some good by doing what they were doing, at times in their hearts they did wonder, in secret, how they were doing the good that they thought they must be doing. Because, while on one hand they had the fire of protest, the other, which should have carried a reason, and objective, well defined and understood, often lay empty!

Don’t misunderstand me, when I say: I do not know which side to take. While you can at best support the zeal, you lose your way when it comes to asking yourself what you want t achieve, what they want to achieve, through it.

But then, that was just the first part of the game!

Soon, what followed is this: There started being drafted and crafted many an opinion forming articles. To be fair, quite a few of them, very correctly if I were to opine, argued against the existing taboos and social evils that stem out of “menses” – the untouchability, the unacceptability, the social and familial ban and exclusions in the name of religious traditions and social conventions.

And then the next step - inevitable yet fearsome -happened.

A plethora of half-baked socially charged up theses on “science” and “religion” around menses erupted!

To refute the gory practices around menses that ban a menstruating woman from the kitchen, from the temples, and even from the bed, activists now came up with a counter theory. A “pedestal” theory – if you know what I am talking about. They claimed of purity of the menstrual blood, they talk about the strength and vigour of a menstruating woman that is, supposedly, so fierce that even the God (if there is one, or many, or whatever!) fears her and keeps her away. They talked about sheer superiority and larger than lives of womanhood. They proposed deification and super-naturals, sounding serious and scientific, and more, pleasing! They talked about women not being mere humans, because… well, because they menstruate!

Blimey - or the link is right here!

Now, that’s plain dangerous! That’s – trust me – is no less dangerous than what – the taboos – that it is supposed to counter in the first place. And, as we mindlessly go about hitting the likes and the shares – do we not, absolutely, need to stop and think of the many what’s and how’s?

Consider this, fellow divine woman! Do you feel braver, stronger, kinder during *those days of the month* any more than what you, by your nature, are? Do you feel more benevolent, more charitable, more selfless, anymore than what you are, because it is *that time*? Does menstruation bring about in you any extra virtue, some additional conscience, some excess brain, a superior heart, than your very own originals? Do you need this theory, really? And, are you good to trade this theory with what you want but never had, with what you want to claim? Would you want to believe it just because it *sounds* good, unaware that it is but a different means to reach the very same end?

No. Please, don’t be!

Remember (Oh, please do!) - Social taboos on menstruation cannot be defended with the eyewash of respect. Pedestals have never helped us in any way other than promoting discriminations and disparities. Negative or positive, a larger than life interpretation of menstruation does not help women in any way.

We should, we must, know what we fight for. We must understand what we need to fight for. We need to fight against the evils. While we must absolutely stop the practices under which girls are given to sleep on floors and wipe with rags, and not enter the kitchen or not let to wash their hair or stopped from going to schools, we should not, never, also be fooled into a myth that they should not do all these same things because they are “divine” and superhumanly. Pedestals are only an alternative, smarter, suave form of discrimination, an excuse for unfairness, a tool for disparity. In our struggle for human rights, we should not give up the very same human rights in the name of deification, in the eyewash of pedestals.

May we have the courage to fight for our rights. And, at the very same time, may we also have the strength to refuse the worship. May we have the have the sanity to ask for what is right and not be fooled, trapped and trumped anymore!

We do not, do not, accept belonging either at the feet or above the head. We just want our ground, a ground below our feet, just beside the other kind, the opposite sex.

We are no evils because we menstruate. We are no divine because we do. May we - just - be equals!