There are many things that will make you stop and rethink who you follow on Twitter. Ignorance, bigotry, pictures of food for no particular reason, retweets of cats wearing hats or Vines of horses dancing to Kiswahili Christian music.
Another thing is a soiled sanitary pad.
One recently popped up on my timeline and my first reaction was to exclaim “vile” out loud much to the dismay of the person sitting next to me.
This reaction was to a photo taken by some UCT students as part of their campaign that poses the question: “What if rape was as disgusting to you as menstruation?” It’s a good question. Much as that photo had been unexpected why would I have had such an adverse reaction to something so natural?
Yes, my name is Kagure and I have a period every month.
Please hold your applause, despite my martyr attitude during that time I am not the first and only one and I will not be the last.
Aunt Flo. The Red Visitor. That “TimeOfTheMonth”. Men-STRAY-shun.
Since biblical times women have been considered “unclean” for going through a process that forms part of the cycle of life. We are more comfortable with a man randomly blowing his load than we are with the idea of a woman shedding the lining of her uterus.
Even outside the idea of bearing children, which is not the only justifiable reason to embrace the idea of having your period, there are other reasons to embrace this time. It is a monthly spring clean in which oestrogen is released and this adds to strong bones, which is only one of the many magical things that happen.
It is a completely natural process that women navigate every month. They have done this for decades, this commitment in itself is commendable.
But despite this natural occurrence we have done everything to hide it from society. I have family members that call tampons bullets. And when you buy sanitary pads they’re sometimes wrapped up so tight in a plastic bag that you’d think you’d just engaged in some form of illicit drug deal.
With menstrual taboos the idea is one of being unclean, evidence of this can be found in various religious, media and social notions. Studies in the 1980s showed that the prevalent belief in the US was that girls should not talk about their period in public.
These ideas are still dominant today.
A woman being anything less than smooth, clean and perfect terrifies us to the core. Too much hair, too much sweat, too much anything is not a good look on a woman.
Rupi Kaur’s photos were deleted after Instagram claimed they violated the company’s “community guidelines”. This project sought to demystify the period and make something that is innate “normal”.
Tampon and pad adverts have taught us for years that we must be delicate and discreet during a time when all some of us want to do is thunder through the world and possibly hug a packet of party-sized crisps and weep.
Well that is me anyway.
Tampon adverts show us blue “blood”, this is then followed by a movie in which 10 people get shot and the blood covers everything. How about an advert where a woman slays a monster, Kill Bill style, which then gushes blood and she uses a tampon to soak it up? Now that product I would buy. That resonates with me far more than playing volleyball on the beach or being able to go roller-skating (why does buying tampons mean I must suddenly be active anyway?)
We should not be so appalled by our period. I am not saying you must live tweet about it while posting no-filter selfies for a week, but when I mention my period in polite conversation do not look at me like I have just thrown a turd at you.
I have not. I’ve just mentioned something that happens to me every month since I was 12.
This especially goes to the women because we’re all in the same boat.
And as for men, in a world of equal parenting not knowing how to buy your teenage daughter tampons or sanitary pads is something to be ashamed of. Gone are the days where we clap for being able to say something other than “lady products”.
We need to stop shying away from the idea of menstruation. We live in a world where we barely flinch at images of people getting shot, mass mobs being incited to violence, people beaten to a pulp or people being sexually assaulted in increasingly bizarre and brutal ways. These are the things that should shock us, not something that has been happening every day since the beginning of time.
We should not be ashamed to talk about our periods any more than we should be ashamed of talking about having a cold, growing our hair or putting on deodorant. There are far worse things to be outraged about.