Sensitizing Men & Boys about Periods
Are you comfortable talking about periods in front of men or the public? What code words do you use to discuss it? Is it ‘Down’ or ‘Aunt Flo’ or some other names? This discomfort applies to not just people in rural areas but also urban educated people.
Did you ever think why you cannot discuss periods in public? It is because you find this topic embarrassing and shameful? Many menstruators in our country are not comfortable talking about it, even with the older women in their family. This shame and embarrassment often compromises menstrual hygiene practices and many even face various medical issues in silence.
What is the actual reason behind this embarrassment?
You must first understand that it is a purely biological and physiological process and is nothing to be ashamed about. We would not have come to this life if this 'dirty' thing did not exist. ‘We’ means people across all genders.
Do you feel the actual reason behind keeping periods a ‘dirty secret’ is the lack of awareness and sensitivity in men, or one rooted in decades of orthodox beliefs?
We have raised our voices for gender equality for several decades but are still attached to negative stereotypes in involving men in these discussions. Yes, some men or boys are aware of menstruation. But unfortunately, maybe due to lack of education and sensitivity, a few of them also use it as a tool to pull down menstruators at the workplace or school, or other places. Most of us have experiences of being asked "are you hormonal?" or being laughed at in school because of period stains. When men and boys are educated about periods, especially from a young age, we can prevent these instances.
To date, we put in many efforts so as not to let men in the family or public know about periods. The burden of these efforts eventually fall on menstruators who get restricted in more ways than one.
Bringing about change
By sensitizing men and boys about menstruation and menstrual hygiene management and clearly defining their roles, we can bring about change. The way to sensitize them is by having an open conversation with them about socio-cultural notions around women, sexuality and menstruation. It will help them understand the scientific truth behind menstruation. With detailed conversations, they will also understand the challenges menstruators face due to social norms. When they gain knowledge, it will create a supportive and sensitive environment for menstruators.
Talk to your boys about periods!
You can contribute to this change by talking to your kids, boys as well as girls. You may start the conversation with your boys about periods as early as they turn 8-9 years. You may begin with small talk to form the basic knowledge, and with time slowly, you can build their understanding. This way, they will understand girls better. It is also essential to teach boys not to tease girls or make jokes about periods. Tell them how they can help a girl without embarrassing her.
With no reason to feel embarrassed about periods, life will become easy for menstruators. They will have fewer restrictions, access to proper menstrual hygiene and improved health!
Won't this be a gift of a new life for menstruators…?
By Payal Kulshreshtha
Read more of my work here!