As a man, I felt a little out of place writing a piece that expresses my feelings and views on something which is entirely female and never distinctly affected me. ‘No uterus, no opinion’ seems to be the unwritten law for someone to have an opinion about menstruation. However, then it hit me that my lack of social prerequisite to have a view on this natural process roots from the taboos stonewalling me from understanding menstruation.
Growing up, I never really knew what menstruation was or that it even existed. It was never really taught to me so I was pretty much oblivious to it. In my teens I’d hear a few classmates talking about their periods, and a girlfriend at the time would also say that she was on her period pretty often (My naïve self did not know that it was a monthly occurrence). Every time she spoke about it, she’d describe the horrible stomach cramps and I wondered why she wouldn’t just drink electrolytes! A few months into the relationship, my curiosity got the better of me so I suggested electrolytes to her. The next thing I learned about periods was that they make you hate your boyfriend.
I was lucky enough to have people in my family who would talk to me about periods. I will be honest here, when it was explained to me, I was a little disgusted by it at first as a 13-year-old boy would be. Also, it was made very clear to me that ‘periods = pain.’ After that whenever a girl I knew mentioned to me that she was on her period, my response went from a blank face to wanting to help her. However, I didn’t know if I could or how to. I still hadn’t understood the process completely, I still thought it was a weird thing. I wanted to help but I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around how exactly it happened.
A couple of years later when I was in the 9th grade we were taught about the female reproductive system and that’s when the dots connected in my head as I understood the science behind it. It still made me a little queasy and sounded slightly bizarre, but it finally made sense! I understood it. I never thought poorly of women who had to go through it. My respect for them increased just for having to go through that every month. I confess that I am guilty of thinking that periods were weird, but I never meant to perpetuate the menstrual stigmas or demean the struggles that females have to go through in this society that treats this natural process as a taboo. I wish I had known better.
As I get older, it starts to seem more and more natural to me. The more I understand and learn about it simply increases my respect and desire to help or try to make it as bearable as possible for the women in my life because contrary to popular belief, I do believe that men have a role to play in menstruation. The struggle women go through emotionally due to menstruation is already immense. They do not need it to be stigmatized or made to feel “unclean” or alienated, simply because a man cannot rationalize it in his mind.
Writing this piece, I will not hesitate to say that in the past hearing about menstruation made me feel a little uneasy. It was only because of my lack of understanding and immaturity at the time. From being unaware and naive to finally being aware, understanding, and mature enough to empathize with women who not only go through this tremendous physical strain every month, but also are alienated for a bodily function that is entirely human. I challenged what society taught me and now I proudly work with the ‘Paddling Foundation’ to ‘Break the taboo.’ This is my own, a man’s journey through menstruation.
|| By Kaizan Kabrajee ||