When a male friend who is about to get married asked me a few days ago,
‘So what exactly is a menstrual period?’
I was both happy and taken aback. I felt happy because he, unlike a lot of men of our generation, did not consider it a cringe-worthy topic or a taboo. I was taken aback because whoa, he is almost thirty-five years old but still does not know what menstruation is? This one question made me realize how poorly informed men folk are about women’s health issues.
Why does this happen?
A majority of our men have not been taught about or talked to about menstruation during their early years. It was considered something shameful to talk about openly, let alone tell your son.
Many of us have been told to hide our pads and quietly smuggle them to the washroom without anyone noticing. When our brothers asked what was wrong we were simply told to say that we were unwell, without further elaboration. They just knew that it was a ‘Ladies’ problem’ when we got banned from entering places of worship and remained confined to our rooms. Once they were adults, they did not bother to learn and understand as
‘It does not concern us anyway, and it is something routine for you women. So you deal with it.’
So what to do?
Though this mentality must change, it is quite challenging to do away with the well-formed beliefs and opinions of an adult mind. Real change can and must begin from the new generation, whose opinions, principles and belief systems are still forming. These minds, which are easy to mould, need to be shaped to understand the concept of equality of the sexes and the need to be more empathetic. They ought to be sat down and educated about menstruation. Since they emulate our example, we need to have frequent open conversations about it and when he asks what you are carrying to the washroom, tell him,
‘Son, I am on my monthly period.’
How will all this bring a change?
When your son knows what menstruation is and its physical and emotional impact, he will become much more empathetic as well as helpful to women both within and outside the house.
A friend recently told me a heartwarming incident on how her daughter, who was caught unawares by her period while on the school bus, was helped by a male classmate. He not only bought her a sanitary pad but also walked her home.
Once your son realizes how painful and exhausting menstruation is, he will certainly help around the house and ensure that you get your rest. He will also understand that it is not a taboo and does not require the woman to be isolated in a room like an outcast. Apart from cementing his beliefs and instilling the significance of gender equality, this knowledge will make him a better brother and a great husband too. He will take care not only of you but also of his future wife and pamper her during her premenstrual and menstrual mood swings without judging her.
So do not put it off, do not feel embarrassed anymore, it’s time to talk period!