Women’s Day Spotlight – Period Positivity x Body Positivity. 

This Women’s Day, we throw the spotlight on two matters that are relevant to every woman – body positivity and menstruation.

What is period positivity?

To be period positive is to accept that menstruation is not a taboo topic. It is not a dirty word; it is part and parcel of who we are as human beings. For so long, society has taught us to shy away from talking about periods, stigmatising it as a private experience that honestly just brought about shame and discomfort at even the mention of the word ‘period’. Buying menstrual supplies like tampons and pads added to the spiral of shame because the shops would wrap them up in newspaper or they were quickly stuffed away into handbags, away from the prying eyes of the public. However, there is a shift in the eyes of the people as more and more people and activists alike show us why menstruation is something to be proud of and not a symbol of shame. It is encouraged that we talk more about having periods because frankly, it is a shared experience (#sharemycycle) and the more we talk about it, the less mysterious it will be. Conversation paves the way for research, medical breakthroughs, education and myth-busting. So we must keep talking, loudly and proudly for the benefit of all menstruators around the world. 

Awareness begins at home. Menstrual awareness should be highlighted across schools, regardless of whether a girls-only school or a co-ed school. It’s been encouraging to see that there have even been events and festivals where the central theme is menstruation. As recently as February 5th 2020, a Period Fest and Pad Yatra was held at Central Park, New Delhi by an NGO called Sacchi Saheli. School children even chanted period positive slogans and anyone within earshot could re-educate themselves on the misconceptions associated with menstruation. 

Read more about another Period Feast event also held in Delhi in a recent GiveHer5 post.

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Last month, we were shocked (to say the least) to learn that over 60 girls at a college in Bhuj, Gujarat were forced to remove their underwear to prove that they were not menstruating.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ To add to the outrage, Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji (who is a part of the Swaminarayan Temple which runs the Bhuj College), controversially said: “If a menstruating woman cooks food for her husband, she will definitely be born as a female dog in her next life."⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In response to this, a Delhi-based NGO named Sacchi Saheli organized a "Period Feast" in the Mayur Vihar locality for over 300 participants. All the food was cooked by approximately 28 menstruating women, identified by the NGO. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was a notable attendee and supporter of the feast.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It gives us great hope and pride to see efforts like this being made to stand in solidarity with other menstruators to reject the myth that women are impure and impious during menstruation.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Visit www.giveher5.org to know more about us.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #GiveHer5 #periods #menstruation #periodsinthenews #news #mensturalmatters #superstitions #myths #mythbusters #delhi #menstruation #women #periodfeast #periodpositive #india #manishsisodia #sachhisaheli #periodpositivity

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Public discourse to generate a positive impact and spread awareness is essential. Safe spaces (physical and virtual spaces), where period positivity is real, are necessary for greater acceptance and better menstrual healthcare. Menstruators can learn so much more about menstrual hygiene practices, the kind of alternative menstrual products to use if one cannot afford pads, the impact some these products have on the environment and much more. They can speak freely and share experiences to help them better understand when they should be concerned enough that a visit to the gynaecologist is necessary. The more aware they are, the better prepared they will be for the changes one can expect in their bodies before their periods, during their periods and after.

What is body positivity, and how does period positivity tie into it?

The body-positive movement reiterates that there is no ideal shape, size and appearance. We have been conditioned for so long to assume that the correct standard is the one inferred from television shows, blockbuster movies, and magazines. But that is an impossibly high standard to aspire to, and quite frankly most of these images and videos are products of editing and manipulating to sell an aspirational lifestyle. Real-life is quite the opposite. As human beings, we are a diverse lot, and we should accept, respect and love our bodies and faces, just the way they are. Yes, we should treat our bodies as temples and keep our health in check but nowhere was it written that being skinny is equivalent to being healthy and being curvy is not. In truth, there are no rules, and the minute we try to conform ourselves to be presentable in the eyes of society, we are performing for others rather than living for ourselves. This is not to say that people who feel the need to enhance themselves should be looked down upon – not at all. Very simply, your body is your choice. Looking at our bodies through the lens of perfectionism can be toxic, and we will always be vying for more, leading to a genuine lack of self-love and compassion for ourselves.

When we talk about body positivity, menstruation is an important sub-topic. The more body positive you are, the more accepting you are of being period positive. Body positivity starts the public discourse into period positivity. If we can love our flaws and imperfections and stop hiding them from the world, then why do we feel the need to shy away from a natural bodily process like menstruation? Having periods causes us to examine the relationship with our bodies more closely. We tend to bloat in the days leading up to the menstrual cycle or suffer from gruelling stomach cramps. Our mood swings experience extreme highs and lows, and the general air of discomfort can have your confidence levels feeling low. But when we are open about our feelings and when we can talk or compare such a universal experience, we learn that we are not alone and the feelings of quiet shame don’t need to exist at all.

Activists like Rupi Kaur and Kiran Gandhi made headlines by showing the world that there’s nothing dirty or grotesque when it comes to period blood. Rupi Kaur shared a photo on Instagram where she was lying down in bed wearing sweatpants that had bloodstains. Kiran Gandhi ran a marathon in London while bleeding freely through her clothes. Both were clearly sending a message that having a vagina that bleeds is not a curse, but being forced to pretend we have no bodily functions most definitely is.

At GiveHer5, we work to dispel misconceptions about menstruation through blogs, social media, offline visits to remote areas where information is hard to access. We believe that every menstruator should have access to menstrual products and awareness of menstrual hygiene. Opportunities for women and education for girls should not get hindered by being forced to stay home due to lack of menstrual supplies.

A brand we have recently been in conversation with, Aria + Leya, is a fempreneur led Indian lingerie startup. The founder, Anu Ananthakrishnan, says, “ I created A+L as a way to connect women – so we can encourage one another to dream, grow and make a mark on the world.”

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Post # 3: Step up, buttercup! Never forget the first milestone. I equate the launch of Aria + Leya to climbing a mountain in the dark where the only thing I could see was the step in front of me. I had to learn all about production, design, pattern making, quality control, importing and customs regulations. Yes, very sexy stuff! This was all new for me and incredibly daunting when I thought about it all at once. But taking one step at a time, I managed to keep my head on straight and got over the fear of walking farther and farther into the unknown. There were so many times when I didn’t think Aria + Leya would ever happen. And it took a lot longer than I first expected. To make products I was proud of and that served women in ways that the current products in the market weren’t able to was so fulfilling. Check out the link in bio to view our collection in its full glory! – @anuananth, Founder of @arialeya —– Creative Direction, Styling & Photography by @gayamusic . . . #arialeya #bethatgirl #goals #fempreneur #bossbabe #femaleentrepreneur #herstory #femaleperspective #fearless #fempower #lingerie #fashionindia #girlboss #womenempoweringwomen #womensupportingwomen #nofilter #fashionista #ambition

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Aria + Leya’s mission is to create something much more than a lingerie company. They envision a world where all women live PASSIONATE and COURAGEOUS LIVES and define success on their own terms. Their #BeThatGirl campaign is synonymous with what we at GiveHer5 believe in – women being ambitious and not held back by limitations or shame that society may project on them.

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This International Women’s Day (and any other day) you can help close the gender gap by contributing just Rs. 200 to give each child 5 days of her life back, allowing her to go to school, study and break out of the cycle of poverty. With Rs. 200 each person gets a set of two antimicrobial, reusable Saafkins which will help her stay in school during her period for an entire year. 

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Sources: 

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/period-shaming-stigma-menstruation-body-positivity

https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/period-positivity-menstrual-hygiene

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