Whilst half the world’s population menstruates during their reproductive years, the topic of menstruation is still taboo in most socialites and rarely talked about openly or without embarrassment. Why is menstruation, which is a natural bodily function, seen as an embarrassing or shameful topic? In this article, you will find 5 common reasons that contribute to most women going out of their way to avoid discussing their period.
Five reasons why menstrual taboos still exist in modern day societies:
1. Some women believe that they are unclean when they are menstruating. In some parts of the world such as Nepal and India, there are still villages where women who are menstruating are banished from their villages and made to live in shelters on the outskirts of their communities. Worse yet, in some villages, menstruating women are banned from cooking as they are seen to be unclean and may contaminate any food that they touch. As a result women are required to rely on the charity of female friends and family members, to provide them with food. Whilst western women may not be banished from their homes during menstruation, many western women still believe or feel that they are unclean during menstruation, since having a period can be quite a messy affair. The ‘period smell’ which many women report having, can also contribute to a belief that one is unclean while menstruating.
2. Some religions teach that women who menstruate are unclean. For example, Muslim women are not allowed to pray during their period, as Islamic doctrine states that blood of any form is unclean. As another example, Hindu women are barred from entering kitchens or touching others, whilst they are menstruating.
3. Many mothers struggle to talk to their young daughters about menstruation Even in western society, there is a large percentage of mothers, who are uncomfortable discussing menstruation with their pre-teen and teen daughters. Unfortunately, if a mother isn’t able to openly discuss menstruation with her daughter, her daughter will grow up believing that her period is a shameful or embarrassing burden, which should be hidden.
4. Women in general are often raised from a young age, to keep their pain and discomfort to themselves. Women the world over do not tend to share their pain or discomfort with others as it is innate in women to often put men or children’s needs and happiness above their own. As a result, most girls and women aren’t confident talking about their periods. As an example, if a teen girl has trouble concentrating in class due to period cramps, she is likely to tell her friends and her teacher that she has a headache, instead of revealing that she is suffering from period cramps.
5. Society puts forward the notion that men can’t handle hearing about periods. As a result, most girls and women feel uncomfortable discussing period cramps with their fathers, brothers, work colleagues and partners. They fear that the men in their life will judge them or find them disgusting, when they’re menstruating. Sadly, most teenage girls would be too afraid to ask their father to purchase sanitary products, when they’re menstruating. As another example, most women hide their sanitary products when walking to a public rest room in order to avoid judgement from men.
Whilst menstruation may currently be a taboo subject, as women begin to speak more openly and honestly about the normality of menstruation, hopefully menstruation will stop being a “dirty” word and just become a normal part of life!