The Menstruation Hoopla

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I got several messages telling me how I was special as a woman. None of the people who sent me the messages meant it badly so a big thank you to everyone who wished me and several other women. As my friends know, I have a huge allergy for “tokenism”…. I don’t celebrate Mother’s day, Father’s day, Valentine’s day etc because I feel all these special days reduce relationships to mere celebrations. I know of cousins who would send the most touching messages on Mother’s day and leave their mothers to fend for themselves and some even let their mothers remain hungry. So much for tokenism.

In recent times a similar tokenism has come about in the Menstruation space. What with Akshay Kumar making a movie on Muruganandam called “Padman” and many other male celebrities posing with a sanitary napkin. I like Akshay Kumar. I have always felt that his intentions are good and he didn’t mean “Padman” as just a flimsy effort to glorify menstruation. But unfortunately his research has been inadequate and his effort to bring awareness about menstrual hygiene has not hit the mark. I certainly appreciate the effort though as everyone should. Atleast he has turned the arc lights on menstruation and it helps women to discuss the topic more openly.

Lets understand one thing – periods are not fun, no woman will have a big smile on her face if you catch her during her periods and she is certainly not going to be thrilled seeing a photograph of any man grinning with a sanitary pad. Very few women don’t have cramps or bloating or excessive bleeding or headaches or body aches etc during their periods. I have spent the first couple of days of my periods doubling up in severe pain right through my college and a few years into my thirties. Why even now, there are some months that I have cramps and pain right through the night just before my periods. Its no fun… women just learn to deal with it. So a request to all the male celebrities posing with a sanitary pad – please don’t. Its quite sickening to see you grinning when I am in pain.

I have used re-usable cloth pads since the time I had my periods as a 12 year old till “Whisper” happened sometime in my late 30’s. When I got my periods way back, only “Carefree” was available and I never figured out how to use those pads with the elastic band. These cloth pads that I speak of are basically long strips of cotton cloth that are cut from an old cotton sari. My mother taught me how to use the cloth pads – one folded over as a pad and another tied as a “langot” to hold the pad in place. I have felt no aversion to seeing my periods’ blood and washing these cloth pads. They were soaked in hot water and I used a good soap to wash them… and now with the washing machine, I wash them again in a separate cycle after washing them by hand. The most important point is – I have never had itching or burning during my periods as long as I used only cloth pads. I shifted to using “Whisper” only as it was more convenient than the cloth pad … not realising that I was contributing to the mounds of non-degradable plastic waste and I ended up with itching and burning many times. :(:(

Read this infographic before buying your pack of “Whisper” –


And for all those women who think the sanitary pads are “hygienic”, here are some excerpts from an article titled –

“The most contested constituents of sanitary pads are dioxins and SAPs. According to a 2016 paper, High absorbency cellulose acetate electrospun nanofibers for feminine hygiene application, by IIT-Hyderabad’s Sharma and his colleagues Shital Yadav, Mani Pujitha Illa and Tulika Rastogi, “Dioxins are used to bleach the cotton/material used for making absorbent core, and it is responsible for side effects in the body such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cancer, immune system damage, impaired fertility and diabetes. SAPs are added to increase the absorption capacity, but in 1980s, use of SAPs was restricted in tampons (in the US) due to its possible link with toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal illness caused by a bacterial toxin.”

The BIG study on usage of sanitary pads in India has also been debunked – read this article –

Why am I sharing all this ?

This hoopla around menstruation is again the “American”/”western” model of selling an unhygienic and environment harming product in the name of “modern” hygienic living. Please don’t fall prey to it. The use of cotton cloth is the most hygienic way to deal with your periods. Now that menstruation is out in the open, even if your clothes were to get a little stained, its no big deal. Focus on keeping yourself healthy and the dreaded vaginal infections away. Some of the chemicals used in the sanitary napkins are carcinogenic… I am looking for some study that correlates increase in the usage of sanitary napkins and vaginal infections. Am sure there is a correlation, just needs data to prove it.

Wash and reuse cloth pads, save the environment and be healthy.

For more information on alternatives to the sanitary pad, please read this article and visit the NJPC (“Not Just a Piece of Cloth”) page of Goonj on Facebook. Its an excellent campaign towards menstrual hygiene and removing the taboos associated with menstruation.

2 thoughts on “The Menstruation Hoopla”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: