Back in high school, it was commonly known that the easiest way to get out of any class activity was to just say we had “feminine issues,” especially when dealing with a male teacher. It shut down the conversation immediately, no further questions asked, carte blanche to do (or not do) whatever we wanted. The reason for this is simple (and stupid): people are uncomfortable with the topic of a woman’s period. And the cliché isn’t just prevalent in the classroom…have you ever tried asking your boyfriend or husband to pick up a box of tampons on the way home? I’ll take a wild guess and assume they’re less than enthused to be seen browsing the feminine product aisle. When was the last time you walked to the washroom with a pad proudly in hand, without trying to hide it? If you’re anything like me, the answer is: uh, never! Oh, and sex during that time of the month? For most - off limits… too messy, both in practice and in theory. These are a few examples of the ways in which menstruation is shamed in today’s society but it barely scratches the surface of the stigma that exists.
Enter, Kiran Gandhi, a 26-year-old musician, who decided that she simply won’t be shamed. The Harvard business grad recently ran the London marathon and as the sweat dripped down her face so too did the blood down her leg. That’s right, the professional drummer (she just finished a tour with M.I.A!) got her period the night before the big run and instead of uncomfortably suffering 26 miles with a tampon in, she opted to let it flow. And flow it did – photo’s of Gandhi and her blood stained running pants quickly went viral – and so did her message. She tells Cosmopolitan she felt “f–king empowered” to run despite the pain of her period and the stigma against bleeding. She says, “Once I started bleeding, I felt kind of like, Yeah! F–k you! I felt very empowered by that.”
But, despite the wave of support and fist bumps for her bold and bloody statement, not everyone was as enthused. She explains, “This one older lady ran up to me and she said ‘You have your period!’ She looked very disgusted when she was informing me about that.” Yes, one the first negative opinions came from a fellow marathoner and fellow menstruater – someone who despite knowing first hand what a pain that time of the month can be, could not wrap her head around why someone would deliberately expose their flow.
And she’s not the only one opposing the stains. Online, the comments are varied – some supportive and some downright offensive and oppressive. But, Gandhi hopes to help change the outdated narrative or at least begin the conversation. In an essay posted on her website she declares, “If there’s one way to transcend oppression, it’s to run a marathon in whatever way you want…sexism can be beaten…we can re-write the rules if we choose.”
Bravo! In principle I support what you represent. But we are talking about a natural bodily function, kind of in the same general category as ejaculation, urination or defecating. I don't think it would be cool to run in a marathon doing any of those. Whatchoo Think ?