An African proverb says; Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. Case in point, MENSTRUATION. This is a biological phenomenon which is characteristic of the descendants of eve. The name is an irony in itself.
Society cannot claim to understand women and patronize them, if we do not listen to them. Giving them an opportunity to express themselves and take action.
Why not call it WOMENSTRUATION? I mean, it is an act of physiology involving women.
Having conversations with the men and women, I set out to understand and break the ignorance on this mystifying biological experience.
This is ought to be an inclusive candid conversation.
It is about breaking the sentence of silence every girl is subjected to by society. Of societies where girls are excommunicated every time mother nature pays them a visit.
You are a 9 yr old boy seated in a boring hot afternoon class, caught up in the futile battle of averting the pleasurable marriage of your eyelids. The thoughts on your mind are scattered. A typical damnation for your impressionable tender mind. At the moment, you are wondering about the piece of cake you left at home. What if the self-styled house manager(maid) has already eaten it? You don’t fancy her that much. She has a knack of nosing around. Her screeching voice secretly annoys you.
Suddenly, you notice something in front of you. Like a meerkat, it sparks your curiosity. Her name is Stephanie. One of those names which preempt the beauty of the holder. A red patch is slowly dispensing on the lower part of her dress. A look of bewilderment forms on your face at the sight of blood. It reminds you of a story you heard in Sunday School. Jesus healed a woman who had bled for forty years. That did not make sense to you. The preacher warned you to not harden your hearts to the word of God.
You tap cautiously on Stephanie’s shoulder. Normally, you wouldn’t do that. You have a crush on her. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It seems she needs a miracle from Jesus. You chuckle at your own joke. Tilting her head calculatedly like a night owl, she turns to you. You freeze at the look on her face. It is an unholy alliance of emotions. In a glance, she tells you that if you dare tell anyone she will make muturas off your intestines. You only do what people with brains do, mind your damn business.
I AM NOW A WOMAN
There is something special about first times. First times are a buildup of anticipation and a foreshadow for memories.
For her, menstruation was special.
‘’ My friends had started rolling already. There was a feeling of fear of missing out.” ‘’ Did you say rolling? Like a gurudumu.’’ I ask her. Apparently, rolling is a fancy word for menstruation. Poor me, the word roll has taken up a new shape. It will never be seen the same. I thought rolling was a cliche word cool people use to describe them hanging out. We actually need to protect words from misunderstanding. Just like that, a word’s meaning is lost into obscurity.
RIP to the word TAP, in advance! (sobs).
Menstruation represented the culmination of her adolescence. She was now a woman. ‘’It meant that I could now make babies…’’ she says with a flash on her cheeks.
A crowning moment to receive the prefix ‘Mama nani’.
Unfortunately, it did not happen as she expected. Nature has a way of outwitting us with raw unplanned moments. I ask how it happened. ‘’Imagine a tap which lacks a knob. Water flows out without a hint of a notice. All you can do is having anticipatory measures.’’
She pauses for a minute to let that sink into my imaginative head.
From that moment onward, started her dalliance with time.
FEEL ME FLOW
She tells me she is a regular flow type of girl. She uses mobile apps to determine her menstrual cycles. It is labelled as a menstrual calendar.
Curiously, I ask her what happens to those with irregular flow. She shrugs and says,
Like it’s some sort of common knowledge. If I was her psychologist undertaking a medical diagnosis, I would make a mental note; Sociopath.
I indulge her on my self-styled menstrual familiarity theory. It is a theory which assumes that when female companions live and relate for an extended regular period of time, their menstrual cycles start to align. She pauses and gives it a long seemingly-wise thought. The response to this deep intellectual analysis is affirmative.
THE SAFE ZONE
Her preferred sanitary product is single use sanitary towels. She goes on to enthusiastically berate a popularly marketed sanitary pad. Apparently, women are subjected to the displeasure of use of substandard products which irritate their physicality.
The other alternative sanitary products include reusable sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual caps.
‘’Have you used tampons?’’ I pose the question to her.
She answers that she is not comfortable about putting foreign insertions into the tap. I make a sorry attempt to chuckle. She throws a piercing look as if she is about to throttle my brains out.
Rolling is an experience in itself; a plethora of physical and emotion feelings.
‘’ Do ladies take advantage of body cramps?’’ I prudently blurted out.
She sizes me for ten seconds. For the billionth time, looks at her manicured nails and lets out a deep sigh. ‘’ I wish you could experience these cramp pains for a day.’’ She tensely lashes out. This is actually a thing. I watched a video, those type of weird videos which randomly turn up on your feed, where a man is subjected to simulated labor pains. A tangle of wires is attached on his belly and electric current is passed. Her livid face slowly turned back to her gentle features with a stern warning to respect cramps.
I throw a knowing look towards her with a sly wink. She smiles sheepishly and asks, ‘’What?’’
‘’You know what I want answered.’’ I reply
‘’Menstruation is an emotional roller coaster of extremes. Different women have different experiences. For some their sexual drive is at peak levels. For others, all they want is to be left alone,’’ ‘’…is it answered?’’
‘’ Much obliged madame.’’
THE HARD FACTS
Let us deal with some sad realities.
65% of women and girls in Kenya lack the ability to access sanitary products. Fact or fiction? Fact.
We have heard of stories of girls in remote Kenya trading their sexual purity so that they can gain the means of purchasing sanitary towels. This is just one of the horrid stories that present the shocking statistics.
It is quite unfortunate we live in a massively skewed society where condoms are free while sanitary products attract a mark up.
Sex is a choice, menstruation is involuntary.
SANITARY PRODUCTS SHOULD BE FREE. And not just that. They should meet the right quality standards fit for basic human use. These are non-negotiables which keep falling on the deaf years of the key stakeholders. Forgive me if I speak as a layman, in cognizant of the production processes.
I believe, this is a no brainer.
For the ladies, do you care to know where and how the single use sanitary pads are disposed of?
Did you know a sanitary pad takes 500 yrs to fully decompose? Assuming each woman uses an average of 12 sanitary pads per cycle, you can do the math on the environmental impact.
Have you considered using more environmentally friendly sanitary products? Menstrual cups and re-usable sanitary pads are a case in point.
MENSTRUATION: A MAN’S POINT OF VIEW
What would the world be if men menstruated?
Possibly, true to their nature, men would dangle menstruation as a prize and definition of their masculinity. It would be normalized and would not be a big deal. Marketers of a popular sanitary product would make presentations to their managers on how they had cracked this demographic. The product, fittingly, would be branded as, Never, to attract the target of core hard-line men. Maybe, it would be cheaper or even given free.
WE MEN’S DAY
8th March 2020 is Women’s day.
A day we appreciate and praise the descendants of Eve, the apple eater. What would the world be without women? It would lifeless. A mixture of lethargy and mediocrity.
Women’s day is about recognizing the challenges and insurmountable obstacles that women all over the world go through.
As I grew up, I regarded the female species as an enigma. A Pandora’s box where unlocking one puzzle leads to more unsolved mysteries. Understanding the female physiology and psychology is no easy task.
This ignorance has led to us making unfounded assumptions and inferences about women in general.
PARTING SHOT ON MENSTRUATION
To the men, let us be empathetic to the plight of our women and what they go through.
Avoid using sexist remarks to describe menstruation.
Practice chivalry and deliver to the your lady acquaintances and relations care packages.
What’s in a care package you wonder? It can be sanitary products, chocolate, snacks, painkillers, wherever your wallet takes you.
Our conversation was getting to the end, so I saved my best for last.
‘’In another life, would you come back as a woman?’’ I asked.
‘’Definitely…’’, she blurts out without much second thought. ‘’ Men are just big babies. We women are innately equipped with emotional and mental strength to deal with whatever ****(profanity) life throws at us. Rolling is a ready sacrifice I would make for being a woman.’’
HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY 2020 FOLKS!
Writer’s Two Cents
Let us ceaselessly keep this pertinent topic of menstruation relevant.
This is will enable us to bring about the much needed behavioral and structural change.
Tell us what you feel in the comment section.
( I have broken my writer’s virginity with this post. I hope it lasted long enough and you will come back for more. *wink )