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“Do not be ashamed.” Women around the world hit back at period-shamers

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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Periods are quite the pain-in-the-ass, not only because of the physical pain they can bring, but also because of the whispering, tip-toeing around that convention has traditionally required. 

But in the last year women around the world have been seeking to break this, by speaking openly about their menstrual cycles and showing their blood-stained clothes.

Perhaps the loudest comes from Anushka Dasgupta, a woman in Kolkata, India. this month who was on her way home she unexpectedly started her period.

Some women approached her, asking her to pull down her T-shirt to cover the stain, others offered her a sanitary napkin and "most men ogled" at her.

"So here I was, well past eight, standing alone at Esplanade with a massive red stain across my butt and a rather artistic red dot under the zipper of my pants," she wrote in her account on Facebook (below).

While many of us would have run home in embarrassment, Dasgupta didn't. She took to the social network to express just why she wasn't going to let herself feel ashamed this time.

I came home today at four minutes past nine after a long walk, a metro journey and a 10 minute bus ride. There's...

Posted by Anushka Dasgupta on Sunday, January 17, 2016

Addressing all the women who told her to cover up, she said: "I AM NOT ASHAMED. I bleed every 28-35 days, it is painful at times, I get moody at times, but I walk into the kitchen and get myself some chocolate biscuits and I'm good to go for the next eight hours come hell or high water because I AM NOT ASHAMED." 

To the men who looked on, she said, "I will take out a sanitary napkin and show you how it works while you can teach me how to pee in public (because clearly you're not ashamed, and neither am I"

And to the children who "didn't notice/care", Dasgupta wrote: DO NOT BE ASHAMED. There will be many bloodstains on pants, on skirts, on bedsheets, on cushion covers, on chairs, on tables, against the wall, and on the battlefield where YOU fight the stigma by NOT BEING ASHAMED. Do not whisper when you utter the word "PERIODS", do not subtly offer a woman a sanitary napkin, or a fresh change of clothes. ASK her if she needs one, TELL her she has stained her clothes, DO NOT HELP HER HIDE IT."

Her message is reminiscent of drummer, Kiran Ghandi, who decided to not wear a tampon or sanitary towel while running the London marathon last year. 

Free-bleed period

"We ran for women who can’t show their periods in public and for women who can’t compete in athletic events. We ran for our friends who have suffered through period cramps at work," she wrote in a blog post.

“By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50% of us in the human population share monthly.” 

Five months later, Pennsylvania student Louelle Denor, posted a photo of her hand holding a menstrual cup and covered in blood on Instagram, in response to a picture of menstrual blood on a women's trousers being removed by the photo-sharing app.

"It's come to my attention that women are having their images removed for showing menstrual blood (and no nudity)," she wrote alongside the picture above.

"This is very seriously f**ked up. If this was a picture of blood from a finger laceration, there'd be no issue. Yes, this blood is from my#vagina . It happens every month. The thing I'm holding in my hand is a#softcup #menstrualcup and it's awesome but messy to remove."

In November last year, the hashtag #HappyToBleed swept social media in India after misogynistic comments made by a temple chief - about disallowing women from entering the temple - sparked outrage.

Happy to bleed

Image: Facebook/HappyToBleed

Around the same time, actress Sophia Bush and a few other television stars spoke about their own "embarrassing" period stories in a mini documentary by underwear brand Thinx in hope of dispelling period-shaming. 

"We're sort of energetically taught to feel ashamed about it because the conversation about it always starts in very hushed tones and it's something boys have to go away for and it's a little embarrassing," said Bush. 

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.

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