Bhumi Pednekar knows that "period panic doesn’t disappear when you become an adult"
The actor wants you to become a vagina activist
It’s break time and you’re copying your friend’s class notes to study for tomorrow’s test. Then you feel an unexpected trickle between your legs as your period decided to come early this month. Panic sets in. If this feels like a throwback to your teens, let Bhumi Pednekar remind you that “period panic doesn’t disappear when you become an adult.”
“I have done that, even when I am shooting — because of the kind of activity you are doing. I may leak while shooting an action scene. When I was younger, I was embarrassed but now I’m very comfortable with letting everyone know that I am on my period. It releases me from my anxiety and my panic, because it’s normal.”
Some of us manage to push past this anxiety and ingrained shame as we grow older. But the menstruation taboo is real. Social and cultural myths and misinformation have given bleeding vaginas the ability to ruin pickles, sully sacred spaces, cause global warming, speak Klingon and shoot laser beams into space.
“I have been brought up in Delhi which is supposedly a metropolitan city but there are certain myths I have grown up listening to. Not to touch pickles, not to visit the temple. I have even heard women being referred to as impure during ‘those’ days and and been told to avoid disposing used pads with the normal garbage,” laments a young woman on a Quora thread.
Few of us, like Pednekar, are lucky to have these conversations. “I was in the 5th standard when we had our first round of educational seminars. Even at home, we spoke about periods openly,” she says, adding, “Fathers should equally be a part of a girl’s period experience. This is the only way we can normalise it. It is something as easy, normal and as regular as breathing, going to the bathroom or any other bodily physiological activity.”
Knowing is just one part of it, being prepared is another and that’s only about 12%-15% of us in India. A majority of the women in our country don’t have access to sanitary products and proper knowledge of menstrual hygiene practices. Bhumi Pednekar joined other educators, medical professionals and activists at the frontlines of change with Whisper’s initiative to #KeepGirlsInSchool, supported by UNESCO, to develop and integrate a puberty and period education module in school curriculums.
An estimated 2.3 crore girls drop out of school once they start menstruating. Others skip school days to cope with their bleeding with sometimes unsanitary practices and deal with parental pressure to stay clear of shared household spaces.
In a country that oscillates between stigmatising women for a natural bodily process, placed a (now dropped) ‘luxury tax’ on sanitary products and celebrates young girls when they start menstruating and enter fertile ‘womanhood’, it can get confusing to figure out where we stand in menstrual awareness.
For a start, we can join hands with other vagina activists and take things beyond textbooks and tall tales.