It wasn’t all that long ago that I found it impossible to imagine that a man could/would lead the way toward overcoming menstrual taboos.
After all, my OB/GYNs were all male (no offense intended to my male readers) and they were not advocates of menstruation. Their attitudes reflected what most women I knew felt – fix it, get rid of it, suffer through it.
Why would I expect a man, who does not menstruate, to advocate for menstrual openness and reform when none of the women I knew were at all concerned about menstrual taboos imposed upon them and their daughters?
Scroll forward several years and I can truly say that my life has been enriched and blessed by several men who advocate for menstrual change and who truly care about menstruating women.
On August 2, 2013, The Atlantic posted a story, by Um-e-Kulsoom Shariff, about Arunachalam Muruganantham and his menstrual activism that resulted in a huge push toward overcoming India’s menstruation taboo
Here are some highlights from the article. Be sure to click the link above and read the entire piece.
When he was 16, his father died and the science-loving teenager dropped out of school to support his family. His next life-changing event came when he married 17-year-old Shanti in 1998. His wife had never used a sanitary napkin, and she relied on an old piece of cloth for her monthly period. “Napkins are expensive. A cloth can be used repeatedly,” she confessed to him.
Muruganantham was concerned about his wife using one piece of cloth for months at a time, so he gave her some sanitary napkins as a gift. A pack of six cost him 11 U.S. cents. (You now get the cheapest cotton pack for about 30 cents.) Muruganantham concluded they were indeed expensive for something that’s only stuffed with cotton, so he set about trying to make his own.
Even though Shanti’s response was not encouraging, Muruganantham was obsessed with making a napkin that would have win her approval. When Shanti refused to be his subject, he turned to his sisters, and when they warned him against pursuing such a “disgusting” mission….
He decided he himself would wear a sanitary napkin, hoping the personal experience would give him an insight into why his napkins failed each time.
Muruganantham created a fake uterus using the innards of a soccer ball, attached a pipe to it, and filled the bladder with goat blood. He then attached this artificial uterus to a belt. When he squeezed the bladder, blood would flow from the pipe into the sanitary napkin.
For 10 days, Muruganantham lived a menstruating woman’s life: He walked, bicycled, ate, and slept in this pretend-menstruating state. “I began to stink and stained my attire. Those were the most difficult days of my life,” he says.
Muruganantham became focused on building a machine to manufacture the napkins. The idea was to set up manufacturing units in villages like his, where women, mostly unskilled laborers, could use the machines. He hoped women could pool together money to set up the businesses, create employment, and generate a demand for sanitary napkins in rural areas.
“Why buy sanitary napkins from multinationals when we can make them at home and generate employment?” Muruganantham said.
Muruganantham wants “menstruation” to be an accepted word; he hopes someday a sanitary napkin will not have to be “smuggled” out of a pharmacy. He hopes girls will stop dropping out of school in rural areas out of embarrassment.
To quote Muruganantham, “Why the ignorance?”
What a period wise question!
What period wise men do you know?
Can you identify other men active in menstrual activism, who are pushing for the end of menstrual taboos in your city? in your community? in your family?
What men can you name who are comfortable with menstruation, knowledgeable about periods, and are not reluctant to be seen doing things period wise?
What men have impacted you period wise?