When I was in middle school and still figuring out how to deal with my period, I got leaks often. I felt embarrassed, knowing this was considered a social mistake — but what if it weren't? 16-year-old Anushka Dasgupta set out to end this period-shaming culture that says we should be ashamed of menstrual blood with a Facebook post describing why the only shame she experiences around leaks is that which others try to impose on her.
When Anushka, who lives in Kolkata, India, got a stain on her pants from her period, she herself didn't think much of it. But that didn't stop strangers from behaving as if she should be mortified. "Multiple women walked up to me on my way home and asked me to pull my tee shirt down, most men ogled," and one woman offered her a pad, she posted on Facebook — though, she observed, "all the kids I met didn't notice/care."
While some of this attention was well-intended, she wrote, the people who assumed she would be ashamed were actually the ones shaming her. She addressed her post to them:
This post is for all the women who offered to help me hide my womanhood, 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.
She also powerfully addressed the men who stared at her, pointing out that many of them aren't ashamed to pee in front of others. But her most poignant message was to the children she encountered, who hadn't yet learned to be grossed out by periods. She told them to treat the topic as the normal, everyday occurrence it is and offer help without assuming anybody needs it:
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.
Dasgupta is one of many people fed up with the stigmatization of a completely normal process their bodies undergo every month. Indian MIA drummer Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while on her period with no pads or tampons to make the point that she should be allowed to. Canadian poet Rupi Kaur called out social media's double standards, which dictate that a woman is allowed to pose in underwear but not show period blood, by posting a photo with blood stains on her pants. When her original photo was taken down, she posted this poetic message to Facebook, which really says it all:
We menstruate and they see it as dirty. Attention seeking. Sick. A burden. As if this process is less natural than breathing. As if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. As if this process is not love. Labour. Life. Selfless and strikingly beautiful.
Despite how those who pass us on the street may assume we feel when menstrual blood stains our clothing, there's actually no reason to be embarrassed at all. There are only reasons to be proud.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy