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Reflections on a monthly "friend".

HURTLING THROUGH TIME and space, we find ourselves in the 21St century. Even in our remote corner of the world, progress and time are catching up with us. Advances made in especially the field of instantaneous and omnipresent cyber communication have contributed to a world where few taboos still exist. No topic or subject is sacred and there are few who still harbour inhibitions to raise or address any issue.

Every part of our collective anatomy has been laid bare, deconstructed, analysed, examined, sold, and bartered. Yet one aspect still remains cloaked in silence, secrecy, yes even shame. At the same time this one, most secret aspect--on at least a monthly basis--affects over half of the world's population and has a multi-million dollar (US) industry and business behind it.

This most common of human aspects continue to come in many disguises; Aunty from Reading, Aunt Flo, Big Red, the red tent, red dress, a visitor, the BUS (Bleeding Uterus Syndrome), Carrie, Cousin TOM (time of Month), trip to the moon, Gs in the hood, the crimson tide--are but a few of apparently thousands of indirect references made to it. The reader will notice that even I, so far have refrained from directly naming that "thing,"

Paging through our regional Southern African women's magazines, I was somehow surprised to see that there is not a single advertisement for women's sanitary products. This of course remains consistent with the taboos that exist around the topic and "condition." These taboos have been created by misunderstanding, miseducation, and misinterpretation of women's menstruation as shamefulness and unclean.

While there seems to be more openness to breach the issue in other regions of the world, shame and embarrassment seem to dominate the topic there as well. I, for instance, stumbled across an Indian ad for a product called "Whisper." The very brand name screams secrecy and taboo. However, that they tried to conceal the contents--the pads--in packaging that looks like chocolate or chips packages--"to help women store and dispose sanitary pads easily" borders on lunacy!

Self-proclaimed menstruation activist and creator of the Adventures in Menstruation zines, Chella Quint, is of the opinion that the advertisers are factoring shame--the shame of spotting or leakage--into their selling gimmick. I have to admit that I had to stifle a giggle when I saw Butterfly's take on the topic. This economically worded beauty simply states: " WikiLeaks. ... Butterfly doesn't." Even then--I have to wonder whether this sleek minimalism itself is proof that the advertisers could not overcome universally held taboos on the topic--or whether it is a genius lampoon on the shame which surrounds the "event."

As if the shame and taboo surrounding "that time of the month" is not enough for young girls in particular, they also have to contend with broader, more far-reaching implications. This is true especially for girls in poor countries, who quite simply cannot afford pads for its prohibitively high prices. While no similar study was done in Namibia, statistics in South Africa show that 60% of women there cannot afford sanitary pads. So instead of facing the embarrassment, ridicule and stigma, young girls simply stay away from school during their period. It is estimated that girls in puberty can miss up to 20% of their school year as the direct result of this. In recognition of this fact, the South African government in 2011 made a bold pledge to provide free sanitary protection to those women and girls who are in need.

Sister Namibia would argue that a rigorous education campaign about menstruation--as a natural and necessary function of human reproduction--should become compulsory in schools in order to demystify therefore lifting taboos that dog the attitudes of both menstruators and non-menstruators.

In spite of the fact that it could be a pain in the uterus, isn't it time that we embrace, come to terms with, and reclaim our menses?


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Title Annotation:menstruation
Author:Sasman, Laura
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Sep 1, 2012
Next Article:Talk to sister.

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