Kiran Gandhi is all over the internet and for the right (err!) reasons. She ran the London Marathon without a tampon, bleeding but finished the race. Since it first got published, I’ve read several articles on her, lauding her actions and leading to a widespread debate on menstruation and period hygiene. While the articles and reports have been positive, the comments section reeks of misogyny and sexist opinions. Some call it ‘ridiculous attention grabbing action’, some say its unnecessary because tomorrow someone will run with poop and urinate and what not!
What exactly is Kiran’s point in doing this? She ran the marathon bleeding because in her own words, “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.” Now how can we and why must we criticise someone like her?! People don’t think it’s a taboo when girls as young as six are married off in Middle-East and African countries, when ISIS kidnap young women and force them to become sex slaves. Why do women still have to deal with body issues despite such a huge transformation from the suffragettes movement to present times? In reality, WE, the society haven’t yet accepted women as whole beings, as beings in their whole might. In India especially, this is very true where there are a thousand restrictions on girls and women all in the name of culture and tradition. We don’t yet understand the importance of menstrual blood. It contains blood cells that can save lives. Stem cells are now used for treatment. So, why does menstrual blood gets seen as unholy? Instead of focussing and dealing with providing safe hygiene access and sanitation facilities, we go and cringe about bleeding women. We proudly use terms such as “Bleeding Blue” for sportsmen yet can’t tolerate or understand plight of bleeding women? That’s not strange at all to figure out in a patriarchal nation as ours. Its no wonder despite our boasting as educated and progressive individuals, many of us hate Kiran Gandhi for running the marathon in all her bleeding glory.
Women have great endurance powers. They overcome menstrual pain, birthing pain, domestic violence, sexual assaults, marital rape yet still get body shamed for something so natural as their monthly periods. Why don’t we adopt a more understanding path to their suffering and impart sexual and hygiene lessons in schools so that we don’t produce a future generation society that will still parrot what their ancestors and earlier generations did against women?! Time to do it. NOW.
Until that time, women like Kiran will remain an example.
And, Yes. We bleed. On society!