Periods: The Shame and Shaming

I am not a fan of the menstrual cycle but i understand it is a natural part of making new human lives and this is great. If there was any intelligent designer, aka God, women wouldn’t need to bleed every month for new human lives to be possible, and this is one reason i can say God is not a woman.

It is sad that the society portrays menstruation as an obscene, dirty thing women should be ashamed of. As a teenager, I was scared and ashamed to go into chemists’ shops to purchase sanitary pads and it did not help that the people behind the counters were usually men. Most times, I found myself going from one shop to the other, praying and hoping there would be a woman behind the counter. If the shame i felt could kill, i would have died at the spot!

Thanks to feminism and the liberation it brings, I now buy my sanitary pads and tampons with pride. Gone are the days I made extra efforts to keep my sanitary pads hidden under the bulk of my shopping, now i make a point of not hiding it under any grocery/shopping. This ‘little’ act feels like liberation from century old shackles.

Also in an effort to demystify the myths, break the taboo and shame associated with menstruation, I discuss openly with my son about any menstrual related problems i have.

Growing up, the time I ever had to talk about my periods with my parents or the adults around me, including class teachers, was all about the lecture and stern reminder that with menstruation comes the risk of pregnancy. I remember getting my first period and immediately told it was a warning not to mess around with men. Subsequently, having my periods right on schedule every month was a way of confirming to the adults around me that I was not sexually active or at least not pregnant. My periods became a way for people around me to police my body and sexual activities. Growing up in a society where sex education is almost taboo, my monthly periods seemed like the inaudible way of saying, “Hey, I am not pregnant!

There is also the unfortunate religious stigma surrounding menstruation. In many religions, including Christianity under which I was brought up, menstruation is viewed as a dirty thing to be avoided. A menstruating woman is referred to as unclean and is forbidden from entering the House of God or going near temples. The bible in Leviticus 15:19 says,

“When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean.”

Yeah, WTF is the appropriate response!  At the time, I was an ardent churchgoer and i remember feeling sad when i could not attend church services with my family, due to the monthly ‘curse’.

Religion further entrenches the stigma attached to menstruation. Menstruating women are made to feel unclean, dirty, unworthy and a freak just because they bleed from the vagina every month.

Never mind the science behind it.

Never mind that is what makes procreation possible.

Never mind that it signifies an important part of keeping the human race alive.

Never mind that it ensures the continued survival of our species because as far as religion and patriarchy are concerned, a menstruating woman is yet another example of why women are the ‘weaker’ sex.

Is it any surprise that women have learned to be ashamed of that time of the month?

Is it any surprise that many men go “Eew”, pull a disgusted face at the mention of menstruation?

Is it any surprise that it is considered ok to post a picture of a bloodied nose or advertise a bleeding gum to sell mouthwash, but it is not ok to post a picture of a woman with a spot of menstrual stain?

Is it any surprise that Instagram would categorise a picture of a woman asleep with a spot of menstrual blood on her pyjamas and menstrual stains on bed-sheet as an obscene image that must be taken off its site, even though most women have had this experience?

Is it any surprise that some people would report this image as obscene? tumblr_nlr1zr1zrg1sn0z5fo1_1280

Source- Rapi Kaur

 

When Rupi Kaur, a student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, posted the above image which is a part of her photoseries project on Instagram, it was deleted by Instagram, citing violation of ‘Community Guidelines’.

tumblr_nlr23lwJUe1sn0z5fo1_1280

Rupi kaur responded with:

Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you.

This image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com

I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. 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.

Instagram once again took down the image. Rupi kaur responded with an appeal on tumblr:

Dear tumblr family,

Instagram has chosen to once again, take down this image for violating community guidelines. Despite the fact that about 95% of comments were beautiful. Flowering. And in support.

This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk. And whose controlling the show. Whose controlling the media and who is censoring us.

It’s sad in this world. That this is still happening. I know that some communities and cultures go out of their way to shun and oppress a woman on her period. I guess Instagram is another one of them.

Some women aren’t allowed in their religious place of worship. Out of their homes. To do certain things. And are told they are sick. As if the period is a common cold. Yes. This is here in North America. I have been hospitalized many times because of issues associated with my period. I have been suffering from a sickness related to my period. And ever since I have been working so hard to love it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Even thought it’s given me so much pain in the past few years. and they want to tell me I should be quiet about this. That all of this we experience collectively does not need to be seen. Just felt secretly behind closed doors. That’s why this is important. Because when I first got my period my mother was sad and worried. And they want to censor all that pain. Experience. Learning. No.

I am going to share the photo again once I figure out how to go about it. I would appreciate if you could “at” instagram and express your thoughts. Or even share the photo on whatever social media platform.

Their patriarchy is leaking.

Their misogyny is leaking.

We will not be censored.

Many women suffer from endometriosis. Every month they endure excruciating menstrual pain. Unfortunately, they can’t discuss this condition openly because of the stigma associated with menstruation. They learn to live with the pain and shame of menstruation.

Source- Rupi Kaur

Source- Rupi Kaur

It would be great if we learned to embrace our bodies as women and tell the society to stop its relentless shaming of women’s bodies.

As a friend puts it “To all women out there who feel ashamed or suffer from heavy cramps: try to bleed with pride! It helps”

I was glad when Rupi Kaur announced that Instagram finally restored the picture it deleted of the woman with the menstrual bloodstains, with an apology.

tumblr_nlvirf09KX1sn0z5fo1_1280tumblr_nltr0pGGUp1sn0z5fo1_1280

 

Breaking taboos is indeed a good use of social media.

 

 

Losing weight is not an endorsement or indictment of another woman’s body: Stop the Fatphobia!

I posted some recent pictures of myself on my facebook wall with the following caption:IMG-20150202-WA0002

Dividends of working out at the gym.
I can have a sleepover at my mum’s and not bother to take extra clothing, just so i can walk away with some of her new clothes and of course jewellery. Now, she can’t say, “Yemisi, don’t take it, it is not your size!” lol!
Jacket- My sister’s (Now mine)
Red sweater underneath- My mum’s (Now mine)
Brand new Leggings- My mum’s (Now mine)
Hair – All mine, just nicely retouched for me by my mum.
Winning all round!

Yemmylicious ed

Funny enough, a facebook friend who also identifies as an atheist came on the post thread and left a series of comments. These comments exposed an underlying hatred of plus size women, sexism and showed an endorsement of street harassment , cos well, according to him, women are supposed to provide visual orgasms for strangers on the streets, and you should be ashamed if you are not deemed sexy enough by strangers. BTW, he thinks only outsiders can decide if you are sexy or not.

Anyway, I decided to share these exchanges because, you never know just how many people especially those who claim to be rational thinkers, share these vile opinions. [Read more…]

Calling Out Misogyny or Bullying is Not An Attack; It is a Social Duty!

There is this unfortunate trend in social media where calling out someone for their sexist, misogynist, and/or inhumane remarks is seen more as an invitation for a fight rather than an opportunity to engage in rational discussion. Many, especially women, are discouraged from calling out sexist, misogynist, or stereotype remarks made by friends on social media like Facebook or Twitter, for fear of being tagged as the “type of feminist that gives feminism a bad name”.

There seems to be a renewed effort to tag outspoken,social justice conscious women as aggressive, judgemental, over-sensitive ‘bitches’ who just want to ruin everyone’s fun. It is particularly sad that this type of silencing technique is becoming even more prevalent in the Humanist/Atheist space.

November 17th-24th is  anti-bullying week and I pledged sometime ago not to be a bystander when I witness bullying. Of course, this has somehow earned me a reputation as the “fun ruiner”, especially amongst some of my fb friends.  Whenever i post or comment on such issues, it is at the risk of being referred to as the “type of feminist” they don’t like. Therefore, such discussions tend to irritate some ‘friends’ and many do get aggressively defensive when called out. However, i am sure that those who resort to aggressive behaviour when called out on how they treat others do not deserve the space they occupy on my virtual/real friendship list, simples.

I was shocked when I came across the status update below from a somehow close FB friend who identify as humanist and feminist: [Read more…]

On the street harassment video: Calling out racism should not drown out the sexism in the video.

When I watched the street harassment video titled 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman, my first thought was, forget 10 hours, that is my experience as a woman 557264_423393704397930_1730387465_nwalking the 10 minutes distance to my gym!

Catcalls and street harassments are daily experiences many women have learned to live with. Many of us have spoken out against this experience many times. However, are we ever taken seriously? No. Instead, trolls invade such posts with excuses like “Not every man”, “I am not your kind of feminist”, “This is why I hate feminists”… blahblahblah

Therefore, I was actually happy just to see a video documenting an actual experience of catcalls and street harassment going viral. In all honesty, I was not looking at the skin colour of the guys in the video, I was more about their words and often I went,  oh, I have heard that or oh that is a popular one. I guess to me, my street harassers have one thing in common, they are men, they say the same shit, they want control, they treat me like objects, and they feel entitled to my body. They are men that feel entitled to my time, who feel they must compliment my body and they get annoyed when I don’t beam at their validation of my beauty. They get angry when I don’t smile when they command me to smile on the street while going about my errands, some even get violent when I don’t reciprocate their unsolicited attention. They do all these regardless of their skin colour. So nope, I was not watching out for skin colour of my everyday street harasser in that video because what binds street harassers together is not their skin colour but their male identity, male privilege or better put, misogyny.

However, I was glad when people started pointing out the racial aspect of the video, especially when the maker of the video was exposed for a similar racist editing he had done in a previous ad video and also a homeless man makeover ad video.  The discussions were good and enlightening.

However, as a woman who is very much affected by this catcalling, street harassment culture, I am worried that in an attempt to call out racism, focus is being taken [Read more…]

Just another sexist and racist encounter at the hospital

After many failed attempts to get an appointment at the surgery, I decided I was not going to endure another restless, sleepless, sweaty, tossing and turning night, so I dragged myself to my local Accident & Emergency/Walk in Center. At the entrance to the hospital is a big sign that reads, “If you have flu, stay at home, and call your GP”.  Well, I have flu-like symptoms and I have spent the last three days trying to get an appointment with my GP to no avail.  Majority of the NHS surgeries now have a rule that one can only book an appointment on the particular day within the hour of 8:00am -9:00am. Anything outside that, one would have to wait until the next day and start the process again. The problem is, as soon as it is 8:00am, the line becomes engaged. Try every minute and you will keep getting the busy tone. It is frustrating.

Anyway, I decided I have not been diagnosed with Flu, I needed treatment, and i am not going to self-diagnose or self-prescribe. Therefore, I walked to the reception room, and requested to see a doctor.

The following discussion ensued- [Read more…]

Creeps, creeps, creeps everywhere; Atheist movement sure has more than its fair share of creeps!

An enlightening piece titled Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? was recently published on buzzfeed by Mark Oppenheimer. It is a long read that exposes the sexist, misogynistic behaviour of some well-known male Atheists leaders. I guess they are referred to as Atheist leaders because they are well paid to speak at atheists events, coveted by the media and well, some of them have written popular books, but as an atheist and feminist, I wouldn’t think of many of these creeps as ‘leaders’ in any way.

longform-18522-1410480372-3longform-20586-1410475071-3

The article particularly focused on the many allegations of sexual harassment surrounding Michael Shermer. It also exposes the indefensible thought process of those in power who have protected and shielded him from the consequences of his questionable actions towards women at Atheist conventions.
James Randy was quoted in the article as saying- [Read more…]

Everyday Sexism: Catcalls and Street Harassment

Every time I step outside my door to go about my daily business, I brace myself for the inevitable catcalls and various street harassment. I am557264_423393704397930_1730387465_n used to these catcalls. Catcalls are a constant reminder that I am a woman in a patriarchal society. However, I still get angry at the catcalls and the unwanted, unsolicited attention thrown my way on the street. I still get riled up when I am accosted on the street by strangers who have no qualms about asking me to smile for them. Even though these are daily occurrences, I still get angry and sad each time it occurs.  For example:

Just this morning I was rushing to make an appointment, when out of the blues, a guy suddenly stuck his coconut shaped head mere inches from my face and asked “Where is the smile?” I had to take a deep breath to resist the urge to make a snarky comment like “Your coconut head just smashed a month’s worth of smiles from my face”.

It still beats me why men think every woman who dared to walk the street owe them a smile. I bet this toady, ignoramus man would not dare stick his coconut head on the face of another man he hardly knows on the street and go “Where is the smile?” He would probably get punched in the face and people would say he deserved to be punched. But, if I as a woman had reacted that way or even caused a scene, I would be called an overreacting, sensitive, ungrateful bitch. Yeah, it’s a sexist, chauvinistic world alright, different rules apply.  All I could do was side-stepped his coconut head and walked away from his toady eyes without a comment. I was not about to let one of the many chauvinist ignoramuses walking the street make me miss an important appointment. The sad part is, most times, women do not even have the choice to just walk away as my next sexist encounter shows. [Read more…]

When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege.

Elon James White‏@elonjames

If I say #BlackLifeMatters and your response is “Why not EVERY life?” Unfollow me. You dont get it & I dont have time to explain it to you.”

10152408_639769692763628_1422851927_n

I came across the tweet above and i had to say, “Well said, Elon James White, well said“. Unfortunately this kind of tweets always get some of my white friends on facebook in a twist. What is so unfortunate is that some of them think they are well meaning people who want equal rights for all. If only they would take a minute to do their research and understand how the society they live in works. Everyone should learn to see their own privilege, be it skin colour, sexual identity, sex birth, geographical location, religion or class.

To be blind to your privilege is to not understand or see how you benefit from the society due to your status, a status you might not be conscious of but which is enough to deny the persons who don’t have that status the benefits you get. Heck, it might even cause the persons their lives while you go around not even acknowledging that you have that privilege. Yes, it is frustrating.

A few of my very good white friends on social media think this is sad and they don’t like it when I put up such status calling out [Read more…]

Physically attacked at an atheist event by a fellow ‘feminist’ atheist!

I always thought if I were ever to be attacked by someone I only knew from social media especially Facebook, it would be by a homophobe, biphobe, 385838_210204545725456_192116174200960_481213_799145023_ntransphobe or a religious fanatic who didn’t like my LGBT rights advocacy or anti-religion posts. Never in my dreams would I have thought I would experience a physical attack and verbal abuse at an atheist event from a female Facebook friend who identifies as a feminist and an atheist!

Until now, my casual encounters with people who only knew me from Facebook have been positive. From the ones I ran into in London tubes to the ones who excitedly introduced themselves as my fb friends at social events or gave me heartfelt hugs at London pride, it has been positive experience until now. Get ready to hear the full gist, don’t forget to get your popcorn! [Read more…]

Of Rape graders and Hero worship.

Richard Dawkins ill-informed attempt to grade rape triggered discussions and heated debates on the issue of rape. Sure enough, rape apologists and victim blamers used the opportunity to proudly show off their self-inflicted ignorance and bigotry on the issue of Rape. It was also another avenue for hero worship. I did get some very worrisome responses on my Facebook wall to my blogpost RichardDawkins@Confused.Com: No one said you endorsed rape, what you did was grade rape and that is appalling. It also exposes the fact that many are actually happy to blame victims but won’t admit that they are rape apologists.

I plan on making some of these discussions into a blogpost but first I need to get this very misguided, unconscionable comment made by a proudly ignorant person out of the way.

Trigger alert- Contains Trivialisation of Rape. [Read more…]

RichardDawkins@Confused.Com: No one said you endorsed rape, what you did was grade rape and that is appalling!

Watching the downward spiral of Richard Dawkins from a respected scientist and atheist to a cringeworthy tweeter commentator is indeed Richard-Dawkinssaddening.

The latest embarrassing and thoughtless tweets of the Professor has generated yet another media storm and a lot of criticism and not forgetting the usual dose of worship from the “Richard Dawkins can do no wrong” worshippers. What I find amusing and of course saddening is how he refuses to acknowledge the constructive criticisms levelled at his tweets but chose instead to spew bigotry and disdain from his high pedestal at his critiques. To boot, he tries to make himself out as a victim of witch hunts!

The Professor and his apologists are going to ridiculous length to ‘clarify’ the intentions behind his tweets. Richard Dawkins wanted us to know he was not endorsing rape, but who the heck said he was endorsing rape? It is like the man wants to direct our attention away from the major blunder he committed by using an obvious defence, only that no one attacked him with that tool, so using that particular defence is basically pointless. We are no children that can be tempted away from the main issues just because he flashed a candy at us.

Below are the Richard Dawkins’ tweets in question, one can see how the tweets spiralled out of the control of Richard Dawkins.  RD even went on a tantrum when he couldn’t believe that people were even more stupid than he thought. Sighs. [Read more…]

Avoiding Ableist or Sexist Language Won’t Make Us Less Fun!

I found this amazing campaign on a website and decided to share on my facebook wall.  As stated on the website , “The following are images from the “You Don’t Say?” Campaign out of Duke University. The premise of the campaign is to encourage people to think before speaking as the words one delivers can have negative implications that were never intended in the first place, especially to those around us.

These phrases are often said with harmless intent. But how do we really make those around us feel? Perhaps it’s time for us to actually think before we speak?”

 The images show different persons holding different signs  -

1013980_443974869065096_1205095682_n

b619f9542c626472a7395fd3a4eb5664 376f354b3cee2df8ec5d800b6b7124cd

When I posted this wonderful piece as my FB status update, I added-

 And I don’t say “Don’t be a retard” because it is Ableist . [Read more…]

Don’t Call Me A MAN, It Is Not A Compliment. Happy International Women’s Day!

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being318461_10150505434059409_883031157_n she is said to imitate the male.” Simone de Beauvoir.  As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the words of Simone de Beauvoir ring loud in my ears.

As someone who became fiercely politically active as a young woman in a very patriarchal society, I was often ‘showered’ with the words “You are a man!” It was considered the highest praise you could give a woman for her bravery and courage while referring to a man as a woman is considered a below the belt insult. If only I had a penny for every time I heard these words from my fellow comrades, colleagues and mentors who actually should know better.

Please understand that calling a woman “a man’ because of her achievements or courage is NOT A COMPLIMENT. Those words are nothing but an insult to the woman, her achievements and gender identity. You do not honour me by calling me “A Woman like a Man“, in fact with such words you deny my gender identity and degrade my biological sex. I am a Woman and Proudly so.

We are all HUMANS irrespective of what the various creation myths say. Women demands recognition and respect as human beings. Brave and courageous women achievers do not need to be called A MAN as a compliment. Being called “A MAN” does not elevate us to the level of human beings; we are already human beings irrespective of our sex or gender identity.58427_436067596481409_1920683597_n

Kindly recognise and respect my gender identity, this I believe is not too much to ask!

As we celebrate more than a decade of International Women’s Day, feminisation of poverty continues; Reproductive, Productive and Domestic roles still hold down the working woman from reaching her full potentials. The triple oppression of Racism, Classism and Sexism persistently  affect our unity. Let us continue to fight all the Isms and Schisms that jeopardise our strength.

The degree of emancipation of women is the natural measure of general emancipation. Every society’s greatness can be measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable members. Every human being is born equal in rights and dignity.

You do not have to be a woman to support woman’s rights.

You don’t have to be gay, bisexual or Trans to support LGBT rights.

You don’t have to be a sex worker to support sex workers’ right to organise, unionise and work in a safe environment.

You don’t have to be an animal to support animal rights.

And in case the aliens ever invaded, let’s hope you don’t have to be a human being to support human rights. We all could be in the minority sometime!1982_438044192955887_307874593_n

Stand up against oppression of women, stand up for equal rights, empower a woman today, emancipate yourself from mental slavery and DEMAND your inalienable human rights! No human being is born subordinate to another. No woman is born to satisfy a man, you are born to create and define your own ‘destiny’, even in the face of all odds. Your happiness is supreme.

Fellow sisters, assert your right and recognition as human Beings!

Happy International Women’s day to you all!

Sex Workers Need Rights Not Rescue!

imageDecember 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. From a feminist and also a trade unionist perspective, I know supporting Sex Workers’ Rights is the logical thing to do.

As I wrote in my blog post ‘Organising Sex Workers Within Mainstream Labour Movement’,  the stigmatization and consequent exploitation of sex workers would be minimized if sex work is accorded its recognition as a bonafide job; a real job which has its challenges, rights and protections under the law like every other job. Criminalization of sex-work in many countries and jurisdictions makes it difficult to create a safe, enabling environment and workplace for sex workers.

The continued criminalization of sex-work, rather than serves as a deterrent has only succeeded in exposing sex workers to violence, intimidation, harassment and exploitation. [Read more…]

“Batty Man, Lesbians and dem Atheists cause bad weather”: Encountering Sexism, Homophobia and Religious delusion in one move!

It certainly was not one of those days when I looked forward to dealing with a sexist, homophobic bigot, not that I ever look forward to encountering any of that, but when ‘my dear one’ asked me to help supervise the van removal drivers that were to move her things to a new place, I wasn’t expecting to confront all that in a single move.

She reminded me to thoroughly check the inside of the van to make sure none of her things was (intentionally or not) left behind in the van. She then added “They are Jamos, so make sure you check”. ‘Jamos’ is Nigerian short term for Jamaicans. Needless to say, I was irritated at this.  I mean, what has their nationality got to do with how trustworthy they are? I know she would still have insisted I check the van if the van removal drivers were Nigerians, Americans or Britons. But I doubt if she would have added their Nationality for emphasis. Well, If they were fellow Nigerians, she probably would have added that, but if they were Britons, I doubt she would. Yes, I did call her out on this as I am not a fan of discrimination of any kind. [Read more…]