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’.

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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.

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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…]

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.

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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…]

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…]

Nigerian Trans woman, Ms Sahhara, wins Ms Super Sireyna Worldwide: Eat your heart out Transphobic Nigeria!

I was delighted when the beautiful, multi- talented Ms Sahhara was declared the winner of Super Sireyna Worldwide, 2014 at the grand finale in 10513314_162106167322674_1317010551276969853_nPhilippines. She also won the best Talent award and her national costume was fabulous!

Ms Super Sireyna is the most watched Transgender Beauty Pageant on Philippine Television, Eat Bulaga. The pageant aims to showcase the beauty of Super Sireynas and to foster camaraderie amongst contestants and Sireynas worldwide. It grades contestants on looks, talent and wit.

Ms Sahhara is a Nigerian Trans Woman who resides in UK. She is very visible on social media. She uses her social networks to advocate for LGBT Rights and promote Trans visibility. She entered the pageant as Miss Nigeria.  Her interview section was great! She answered her questions with poise, intelligence and was witty to the core! She also used the platform to highlight the problems LGBT Nigerians face due to criminalisation of their sexual orientation, gender identity and the negative societal attitudes towards LGBTs.

In her entry video for the competition Super Sireyna Worldwide Nigeria 2014, she explained why she was competing. She stated that if given the chance to wear the crown, she will use the opportunity to enlighten people about Trans’ issues. She believes if people don’t understand things, they should ask questions. The video was made as part of her preparation for the competition. She obviously prepared with passion and dedication for the pageant. It wasn’t just about beauty, it was also about talent, creativity and passion. The video is quite informative and worth watching. [Read more…]

Boko Haram, #Bringbackourgirls, conspiracy theories, media and the mess called Nigeria.

I have so far refrained from writing about the Nigerian ‘missing girls’ for some reasons. Firstly, I wouldn’t want to cause any more pain to families of the missing girls, if indeed there are missing girls.

download (3) Secondly, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories.

I got a glimpse of just how much Nigerians love conspiracy theories when Lee Rigby was hatched to death on the street of London by Nigerian/British born Islamist fanatics, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. Many Nigerians went into conspiracy frenzy on social networks. They claimed it was all a set up and made the murderers out to be victims of a twisted immigration plot! Surprisingly, many of the conspiracy theorists were self-identified skeptics and freethinkers. I got fed up of their conspiracy theories showing on my newsfeeds that I reached for the block button. One thing I emphasized was how much pain their insensitive posts were causing the bereaved family. So, let’s get this out of the way, I loathe conspiracy theories, not just because they are mostly misguided but because they do tend to cause pains to the victims and their families. [Read more…]

Fat shaming is ugly and body shaming of any kind is disgusting.

I was sad when a friend posted the excerpts below as her Facebook status update.

 “So ever since I took the final make-or-break decision in 2013 with my conscience to take responsibility for my physical and mental well-being, I have undertaken to attack fat-boosting realities that engage with me. This includes people who are happy to be fat…as I was years back, when I was fooling around with fads and gadgets, without facing the more imperative thing: My FOOD. Being FAT is synonymous with indolence, depression, poverty, avarice, corruption, lethargy to Good, selfishness…in one word – Corruption.”

This is so wrong and sad on so many levels.

The fact that the writer has decided to take responsibility for her weight issues is good, but that is a personal decision, not a public decree. As she mentioned, it took her many years to get to that stage and only accepted this as her truth in 2013. So why project YOUR truth and body issues on others? [Read more…]