Holy Hormones Journal: This is a fabulous article by Shakira Sison. She speaks candidly about shaming women over their menstrual cycle to prevent sexual activity. The psychological damage from that shaming often lasts a life time. Now it is re-enforced by the media instead of the tales whispered by our families.
The shame in our bleeding
Keeping women in the dark about their bodies to prevent sexual activity is just as effective as hoping people won’t defecate if they’re not told where the toilet is.
September 18, 2014
When I was a young girl, I was warned by the women in my father’s company that when I got my period, I shouldn’t bathe. They said that being in contact with water during one’s monthly cycle would cause a woman to become insane.
I shrugged off this warning the way I did the old wives’ tales that sleeping with wet hair caused blindness, and that the cure for kuliti (stye) was for the urine of a bunso (youngest child) to be dropped into your eye. But I could not shake off the idea that a whole community of these women didn’t shower for up to a week every month, all because of this superstition that no one ever challenged.
I couldn’t blame them for not having access to the truth. All these conversations about their bodies occurred in hushed tones. These women were all mothers. They were married and had babies grow inside them and pass through their bodies, yet they were totally clueless about how their own reproductive organs worked. Once, I found them examining each other’s breasts because they said that a woman’s breasts changed once they’ve been touched by a man. And then they mocked the unmarried one because her breasts looked “touched.”
Like many girls my age, I was surrounded by a lot of misinformation. I was frequently warned that riding a bicycle “devirginized” me and that no man would marry me if I continued to ride a bike. I couldn’t even understand the connection.
My nanny told me that my first soiled sanitary pad must be smeared on my face to prevent acne. I defied her just to prove a point. She was so angry that I broke her rules, and warned me that I would be acne-ridden all my life. (I’ve mostly had clear skin – thank God.)
It was understood that a woman’s bleeding was not to be openly discussed, especially not in the presence of a man. Once, in grade school, when the girls were left alone with a female teacher, she warned us that during our period we shouldn’t share toilets or swimming pools with boys or we would become pregnant!