How many of us are comfortable speaking about menstruation openly? How many of us have been conditioned not to speak about it at all? The need to have open conversations about menstruation and menstrual hygiene is what an RJ spoke about recently at a college in Kerala.
One would assume that such a conversation came from a woman, but in St Teresa’s College in Ernakulam, it was Radio Mirchi RJ Joseph Annamkutty Jose who spoke about menstruation. The popular RJ spoke about the wrong perceptions and sheer lack of sensitivity about menstruation he had while growing up in a setup where healthy conversations on menstruation were not encouraged.
From curiously watching a classmate on her period to playing a guessing game to identify which girls were on their period, RJ Joseph shared how his ignorance was cured with open conversations.
RJ Joseph himself admitted that having a man talk about menstrual hygiene at a women’s college and inaugurate a campaign on the issue was something that struck him as unusual.
“This is the third time I am coming to this college as part of an event. I first came here to speak on an anti-drug campaign and the second time to speak on another topic. When I was invited this time, the first thing I asked the coordinator was – Sorry, can you repeat that? To speak on menstrual hygiene, here is a man who has never in his life used a sanitary pad,” RJ Joseph said as he began his speech.
RJ Joseph was there to share his thoughts on menstruation and about men’s attitude to the purely biological phenomenon. And was he honest!
RJ Joseph admitted that it was only during Class 12 that he came to know what menstruation was.
“But at that time, it was nothing but part of our sexual curiosity to understand about periods. We even had games, you see. Who will first find out which of the girls in class was on her periods. If we see a girl classmate run out of the classroom on the 22nd of this month, then we eagerly wait to see whether she will run out of class the same day next month. We used to even ask to see a girl’s bag. If she refused, that meant she had sanitary pads in them. This was cheap behaviour from our side, but sadly, that’s how we understood menstruation,” RJ Joseph said.
He went on to say that he was in a much better position than his other male friends in understanding what menstruation was.
“It was my mother who told me what it meant. I believe becoming a mother is one of the most beautiful things for a woman, but it is no doubt a tedious and painful process. My mother told me that menstruation was the process by which nature was preparing a woman’s body for childbirth. How many boys know this? The number could be very few,” RJ Joseph concluded.
He added that the only sources for boys to be educated about a woman’s body were cinema, porn videos and twisted masala tales told by male friends. But it is only a woman who can educate us about a woman’s body, he said.
RJ Joseph spoke about his own experience, saying that it was his girlfriend who educated him on menstruation.
“She told me I shouldn’t mess with her that day, since she was on her periods and that it is painful for her. My first thought was, why is she saying all this to me so openly? But then I realised, it wasn’t a big deal! This other time I was interviewing a woman celebrity and she told me that she could be irritated since she was on her periods. She spoke to me openly, without any barrier. Only when something is deliberately hidden do we feel there’s something wrong in it,” he said.
RJ Joseph went on to say that he appreciated all the women behind the ‘Stain the Stigma’ campaign for beginning open conversations on menstruation.
With that, he also shared an anecdote about his niece who had come down to Kerala with her father to stay at her grandparents’ house for a few days. Her mother sent a packet of sanitary napkins with her, after educating the child about menstruation.
“Her mother told her that like several of her classmates who were getting their first periods, she would also soon get hers. She went to her grandmother and told her that her mother has sent a little packet with her and that she has been told about menstruation. After this, she proceeded to tell her grandfather the same thing, at which point her grandmother intervened,” RJ Joseph laughed.
The beauty of this whole episode, Joseph continued, was that the child’s mother had taken the initiative to openly speak to her little daughter about menstruation.
Asking how many people today are comfortable talking openly about menstruation, RJ Joseph said that we must rubbish stigma and redefine how we look at things.
Urging women to initiate open conversations, he continued:
“If crimes against women are increasing today and our behaviour towards women isn’t appropriate, we are ready to correct them. But at the same time, we need an initiative from you. You should fight against such stigma. Tell your boyfriends that there’s nothing to laugh about menstruation, that their own mothers go through it. This is not something that you should hide.”
It is debatable whether the onus of educating men about menstruation lies solely with women, and making motherhood the focus of menstruation is also problematic as sexual maturity needn’t be about reproduction. However, it is refreshing to see a man speak about the need for open conversations on the taboo subject.
RJ Joseph shared the video on his Facebook page, from where it has been shared more than 11,000 times. The video has also generated a positive discussion on the need for open conversations about menstruation.