Eve's Notes

Menstrual Misogyny

By Cynthia Ayeza, Uganda:

Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. It can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. It does not say who hates or dislikes women or girls. It just speaks of what it represents. Which means women too can fall in to this very notion – self-hatred, sexual objectification of other women and so on. Menstrual misogyny may not even be a term to give attention at all because, seriously speaking, it is no big deal. We are not told to hate our menstruation as girls – at least there is not a class where you are taught to hate it. You simply hate it for its inconvenience and for many women, the cramps/pain and related irritations that come with having your menstruation.

I remember back in high school. If I am not mistaken, it was at St Mary's Rushoroza, Kabale where I first encountered the shaming of girls when they started their menstruation. A young lady, unbeknownst to her that her period had started, stood up to head out for break time. The back of her skirt was heavily stained with blood. I would not have noticed anything if it was not for a few boys who exclaimed, “Yamawe, yazara! Kyo!” which loosely translated would be, “Whoah, she's given birth!” or for the South Africans “Iyo! She's given birth! Haibo!” Needless to say, she too became aware that something was amiss, turned and her hand naturally reaching for the back of her skirt, realized she had started her period. No one helped her. I did not help her. In such cases, the least or most anyone could do would be to pass her a cardigan or shawl in order for her to wrap it around herself and cover the stain – big or small – and so she did. She is only one of many girls that have had to endure this kind of embarrassment, and I wish she and others did not.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my embarrassment came from the fact that I suffered very painful cramps, fainted and all the dramatic episodes would somehow make the whisper-news at whichever school I was at the time. No one teaches us to hate our menstruation. I do not know what sparks the dislike but I think that the last person that should make any girl feel worse about her period is a man or boy. In fact, men and boys ought to be educated about menstruation and how to treat a woman when this happens, or how to help her if she is caught unawares. In my experience, I have learned that while I have major warning signs before menstruation, many girls do not – which would explain why they would stain their skirts, pants or dresses without knowing that their period had started. There is no reason whatsoever that any man or boy should make fun of a girl, laugh at her or ridicule her, shame her – anything short of support, and helping to cover her embarrassment should never be a part of how men or boys treat women during menstruation.

For young girls, it is very embarrassing because they are still trying to make sense of this thing. Apart from dealing with blood, some girls have to deal with major super-sensitivity, mood swings, loss of appetite, water retention, bloating, sore breasts and nipples, headaches and nosebleeds (yes, this happens to some), an overly healthy appetite, fussiness about what they want and do not want and the list could go on. Yes, it is called pre-menstrual syndrome. To have boys make fun of you is the last thing you need. I am also not for women bashing the menstrual issue because it is what it is – menstruation – a blessing and a curse if you like; but I am a positive person, so I will take the blessing view. We should embrace it, speak openly and freely about it and help young girls come to terms with it. I am also mindful of the fact that some girls or ladies start their menstruation much later in life, or not at all, and that is a topic for another day. But for now, all men or boys should seek to get an education on menstruation and how to be helpful and supportive when/if a girl is caught unawares. After all, these are your sisters, cousins, mothers, and mothers-to-be of your children. Build us instead of shaming and breaking us. Build us to strength. I do not dislike my period. I dislike the pain and inconvenience it causes me on many levels but like anything else in life, you learn to deal with it and press on with life. It isn't the end of the world.

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3 thoughts on “Menstrual Misogyny”

  1. It is well known that every female human, barring health complications of course, goes through their period, yet the negative/taboo perception refuses to change! In movies, it’s a downpour of blood and murder scenes in the loo. In the villages, it’s hush hush, and all ‘do not say anything of this’. How frustrating.

    1. I hope that we can have more conversations on it more and more…so that this “taboo” can pass and allow for us to be.

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