Come and see the blood on my skirt: Statement from Organisers

Statement from the organisers of this campaign in University of Delhi : SHAMBHAVI VIKRAM, RAFIUL ALOM RAHMAN, DEEPTI SHARMA, DEVANGANA KALITA

No more Whispers!
No more Murmurs! No More Silence!

Its time we scream!
Come and see the blood on my skirt.
Come and see the blood on my skirt.

All these years we have been taught to hide or hush up the fact that women bleed. And yet, despite all the hushing up and all the bleeding blue that society, media and our families have been piling upon us, women still continue to bleed and bleed they shall till the end of ‘man'(!)kind. This blood that has been marked ‘impure’, marked ‘dirty’, marked ‘shameful’, has brought many of us much pain and here we are not talking just about menstrual cramps.

lal salaam

When some students in Jamia put up a few pads around campus with feminist messages on them, they had not anticipated that it would earn them such a vehement backlash and also a show cause notice from the administration. Since then, students in DU and other universities in the country have picked up the initiative and have seen posters being torn down at JNU, pads being removed in DU and people responding with disgust at the sight of pads on public walls everywhere (and this is just paint!). We have also heard of the story where women workers in a factory in Kochi were forced strip-searched by two female supervisors in a bid to find out who might have committed the unpardonable crime of leaving a used sanitary pad in the bathroom. Many of us parcelled pads to the Manager of the factory in protest. It is absurd that something that half the population deals with every month should evoke such a response and be allowed so little space in public imagination and discourse. We are told that sexual and reproductive issues must be kept ‘private’, must be dealt within the confines of our bathrooms and homes. Isn’t that exactly what society told us about domestic violence as well?

This only reveals the degree to which questions about women’s bodies, health and sexuality have been repressed in our society. In fact the most frequent acknowledgement of women’s sexuality comes forth but as harassment and abuse, on the streets or in the home. With repression also comes the violence. The violence and discrimination of being given sanitary napkins at the medical store wrapped in newspaper or black polythene bags; having the photo of a woman with stained pants barred from Instagram, being told to not enter certain spaces like kitchens and places of worship during ‘those days’; of people not being adequately informed about safe-sex practices or methods of contraception; of no institution acknowledging the actual physical pain and discomfort of menstruating; of women athletes being forced to take pills to delay their periods in order to compete with ‘normal’ bodies; of women and young girls being forcefully married away into a life of ‘legitimate’ sex, which in many cases only really translates into legitimized rape in their experience. The state continues to dismiss and invisibilise the issue of universalized provision of hygienic, comfortable and sustainable menstrual care to all women irrespective of their social location.

The stigma around menstrual blood reveals the love hate relationship that this society has with women’s bodies and their sexuality, where it must either control it as with the ‘goddess’ and the ‘dutiful wife’ or revile it in the figure of the ‘slut’ or the ‘easy woman’. Women must guard the reality of their sexual bodies as they must guard their ‘honour’, which then becomes something to trade in the market of ‘reasonable’ and ‘compatible’ marriages. Indeed, the whole ‘stable’ structure of society stands heavy on the walls that imprison the woman’s womb and by implication most aspects of her life. So why shy away when the womb/wound bleeds?

The society that cannot stand the sight of a stained pad; the language which cannot voice that particular discomfort which a woman experiences, feeling something trickling out of her vagina as she sits in class or at work; the culture that makes women outcasts for something that is so (bloody) basic to human reproduction; the production system which uses women’s status in the reproductive system to exploit them all the more intensely in factories, workspaces, universities and homes. This is not a society that lends us support; a system that produces for us, our needs; a culture that nourishes us; a language that speaks for us; a vision that sees for us, the future that we want for ourselves.

This vision/language/culture/production system/society does not work for us too well and we refuse to accept it anymore! With the campaign and rally to “Come And See The BLOOD on my Skirt” in University of Delhi, we aspire to push forward the message that the Pads Against Sexism movement has so creatively brought into the public domain. We hope to create, demand and claim spaces where we can have those difficult conversations, where we demystify and learn about our ashudh bodies and our sexual selves, where we can dismantle the taboos that shame us and regulate our lives.

With blood stains on our skirts, holding pads, cloths, tampons, condoms, contraceptive pills and many other such ‘secrets’ that we want to scream to the world, we plan to go marching, marching down hostile streets, past the pharmacies and the authorities, past the temples and the kitchens, past the markets and the classrooms, showing the blood on our skirts for the messy business that it is!

For the freedom to bleed Red! :-)

For more details on the March:

4 thoughts on “Come and see the blood on my skirt: Statement from Organisers

  1. Riddhi

    I don’t see how promoting bad hygiene can help people change their minds about this issue. Agreed that women should not be made to feel like an outcast or discriminated against because of their menstrual cycle, but don’t see how slapping bloody sanitary napkins on their (figurative) faces can get the point across… any bodily wound for either a male/female, should be hygienically cleaned and covered. Just like a used bandage or other medical waste is carefully disposed to avoid infections, so should a used sanitary pad or tampon. Granted the Kochi incident (if true) was not properly handled, but why not educate these females about feminine hygiene and disposal of their sanitary products instead of just cursing their female supervisors? As people start becoming confident about well maintained personal hygiene, the isolation will stop.

  2. Sharmishtha

    Agree with Riddhi totally. I’m all for de-stigmatising *talking* about menstruation and for changing people’s behaviour around menstruating women. I’m all for women being able to walk into stores and leaving with boxes of sanitary napkins without any subterfuge and into temples and kitchens on any day they choose. But do I really want to see anyone’s bodily fluids lying around on streets on cotton balls or pads? There’s enough garbage on the streets as it is. Put the used pads in the rubbish bins, ladies, and let’s start talking.

  3. Prayag

    I agree that the taboo need to change. But will a campaign like this not lead to a counter-productive reactionary backlash? Ashis Nandy has pointed out, in an essay on sati, that the practice of widow-burning reached its peak when Indian culture felt threatened by “liberal” Western values under colonialism. The practice actually escalated as conservatives used sati to reassert traditional values. Is it not likely that a similar reactionary wave will follow a campaign as extreme as this? I agree that the taboo needs to go, but isn’t a sustained grassroots campaign aimed at institutional change and a gradual transformation of cultural attitudes more advisable?

  4. Emme Edmunds

    I agree that it is discomfiting, but I’m very proud of the women and men who are doing this. Why is violence okay to do and talk about (or at least very visible and ubiquitous) when the silent, harmless blood of women shed every month is taboo and impure and dangerous- shouldn’t it be the other way round?! But this issue has some very practical aspects too. Many girls and women, most so in lower socioeconomic situations, are prevented from going to school, work shopping or even just out of their dwellings because they don’t have sanitary supplies and/or it’s taboo or considered impure/dirty/bad… Talking about menstruation as natural, non-dirty and universal for (almost every girl/woman) would be a first step in helping make sure that almost every girl and woman have access to the very basic things she needs to be able to step out into the world for a week out of every month. You and I as middle class, fortunate people probably have always taken for granted this access to sanitary products (as well as many other things) whose absence makes life much much harder for poor women. I am from the US, and I went through a time when I could not afford to buy sanitary products and was raising a baby by myself. I had to go into fast food places where I couldn’t afford to eat and take extra napkins and put them in my back pack, so I would have enough to get through a period. otherwise, I couldn’t go out. Now things are much better in my life and my child has grown, but I will never forget how hard it is for some girls and women- all over the world.

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