Last year, I was in a village in Gujarat, trying to understand about menstrual hygiene among rural women. It was fascinating that the topic of menstruation brought a lot of laughter among them, Clearly, they were ashamed to talk about the hush topic which was apparently dirty and unhygienic. It didn’t matter that I was also a woman and went through the same cycle.
Andrew Marvell is considered as a stalwart of the Metaphysical age where conceits ruled the world and ‘carpe diem’ was the theme of the day. During under graduation, my professor would often dwelve into one of his most famous poems namely To His Coy Mistress:
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
This is the last excerpt of the poem where Marvell asks his lover to buckle up and seize the moment. He says there is always a chariot called time running after us, so, we should hurry. This piece is also full of conceits and the one which attracts my attention is when he talks about the iron gates of life, it is actually a women’s hymen, as vulgar as it sounded to me then ,these are feminine parts which were never a taboo and poets wrote freely about it. But come 21st century, we have given no space to such radicalness in our thoughts and so our poetry. Rupi Kaur, an Indian immigrant in Canada had once shared a picture of menstruating women in Instagram and it was immediately shunned by the photo sharing website. The reason was dangerously strict moral norms. But, art becomes more beautiful and nuanced in its form called resistance .On the issue she had a written a beautiful piece which goes:
apparently it is ungraceful of me
to mention my period in public
cause the actual biology
of my body is too real
it is okay to sell what’s
between a woman’s legs
more than it is okay to
mention its inner workings
the recreational use of
this body is seen as
its nature is
seen as ugly
This poem is bold and questions the relevance of cases like Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple entry for women and the orthodoxy of the society which would hush instead of accepting the basic biology of female body. But as the world works with every majoritarian dominance, there comes those voices though underground which would fight for its existence. It is how the French Revolution happened and so did our 1857 resistance. With every year more and more people are coming out and speaking publicly about menstruation. We have many new startups which are focusing on eco-friendly sanitary napkins and tampons. Menstrual cups are advertised widely which reminds me of the earlier advertisements about sanitary napkins where blood was blue but now we have started showing actual looking period blood. However, these advancements are baby steps and we have a long way to go. And the day I would be able to talk directly about menstruation to those women in Gujarat without a laughter, I think we would be in ‘the period’. Till then like Keats, we need to escape this world every once in a while, using the wings of ‘poesy’.
About the Author: Kalpita Wadher is a Masters’ student of Social Science but her undergrad in literature makes her combine society and people with words of solace.