The shush affairs in the life of a woman
Remember the times when your mum and grandmum used to decide where’d you go, what’d you do, or which rituals can you or cannot be a part of during those seven days of the month. When the embarrassment was wrapped in brown paper and black polythene bags and handed over? The compulsory head bath on 4th day? The no-entry into kitchen or puja ghar?
Anyone who has been raised in India would be quick in recognising these stigmas associated with menstruation. In fact, not just menstruation, anything to do with the female body: birthing, sex, breasts, bras – they are all kept under tight wraps in India. Sort of as if the young women would be corrupted by a mere mention of these words.
I recall how bras and chaddis always had to be dried under a towel when visiting relatives. It always made me wonder if men didn’t wear undergarments or if our UGs didn’t need the anti-bacterial goodness of sunlight. How the accidental appearance of something as naive as bra strap used to send the crazy aunties into a policing frenzy.
Our society conditions us to believe that breasts are ‘dirty’, obscene, and the bigger they are, the more unreal. So, our obvious choices are to flatten our chest, to tuck our breasts away from prying eyes (which is every Indian man btw) under a dupatta or saree pallu or to wear a dress two sizes too big to eliminate everything from bust to waist. Makes one wonder, is this why women know so little about self-check and well-fitted bras. Is this why breastfeeding in the open so unpopular?
We’ve been fed on feelings of shame and embarrassment for so long around these things that we have accepted this as normal. We have to feel embarrassed when we are having our periods or when asking somebody for a sanitary napkin, we need to make a pause and lower our voice to utter the word breasts, we sheepishly giggle when we talk about bikini wax and we must use animated air quotes when we talk about ding-dong (whatever that is, in your dictionary)! We don’t know how to act differently because no other emotion has ever been introduced to us in context with these.
You either participate in this hush-hush affair or be branded as a rebel, as a feminist. There is no in-between.
You can either sit around and be uncomfortable all your life or talk about them. Talk with a friend, talk to a neighbour, talk with your husband, talk to your daughter and son alike. Talk more often and as often as possible. Talking creates awareness. Talking brings about normalcy. Talk over drinks and talk at tea. Make women’s health a regular #chaipecharcha thing-y (almost sounded like a rap in my head😎)!
How was it growing up in your household – were these issues discussed openly? How vocal are you about them now? What else been a hush-hush affair in your life or those around you? Please do share your stories in the comments below.