Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Running while ragging...

Have you heard about Kiran Gandhi?  In April of this year, she got her period the night before she was to run the London Marathon.  She didn't think of letting her monthly bill slow her down, since she'd trained for the marathon for a year.  She says she chose not to use a tampon or other period stemming device for several reasons.  She worried that the tampon would be uncomfortable.  She also determined that running while ragging would be a great way to educate people about period shaming.

Now... I realize that Kiran comes from a different culture than I do.  I know that in some cultures, women who are menstruating are considered "unclean".  I understand that some women can't afford or access feminine hygiene products.  I get that periods are a part of life.  I live that reality myself.

Still, I couldn't help but shake my head when I read about this.  When she made the decision to run without a tampon, was she really thinking this would be a way to discourage period shaming?  I mean, I see she had quite a heavy flow, as evidenced by the stains on her pants.  Did people who watched the race know what she was doing and why?  Did she just make the decision to run her race this way on the day of the race?  Was it really all about period shaming?  And wasn't it really uncomfortable?  I would think the stickiness, chafing, and smell of the period would make her run even harder than it might be.

I posted about this on Facebook and an interesting conversation ensued.  A few of my friends thought Gandhi was "cool" for doing what she did.  A couple thought she was being an attention whore.  I just think it's pretty gross and seems like it would be very uncomfortable and unhygienic.  I don't think it's necessarily wrong that Gandhi wants to educate people; I just think that the reaction of so many people was totally negative and offended.  I'm not sure her point got across the way it might have.

It is true that many women can't access or afford feminine hygiene products, though... even in the United States, where women having their periods aren't necessarily seen as unclean.  Women who access public assistance often have trouble buying pads and tampons.  In fact, when you make a donation to a food bank, you should probably consider donating feminine hygiene products and/or toiletries, too.  Those items are definitely needed and can't always be purchased by women who really need them.

Periods are nothing to be ashamed of, but I'm not sure I agree with Gandhi's decision to let her blood flow all over herself while she ran a marathon.  On the other hand, she's picked up 15 minutes of fame.  One other thing I've noticed is that people tend to get on a high horse/soap box about this issue.  The comments on news articles about this woman range between disgusted diatribes to condescending screeds.

Anyway, people are talking about periods, which I guess isn't the worst thing in the world.  I imagine getting pads and tampons to women who need them may be the least of everyone's worries, though.  Aside from getting the products out there, there's also the issue of dispelling myths and breaking the taboos and the customs surrounding menstruation.  The people who might most benefit from Gandhi's actions probably have no idea that she ran without a tampon for a cause benefitting them.  And those who are "educated" by her deed were probably sympathetic to her in the first place.

I am pretty amazed by the stir this has caused.  I'm not sure it will make a difference, but it did give me something to think about today besides Shithead and grammar.   

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