It's time for a period review

No one can choose his or her gender at the time of conception. Predetermined eventualities like menstruation and pregnancy are lauded as testaments to a woman’s prowess, her strength, her worth. As if women asked for it.
It is nature; we do not have a choice.

I have always found irony in the first three letters of the word menstruate, in relation to the word’s meaning and connotations.

Most men have no idea about what it is like to release bloody tissue and a clotty mass from the lining of a uterus every 28 days.

I do not like menstruating. The fact that my body started preparing me for child-rearing at the age of 13 has no correlation to how I and many of us live our lives in 2011.

As someone not planning to have children any time soon, I find it a painful inconvenience. It does not leave me feeling strong and powerful. It makes me feel weak and ugly. It debilitates my rationale, while leaving the joints in my body swollen and throbbing with pain.

I have tried to change my attitude towards this bodily function. But, like the function itself, it persists.

I used to blame my mother for not seizing the opportunity, when she had me and my three sisters, to ­deviate from the mostly negative hegemonic view of the concept of menstruation.

Why did she not teach us to accept it? Why did she not teach us that it is not impure and dirty? Why did she not equip us with the pride to contest the secrecy and suspicion around it?

I should not have to like menstruation because I am a woman, but I do feel the need to defend it.

Sadly, the common thread between all women on Earth is that menstruation is something that needs to be “defended’‘.

Whose fault is it? Can we blame men and their sometimes public and sometimes private oppression of the female gender for an issue that only women experience?

A man does not know how painful it is for me to sneeze or concentrate when I am having my period.

How do we begin to change the perceptions around menstruation?

One day when I have a little girl, I want to throw her a party and buy her new clothes on the day she tells me she is a woman. That is the way it should be.

But how do I bridge the gap between this young woman and that future mother?

Has the time arrived when women can request periodic leave from work every month?

Will the words “I am feeling like shit today because I am bleeding from my crotch and that has ­repercussions’’ ever be sufficient to garner sincere sympathy from a ­client, a ­colleague or the world ­outside my body?

Men and women are different, not equal. And, if we are not equal, why should we get the same gender-blind treatment?

I want to be treated in a way that accommodates my ­femininity.

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardian's arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project. Read more from Milisuthando Bongela

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