I do a quick stretch. The knots in my back had started to annoy me and I still had a few more pieces of laundry to do. I decide it is time to clean the garment that I was am dreading the most. It was a piece of underwear that had been dyed a maroonish color of period blood. My pad had slipped out of place and allowed for the blood to seep through the cloth. I was quickly annoyed because if I was home I could stick it in the wash. I was quickly reminded of the stories I had gathered from my instructor Shanti, guest speakers, and other women I have encountered in Nepal.
Growing up in Nepal Shanti did not have easy access to pads. So she and her mother would use scraps of cloth that would have to be washed at night away from prying eyes. In Hindu religion the sun is considered a god and therefore sunlight should never touch this soiled fabric. Shanti and many other women had to walk around with damp pieces of clothes as feminine products. I had once used a bandana as a pad during a thunderstorm. The banadana had gotten drenched from the downpour and thus created a rash which lead to my period to be even more uncomfortable. Shanti confirmed that this was a common occurrence for Nepali women. I told Shanti about how I felt it was important to be vocal about my period as to help create a society where periods are de stigmatized. The women of the villages in Nepal do not have this privilege. I was informed about this by one of guest speaker, Shreya, about this subject. Women are encouraged to keep their periods secret, or in some cases they are sent off to huts on the outskirts of town. This is done for two reason. The first is for medical purposes so that blood will not get on food or other belongs. The other is because periods are seen as unholy or unpure. Some women like this time for it allows them time to rest, however there have been cases where the women have been assaulted by people or animals. There is still the issue of feminine products in the village. Women still do not have pads in most of Nepal. Even if there were pads in the the villages there is still the issue of what to do with them after they are used. Since pads are not biodegradable they end up becoming trash which will either be burned which adds to the air pollution or it will be blown away into the woods or agricultural fields, where a nice animal might come and nibble at it. Diva cups and period panties is an eco friendly option for this problem. These are for those who do not know are reusable feminine products. This is a wonderful option because it is a one time investment that is easy to use and will decrease the amount of trash connected to periods. However, there is only one problem with this which is the expenses involved with them. For they are already a costly investment and their are also expensive involved in getting them to Nepal and having them become popular.
I find it important to state that the issues facing women and their periods is a universal problem. The issues that Nepali women face not be defined as better or worse that the women in the states because it is two completely different cultures. That said women in the United States still face plenty of their own. It is fairly unique that I myself feel comfortable enough to write this post, because women in the United States are still taught to remain in silence as they deal with their sharkk week. I myself have run across people who have tried to shut me down. However, the importance of ending the negative stimatimize that comes from this natural process trumps making those few feel uncomfortable. Women are not only silenced it is hard for many women to get the products needed to help with their period. The American women spend 2 billion dollars on tampons per year. About 16.3 million women live in poverty in United States. So how does one make the decision to by tampons or over essentials? If women need medical help to lighten their flow or ease their cramping, many will turn to birth control. However, many women are unable to be provide this medicine in fear of being viewed as a “slut” or they do not have the proper health insurance needed to acquire birth control.
At this point I most ask myself why am I annoyed that I have to hand wash the blood out of my aerie underwear? PRIVILEGE that is how!!!! It grants me the bliss of never having to think of the wider world, and creating a false reality that my own life is in fact difficult. That the aches in my back or my solid underwear is something that I have the privilege to be annoyed about.