Finally, an ad that does not care about what a man-child might think about menstruation

Published: July 22, 2016
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Menstruation? I know what most of you are going to say:

“Oh no! Run to the door! Run to the hills!”

In this ‘beautiful’ society of ours, menstruation is synonymous with shame. Women and men, alike, recoil at this ‘topic’ faster than you can say “pad”. See, anything below the waistline is taboo for us Pakistanis, but have we ever thought about the side effects of having such a mind-set?

Most women feel on edge when it’s that time of the month, they feel isolated, impure, and fragile. This advert might be the only one of its kind. In our local and more ‘conservative’ adverts, you can clearly sense an aura of shame, an aura of indignity.

But, why? Why is this subject so taboo? The answer is very simple; haya – our favourite word. But what amazes me is why a young girl is made to face humiliation, demonisation and shame for the sake of haya? We Pakistani’s have forever placed our ‘haya’ and ‘izzat’ in the most unlikely of places.

What even defines the parameters of haya? It’s a subjective term that encapsulates whatever is socially or culturally deemed so. ‘Conservative’ Pakistani’s use the word haya when they need to silence any and all opposition, call it the ‘haya’ card, and conservative Pakistani’s love it, as they have no other rational argument to offer. Because what argument do they have to offer other than ‘it’s personal’, or ‘it’s private information that shouldn’t be declared’ particularly in front of men.

There is a difference between declaration and making a topic accessible for discussion. We have, for so long, burdened this particular process of the human body with self-imposed ideas of self-respect that it is now directly associated to it. Due to this those women feel ashamed when issues like menstruation come up. They are not confident in discussing their body, they are not confident in even thinking too much about it, as they have been brought up to believe such thoughts are ‘vulgar’. They remain in a limbo all their lives and pass on the same values to their own children.

The notions of shame are now used to silence the topic altogether. It is used to oppress free thinking women. And it is used to disallow any woman from speaking freely and obtaining the right information to tackle any problems or questions she may have about her body and her cycle.

Do we not declare when we have bouts of nausea, or if we’re running a fever? Do we not feel comfortable discussing body aches or bowel movements or any other happening that takes place within our body? Do we not sometimes feel we need to discuss our health, if we can’t find a solution to a body ailment that we’re facing?

Then why do we treat this particular one as intolerable to even be mentioned openly?

We Pakistani’s have forever placed our haya and izzat in the most unlikely of places.

Men make this topic one that needs to be tip-toed around, because our feeble minds cannot bear to fathom a ‘big boy’ topic such as menstruation.

Since time immemorial, I have witnessed how women feel ashamed at grocery stores, how they feel ashamed for purchasing something they need. I have witnessed the way reprobate individuals look at such women, how they judge them, how they deem them subhuman. I have seen blunt women be frowned upon, but for what? For them not considering that an insecure man-child might be listening?

This advert is extremely powerful in the way a woman should feel and behave – and you know how she should behave? She should behave the way she wants to; she can scale mountains, she can box, drink from the skull of her enemies; she can do whatever she desires. She need not be bound by the dogmatic and draconian mind-set of our society, she should not be afraid to buy sanitary pads, she should not be afraid of what fragile minded men would say. She should be free.

This advert is triumphant in its aura of boldness – in its aura of pride. This advert works around the embarrassment, the sharmindagi a woman must face; it demolishes the dehumanising characteristics women are labelled with. It demolishes brown bagging, and hopefully it will stop hundreds of girls from contracting diseases because they were not taught properly.

As a man, and especially a man in the land of the ‘pure’ I’m deeply offended by this advert. I am offended because of my fragile masculinity. I’m offended because I can’t bear to see a woman talking about menstruation. My mind is plagued by the ‘nerve,’ the ‘audacity’ of that woman. I am deeply offended by the fact that children were present during the talk, God forbid they should learn something useful to teach to themselves and their own children one day. I am offended by the fact that a woman can discuss such a ‘vulgar’ and ‘natural’ topic openly. I’m disgusted by the fact that it’s as natural as consuming food.

This oppressive mind-set, this need to sexualise everything needs to stop; but do be careful ladies, or have you not heard the phrase?

Hell hath no fury like a man scorned.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.