11/18/08

Menstruation

It somehow seems weirdly appropriate that I mark my ‘spectacular’ reemergence with a clich├ęd soliloquy about the diaphanous qualities of rebirth as a metaphor for my entire existence, but fuck that shit. If I had to recapitulate my activities of these past eight months (eight freaking months! Has it really been THAT long?) in 25 words or less, I would say: My spirit was broken in more ways than one, and I took my time in putting it back together again. And that’s the end of that.

I’m afraid that I will have to resort to some kind of formulaic scaffold of sorts, because I want to start from the beginning. I mean literally the freaking beginning. This doesn’t mean that I will wax eloquent about the intrinsic worth of having a clean slate, I don’t believe in them. The past has a place and a purpose. But I digress.

So, the damn beginning. That’s what I want to talk about. Biology. The reproductive system. Hormones. Ovulation. Menstruation.

I cannot shake off the sensation that I’m flogging a dead horse repetitively. That I have spoken enough about the redundant pointlessness of menstrual seclusion, about the natural inevitability of such a process, about the inexorableness of a fluid secreting orifice, and don’t all human orifices secrete some sort of fluid or fluid-like substance, be it blood, sweat, mucous, piss or shit? What makes the menstrual secretion that much more frightening, than say, a greenish viscous liquid dripping down a person’s face? Is it the blood? Is it the vagina, that most iniquitous orifice, weighed down overwhelmingly with several thousand years worth of cultural baggage? Or is it the combination of the blood and the vagina, a disagreeable substance associated with pain and suffering in conjunction with, to all cross purposes, a disagreeable part of the female anatomy?* Except when used for baby making, in that particular instance, all notions of disagreeableness vanish and get replaced by a veneration that forces the hapless vagina wielder onto a pedestal. And we all know how much I detest pedestals. But this is not about menstrual seclusion. This is not about pedestals. This is simply about my reproductive system, and the collective reproductive systems of the female of the species.

In less grandiose terms, I am not my reproductive system. It does not define me, or my life or my whims. I am not at its mercy, I do not function at its beck and call, and I have not succumbed to pubertal vulnerability. It does not delineate me; it is simply a part of me, as innocuous as a sweat gland on my arm, or a taste bud on my tongue. But it becomes necessary for me to state that which is excruciatingly obvious, over and over and over again. It becomes necessary for me to reinstate the fact that I am not an ill fated victim doomed to be caught in the throes of my perfidious monthly ovulatory cycle which deigns to ensnare me in its web of Unhinged Emotional Batshittery™ using a myriad array of lethal weaponry, including the dread PMS and the like.

Now let me state on the outset that I am not painting the discomfort felt by me and/or other women during their menstruation cycles as non-existent or a peachy keen experience. But what I am questioning is the pervasive rhetoric of ‘illness’ or ‘disease’ that hangs around menstruation and the female reproductive system like an oppressive miasmic fog. Take PMS for instance. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome? Am I the only one who finds this terminology problematic? Again, I will backtrack a little bit and state pervasively that I’m not denying anyone’s difficult experiences on, during, or before their period, much as I hate to make fucking caveats. But to mark it with the ‘syndrome’ tag strikes me as a little odd. Assuming the popular rhetoric surrounding PMS for a second, what are its markers? What constitutes the syndrome itself? A quick Google search gives me an imposing list of over 160 odd symptoms, anything from life threatening epileptic fits to conjunctivitis to low blood sugar to asthma to heart palpitations to glaucoma to increased appetite to constipation and on and on and on, the exhaustive list continues. If this is indeed the case, then we have nothing short of a global health crisis on our hands, a pandemic to end all pandemics, so AIDS please move over. A pretty convenient bind, I’d like to think.

As women, we’ve had to walk over hell and high water to have people (read: male doctors and physicians, I’m not going to pussyfoot around this) take us seriously, to have them acknowledge the fact that our bodies undergo changes every month. Unfortunately, as these things are wont to happen, the powers that be responded as they’ve always done when presented with something different (however big or slight the difference may be); they immediately decided to confront it as an aberration, putting forth cures and such for this malady plaguing the wimminfolk.

The setback with such an approach is not in the existence of the difference in question, and there are always going to be women out there who require medical attention for debilitating physical changes in relation to their menstrual cycles (full disclosure: on occasion, I’ve had to go to the hospital myself, because the nausea and pain was nothing short of agonizing), the problem arises however in the framing of the issue itself, as an abnormality, and by extension, a malady in need of a ‘cure’.

If bodily changes related to one’s menstrual cycle are indeed deemed as an anomaly of sorts, then what constitutes the state of being normal? What sets the norm? The male reproductive system? And there lies the freaking bind. Caught between the pervasive discourse on menstruation that places the male body and the male reproductive system as normal, and the repercussions arising from such a framework that puts all of a woman’s worth in her reproductive capabilities, there can be no leeway for a woman to attain normalcy without rejecting her biological markup and believing in the popular discourse that she is naturally unclean, monstrous, abnormal.

How then, can research worth any salt be performed on women’s menstrual health (and by extension, women’s health in general) when the basis itself is problematic, leading researchers to ask all the erroneous questions and formulating their own conclusions based off the results? I don’t know if I have the answers. But I do know that something’s gotta give. And I sure as hell do know that my body is fucking normal, menstrual blood, pain, nausea and all.

* Obviously I'm not literally referring to blood or the vagina as disagreeable.



46 comments:

Yogi said...

Mr Garrison (if i remember right) - " I don't trust something that bleeds for five days and does not die!" :D

Ok jokes apart, I think most women around our part of the world actually handle menstruation much better than the rest of the world actually, in fact half the time, unless they tell someone we dont even know..of course lets not get to the damn rules which revolve around it, THAT I COMPLETELY AGREE with you..

the eating outside, not allowed to cook, the list goes on absolutely ridiculous! Its something that happens naturally for 'gods sake', i wonder how they created a syndrome based on a natural body process!

sindhu said...

"Or is it the combination of the blood and the vagina, a disagreeable substance associated with pain and suffering in conjunction with, to all cross purposes, a disagreeable part of the female anatomy?* Except when used for baby making, in that particular instance, all notions of disagreeableness vanish and get replaced by a veneration that forces the hapless vagina wielder onto a pedestal."

perfection.

La vida Loca said...

Over the last couple of months several bloggers(including me) have done this topic to death. Got nothing to say**
I am just glad to have you around.

mg said...

Glad you are back and talking about something that still needs to be talked about. Glad the spirit is being mended too. love you

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Yogi: I think the most ridiculous rule I have come across with regards to menstrual batshittery was when an extended family member solemnly educated me on the evils of talking while on my period, especially in front of the menfolk (gender insecurities much?), because misfortune will be transmitted through the sound of my voice. I was rendered speechless due to sheer incredulity at such bull-feces, I kid you not.

@ Sindhu: Glad to be of service, love.

@ La Vida Loca: I am aware that this topic was much discussed a little while ago, and it makes me glad. But nevertheless, I wanted to delve a little deeper than the obvious social implications and talk about the cultural underpinnings of such attitudes to begin with. There is still a lot left unsaid. I will probably get back to this from time to time, when my thought processes are a little less muddled. :)

@ mg: I love you too. And thank you. <3

DotThoughts said...

welcome back! missed your posts!

chronicworrier said...

You're back! Great to see you write again.

The 327th Male said...

Welcome back I guess. To be honest I'm having a hard time working out when where and why I added you to my feed reader, but I'm glad I did.

One small niggle, the blog title needs an apostrophe.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Dotthoughts: Thank you! It feels good to be back. :)

@ Chronicworrier: Thanks, and I'm glad to be back as well. <3

@ The 327th male: Welcome to the turf. And ha ha, I made this layout a long time ago, I noticed the snafu almost immediately after I made it, but I was too lazy to do anything about it, so I let it slide. ;)

??! said...

Weeeee! Angry Buttercup* is back!


* No, you don't get a say in the matter. That's your nick, and you're stuck with it.

Saltwater Blues said...

LOL@angry buttercup!

Welcome back!

$ExY said...

AmaZing!
Thats the only word in my dictionary that i can think of which aptly describes my utmost appreciation for your writing.Beautifully sculpted and well published..has anybody told you that you write so darn well?..
The vocab the articles, i found em out of the world..
suggestion: ure the arundhati roy, aim for a noble prize dear and dont let earthlings take undue pleasure of ur work for free!..all the best
ciao!

Arjun Parashar, Trivandrum India.

Anna said...

aah... the end of the hiatus. finally!!
missed you and your posts. :)

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ ??!: Angry Buttercup? Do I get to voice my opinion, at the very least? This is silencing at its worst you know. Hmph.

@ SB: Its good to be back. And thanks. :)

@ Arjun: Erm, thanks.

@ Anna: The feeling is mutual. I'm glad you swung by. <3

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Great to see you back in action, Megha. And this post was absolutely amazing. Keep writing!

Primalsoup said...

Ahem!

Vidya said...

Hidden amidst all that punkster angst is that last paragraph which I think is the crux of this post(correct me if I am wrong). And I hope this does not get mistaken for the yet another social taboo post!

- That women-centric health practices and even research are seen in childbirth and menopause care but not with respect to menstruation.
- Girls and young women do receive dual messages one scientific and the other non-scientific on menarche and there is enough research on this rather problematic issue.
- What are the reactions they get from medical professionals when they go in for a question on menstrual issues
- I have heard a practitioner in India suggest that 'it will all be alright' when she gets married to a patient. making the marriage decision for the patient with all finality.
- Infact this is a growing awareness in this field only recently and even there, it comes with a whole range of political ramifications and posiitions out there with should we tamper with nature , natural cures and then a few looking for practical approaches focussing on actually alleviating those people with debilitating pain. So yes there is certainly a need for women-centric approach to menstrual health and it is catching up.

La vida loca (too lazy to sing in) said...

I agree w/ Vidya on the aspect- cramps will ease after marriage...that's bull fucking shit.

Neodawn said...

Good to see you back... :)

venkee said...

hey good to see u bak....dont go away again....

Mahogany said...

ah, how i missed that venom. cheers!

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ The Soul of Alec Smart: Thank you!

@ Primal: Enna ahem?

@ Vidya: I wholeheartedly agree with all your points, but I specifically wanted to address the point about the 'physician' who presented marriage as a miracle drug for all of humanity's ills.

When will this noxious tripe stop? Have a mental illness? Get married! Suffering from schizophrenia? Get married! Feel horny? Get married immediately!

Its just. Argh.

@ La Vida Loca: Hell yes.

@ Neodawn: Thank you! Now please dont disappear on me again. :(

@ Venkee: I'll be here. :)

@ Mahogany: And you've been missed as well. *hug*

Sue said...

Welcome back. *hug*

No comments on the post. :D

apu said...

Hey, I had no idea you were back. No comments on this post specifically. Just glad to see you back. (and that you've been able to get over whatever it was that troubled you so much)

Anonymous said...

Yay! you are back! Muah!
Agree with everything written.
But, there is one small issue, you need to post more regularly girl!

anonymouse said...

So the standard solution to your frustrated posts is to get married?

<voice type="elder_relative">When are you getting married?</voice>.

Silvara said...

And she's back :D

As usual just wanna stand up and applaud!

Silvara said...

Fuck.

How did I not comment??? - I swear I did. Stupid Blogger.

And she's back! was the first thought that came to mind.

*applauds*

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ Sue: And I'm glad to be back! *hugs*

@ Apu: *hugs*

@ Anon: Apparently posting regularly is a concept I have yet to master. I shall try harder in the future. B-)

@ A mouse: But of course. Unfortunately I am used goods. No good desi boy would want to come near the likes of me. *wipes a tear*

Silvara: You did comment! I was being tardy, and for that, I apologize. :)

anonymouse said...

*puts the tea into an oyster*

Oh wait! tear, not tea. So find yourself a bad boy. Smack relatives over the head with said boy until they improve.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

@ A mouse: Ah, a conundrum. I do not know if I truly want to snag a bad boy. *wipes another tear*

anonymouse said...

<confused>Who said anything about _snagging_ a bad boy? We were speaking about smacking here! </confused>

Anonymous said...

delurking to welcome you back!

Anonymous said...

the substance of the post is very relevant, and really very good, but would honestly be more enjoyable to read if couched in lighter language. Every sentence has so many clauses, each with words of so many syllables, that after a point, reading through it resembles nothing more than wading through a swamp.

just my $.02.

annesha.

La Vida Loca said...

u are rarer than id ka chaand. Humph!

4wD said...

jeez kaneez, are you still writing ? :)

Anonymous said...

you need to blog more girl!!

Anonymous said...

@ annesha: i think you missed the point; this is not about giving you joy, this is about sharing with you a point-of-view. this 'lighter language' you are looking for is someone else. this is how you hear it from Megha, if you can not understand her, this is your issue, not hers. she writes the way she writes just like any other literate human being. if you're having trouble with her writing style, then that means you're having a problem with her as an individual. you say her piece is 'really very good'...but is that what you really think? i doubt it. why don't you take a moment to explain what you like about it. i always wonder about people who want to try to tell other people how to write; who do you all think you are anyway? some kind of language police? and you! you're the one wading through a swamp, on your own. she's got nothing to do with that. if anything, she is reminding you that you are in a swamp by being the wimp that you are; you wish you could be like her, you wish you could speak your mind and defend your views in clear and concise language. your inability to read her is more a reflection of your lower english proficiency level; go take some college courses in the humanities, that might help you if you're able to do your homework.

AT

ki said...

I've found, you know, that menstruation is made out to be MUCH worse than it actually is. The world in general has begun to perceive it as an illness. I have friends who say stuff like - "Oh is this your 'bad' time?!'

GOD!

nevermind said...

I see that comments are warming up, as usual. But Angry Buttercup is just perfect. My only grouse with you is that you make me think too much. And then it all seems so bleeding obvious and I agree. You'll be the death of my brain, one of these days. It'll short circuit, with smoke coming out of my ears and nose and I'll slide, slowly, to the ground. Death by Angry Buttercup:) Completely unrelated, but this is rather nice.

the wannabe indian punkster said...

Anything to make you come out of your hidey hole and comment.

Nevermind, I've missed you. :D

nevermind said...

And you've been on my worry list:) All work and no Megha is bloody dull.

nevermind said...

Okay sunshine, you've been on my worry list; so we're quits:)

Now listen, can we get people to sign this petition, please? The proof of the pudding is in standing up and being counted and doing it with confidence, at least in a small way, isn't it? We don't want to wait until the Hindutva hoodlums come for each of us, do we? Or we can be cynical and argue that people sign hundreds of petitions, it's not going to make a bloody difference/ I don't want my name out there in the public domain, but it's at least better than doing nothing.

Tragicomix said...

yyaaaah! when are you blogging again! me likes the rant-posts

cluelessness said...

Megha,

So much happening on the feminist front with Sri Ram Sena and the pink chaddi campaign. Was hoping to hear something from you on this blog.

Anonymous said...

You are taking this anti traditional position to ridiculous levels.

I mean man once upon a time lived in caves and had his ding dong swinging around. women without bras.

I guess we can all then go back to the cave.

you seem to be blindly against social mores of any kind. Let me ask you a plain question. If a woman or man wants to have sex is it ok to have sex with anyone of their choice ? including, brother, sister or father ? isnt that a universal social more we have all come to accept ? no hanky panky wihin family ?

or are you going to challenge that one too ?

Somethings have come by, some follow it and some dont. If you like it follow it. why cast a judgement saying that the practice is regressive ? is it because it is old ? anything from the past is regressive. is that it ?

I am trying to understand from amongst your posts as to whats your motivation. overall theme.