A creative writing piece on the practice of period shaming and men’s roles in ending it as feminist allies, by Kieran Sinclair.
I sat high at the top table, while the mother was degraded to the floor. I was silent; so was she. Noticeably quiet, the father asked, ‘Do you know what a period is?’ Here, I realised the distance that remains, in certain societal contexts, between the genders.
I knew her as a hard-working, strong woman. As she sits on the floor, eating soup from a dog dish that her husband spat at her, I struggle to meet her eye. I have only known this woman for several days; in truth I cannot recall her full name. Nonetheless, guilt plagues me. I think, because I do not speak up. That is what causes me guilt. Right now, I am breeding a culture of silence. I sit quietly and eat.
I am just as bad. This woman has opened her home to me. My ignorance has failed me. How can I defend someone I have not even taken the time to learn their name? I can’t. Laughter soon returns to the kitchen table. He laughs, jokes, and boasts of his culinary talent. Not only is this woman sent to the corner, for being wired differently, she is belittled as her husband brags that his cooking is better than hers. Outdone by her master.
I cannot remember her name.
In this moment, I feel disgust for these men. But I am sitting with them at the high table, not on the floor with the silent woman.
Suddenly, I feel the urge to defend my own matriarchal family. For a lifetime, I have known women to be warriors and goddesses. Only now, as I listen to a man, now strange to me, justifying his wife’s exile, do I realise that those same warriors who’ve protected and inspired me, could be made vulnerable. The idea of my chain-smoking granny submitting to the corner, like a mischievous mutt, failing to educate me on the beauty of carelessness and rebellion, saddens me. Where would we be without radical women? Despite my granny’s death, and the remainder of the matriarchy being a continent away, I fear they are under threat.
I cannot remember her name.
Another nameless woman, who fades in the abyss of myth and misunderstanding. How many others are sanctioned for bleeding?
I have long considered myself an ally to the feminist cause. Only now, do I question what benefit I have been. Upon reflection, this experience triggered the internal debate: what, in practise, can an ally actually do? I do not have any punctual conclusions. However, I know, that this narrative should not be about my own self-pity. Rather, this might remind readers of the unnoticed oppression of, in this case, women, in different contexts of the world. In writing this, I hope that, somehow, I am not conforming to the culture of silence which endures the degradation of fair society.
This is not a narrative trying to mansplain (I hope), it is a revelatory experience that redefines the role of feminist allies. Men: bring menstruation into the light of day. Let’s manifest a societal practise that does not shy away from this topic. Try to be a true ally.