A man’s perception on menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is something that a woman has to experience for the majority of her life. There is no reason why it should still be taboo even in 2023, but in Bangladeshi society, the topic remains as such. What's even more appalling is the lack of knowledge about it among men.
Growing up, I knew little to nothing about the menstrual cycle. There were several reasons behind it. For one thing, it was a topic that you never mention in rural areas and I grew up in a village. It is discussed in a hushed tone amongst the women of the household. When a young girl first gets her period, she goes to her mother and everything is handled in whispers.
Another reason is that the schools or teachers taught us nothing about sexual or reproductive health. It's a shame that I, like almost every other boy in Bangladesh, came to learn about sex or reproductive health from my friends. And I lament it and wish that it was my parents who taught me about the birds and the bees and not another teenager like I was myself at that time.
When I first came to learn about periods, I was shocked and for a while, I thought that it was a topic that should remain taboo. It was not until college that I learned the scientific explanation of it and came to know the proper term: menstrual cycle.
After learning the science and the reason behind it, I was willing to accept it as a natural process. Still, it was not normalised and it felt weird talking about it so I did what everyone else did — I never spoke of it.
Time passed, and I got to university and made new friends. One day a friend was rather upset and very obviously in pain. I asked her what was wrong and she answered me in a very casual tone that she was having PMS and cramps. That was the day when the menstrual cycle was normalised to me completely.
My friend was not ashamed or embarrassed to say it and I cannot insist on this enough — no girl should be ashamed or embarrassed by it. Because why should they? We eat so we may satisfy our hunger and get energy. We sleep so we may rest and recover. We sweat so the body may complete a bodily function and keep us healthy. All of these are natural bodily functions and the menstrual cycle is no different. It is another bodily function that happens to women because of their reproductive organs.
A regular menstrual cycle is an indicator of sound reproductive health. Girls can start their periods anywhere from age 8 or above. However, the average age is about 12 years. The average age for menopause (when periods stop) is about 51/52 years. So, women have to experience periods for the majority of their lives.
As a man, I do not pretend to understand what it feels like or the pain and cramps that come with it. What I know is that it's a biological process and it is natural and it should be discussed freely.
It's true that sanitary pads are displayed in view at pharmacies. But you will never see someone buying them in front of you or even carrying one. The reason is the same as it has been for all these years — you are not supposed to talk about it.
But what if we do talk about it? Can't we make a difference? Can't we make society more welcoming for the next generation so that something as important as the menstrual cycle is not taboo anymore? I feel like we owe this much to the next generation.