Yesterday was Menstrual Hygiene Day.
Imagine a world where the female leaders we revere never achieved their full potential because they dropped out of school at the age of thirteen. In the Western world this is challenging to fathom, but for millions of young women globally, this remains their harsh reality for a staggering reason. From sub-Saharan Africa to India, Iran, and several other countries, the stigma surrounding menstruation and lack of access to proper sanitation directly inhibit young women from pursuing an education.
Puberty is universal, and embarrassment is no reason for a girl to quit on herself.
On my shelf is a middle grade short story collection titled Period Pieces: Stories for Girls. The stories were selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman. There are thirteen in all, among them “White Pants” by Linda Sue Park, “The Gentleman Cowboy” by Cynthia Leitich Smith, “A Family Sandwich” by Jane Kurtz, and my own story, “The Gift.” I haven’t looked at this book in many years. Here’s an excerpt from Kris Litchman’s piece:
“All girls bleed. You can’t stop it.” Madeline certainly sounds positive.
“Don’t the boys have to bleed?”
“That’s not fair!”
“That’s the way it is.”
Fifteen years later, this rather surreal short Hindi film from India poses that very question: What if boys had periods? How would society handle them then?
If it’s uncomfortable viewing, that’s intentional. At long last, the world is being forced to deal with the inequities surrounding what should be a normal developmental life event.