Chinese tennis player Qinwen Zheng made this statement at the French Open about how she felt when she was on her period. When a painful menstrual cramp perhaps did not allow her to perform as well as she might have. Rather unfortunate given the physically demanding nature of her job – an athlete who needed to be on her toes quite literally – running and moving.
Though I’m sure most of us can relate to this feeling. And if we can’t, we know women who do. This being a rather common feeling for women – especially in the first couple of days of their menstrual cycle. Truth be told, I’ve been the slightly more fortunate one. In my personal context, my periods are what would describe a happy period. I experience slight cramps, but mostly I’m able to get on with life the regular way – minus the occasional mood swing and the craving for something meetha. But I know this isn’t true for a lot of women. A friend of mine gets such terrible cramps that she always misses work on her first day, an entire day spent in bed with herbal tea and hot water bags. A cousin carries an emergency painkiller to suppress the pain should it get too unbearable. A work colleague has the days of the period marked on her calendar, moving around important work if she knows she’s going to be menstruating on those days.
Recently, I read somewhere that severe menstrual cramps can hurt as much as labour pain (Whoa!). Yet, somehow a lot of men (and sadly, other women), don’t think that being on your period is really a big deal. Ah, how I wish for each of these men to be forced to experience a period at least once in their lifetime, just so they understand that being on a five day spree of bleeding from your vagina, alongside cramps, uneasiness, mood swings and all of that, is no joke.
Just so that a woman who asks to be excused from work early isn’t told that it’s just a stomach cramp, take some Crocin and get back to work. Or an angry woman isn’t snickered at by her male colleagues saying she’s on her period – hence her behaviour. And women who say they would like to rest when experiencing period related discomfort aren’t ridiculed. A friend even complained about her husband throwing tantrums because she feels extremely uncomfortable having sex on her period! As if the stigma around the topic weren’t enough – the lack of empathy for women being physically, mentally and emotionally stressed is equally frustrating.
When aunty Flo comes visiting each month, every girl’s experience with her is different. Some find her to be the friendly next-door aunty, who makes you slightly uncomfortable, bringing chocolates and gajar ka halwa. For some, it’s that masi, whose monthly trip you don’t particularly look forward to, because she makes snide comments on how much weight you’ve put on and why you shouldn’t be eating chocolate. And for an unfortunate few, she’s the angry door-ki-chachi, who thinks it’s totally her business to cause you so much pain that you almost start crying. Who forces you to attend to her day and night whilst she’s there. Yet, in my entire life experience, I’m yet to find a woman who says she finds her period a rather enjoyable experience.
No, I’m not asking to reverse biology. Or alter it. Because at the end of the day, while we’re trying to make the world a more level playing field in most areas, what does not change is the fact that biologically male and female bodies are different. Men come with penises, women with vaginas. And the by-product of having a body that’s capable of producing another – a menstrual cycle. What I’m asking is for a little compassion for women who suffer pain during this time. To not make petty, usually sexist jokes about them. To understand that period pain is not something one gets used to, simply because she has it every month. And to perhaps understand that every body is different – some need extra care during their periods, some don’t. Perhaps in an age where we’ve at least become okay with talking about menstruation and periods, let’s be a little considerate to those who don’t have it easy with their menstrual cycle. In the words of Rachel Green from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, “No uterus, no opinion.”
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