Jamia Students Participate in the “Come See the Blood on My Skirt” March at DUThe #PadsAgainstSexism campaign in Delhi, which started in Jamia on March 12th has now turned into a full-blown city-wide student movement with the campaign reaching the campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University.
On Friday, April 10th, student activists from all the three universities came together at Delhi University to march across the streets of Delhi University to demonstrate against sexism and to break the taboo around menstruation, calling their march: “Come see the Blood on my Skirt.”
And according to the statement issued by the organizers, the march is to: “create, demand and claim spaces where we can have those difficult conversations and learn about our ashudh bodies and our sexual selves and where we can dismantle the taboos that shame us and regulate our lives.” (Statement in-full given below)
Statement from the organisers of “Come See the Blood on My Skirt” March:
No more Whispers!
No more Murmurs! No More Silence!
Come and see the blood on my skirt.
All these years we have been taught to hide or hush up the fact that women bleed. And yet, despite all the hushing up and all the bleeding blue that society, media and our families have been piling upon us, women still continue to bleed and bleed they shall till the end of ‘man'(!)kind. This blood that has been marked ‘impure’, marked ‘dirty’, marked ‘shameful’, has brought many of us much pain and here we are not talking just about menstrual cramps.
When some students in Jamia put up a few pads around campus with feminist messages on them, they had not anticipated that it would earn them such a vehement backlash and also a show cause notice from the administration. Since then, students in DU and other universities in the country have picked up the initiative and have seen posters being torn down at JNU, pads being removed in DU and people responding with disgust at the sight of pads on public walls everywhere (and this is just paint!).
We have also heard of the story where women workers in a factory in Kochi were forced strip-searched by two female supervisors in a bid to find out who might have committed the unpardonable crime of leaving a used sanitary pad in the bathroom. Many of us parcelled pads to the Manager of the factory in protest. It is absurd that something that half the population deals with every month should evoke such a response and be allowed so little space in public imagination and discourse. We are told that sexual and reproductive issues must be kept ‘private’, must be dealt within the confines of our bathrooms and homes. Isn’t that exactly what society told us about domestic violence as well?
This only reveals the degree to which questions about women’s bodies, health and sexuality have been repressed in our society. In fact the most frequent acknowledgement of women’s sexuality comes forth but as harassment and abuse, on the streets or in the home. With repression also comes the violence. The violence and discrimination of being given sanitary napkins at the medical store wrapped in newspaper or black polythene bags; having the photo of a woman with stained pants barred from Instagram, being told to not enter certain spaces like kitchens and places of worship during ‘those days’; of people not being adequately informed about safe-sex practices or methods of contraception; of no institution acknowledging the actual physical pain and discomfort of menstruating; of women athletes being forced to take pills to delay their periods in order to compete with ‘normal’ bodies; of women and young girls being forcefully married away into a life of ‘legitimate’ sex, which in many cases only really translates into legitimized rape in their experience. The state continues to dismiss and invisibilise the issue of universalized provision of hygienic, comfortable and sustainable menstrual care to all women irrespective of their social location.
The stigma around menstrual blood reveals the love hate relationship that this society has with women’s bodies and their sexuality, where it must either control it as with the ‘goddess’ and the ‘dutiful wife’ or revile it in the figure of the ‘slut’ or the ‘easy woman’. Women must guard the reality of their sexual bodies as they must guard their ‘honour’, which then becomes something to trade in the market of ‘reasonable’ and ‘compatible’ marriages. Indeed, the whole ‘stable’ structure of society stands heavy on the walls that imprison the woman’s womb and by implication most aspects of her life. So why shy away when the womb/wound bleeds?
The society that cannot stand the sight of a stained pad; the language which cannot voice that particular discomfort which a woman experiences, feeling something trickling out of her vagina as she sits in class or at work; the culture that makes women outcasts for something that is so (bloody) basic to human reproduction; the production system which uses women’s status in the reproductive system to exploit them all the more intensely in factories, workspaces, universities and homes. This is not a society that lends us support; a system that produces for us, our needs; a culture that nourishes us; a language that speaks for us; a vision that sees for us, the future that we want for ourselves.
This vision/language/culture/production system/society does not work for us too well and we refuse to accept it anymore! With the campaign and rally to “Come And See The BLOOD on my Skirt” in University of Delhi, we aspire to push forward the message that the Pads Against Sexism movement has so creatively brought into the public domain. We hope to create, demand and claim spaces where we can have those difficult conversations, where we demystify and learn about our ashudh bodies and our sexual selves, where we can dismantle the taboos that shame us and regulate our lives.
With blood stains on our skirts, holding pads, cloths, tampons, condoms, contraceptive pills and many other such ‘secrets’ that we want to scream to the world, we plan to go marching, marching down hostile streets, past the pharmacies and the authorities, past the temples and the kitchens, past the markets and the classrooms, showing the blood on our skirts for the messy business that it is!
For the freedom to bleed Red!