The freedom I want to rant about this month is the freedom to bleed. You might not consider this a freedom. But what about the young women and girls who are homeless, or in prisons, detention camps, or otherwise detained around the world? These women do not have control over their own bodily functions. When they get their period, it is up to someone else how they deal with it. And it is criminal.
You would expect as a girl in 2019 that you would be allowed to have bodily functions, but this is not at all the case. Menstruation is a simple biological fact, but with huge emotional and psychological implications. It can be both physically and mentally painful when it is used against you. Consider the females being held at the US border in detention camps. There is currently a lawsuit against the US government alleging the guards let the girls bleed through their clothes and are provided no sanitary protection. Not only is it embarrassing, but it is uncomfortable, unsanitary and can lead to infection. These are the added burdens of the girls in custody. They are free to bleed, but not free to manage it. This is torture.
And what about girls without access to adequate sanitary products? Blood is a stigma everywhere, but in some places more than others the shame can be devastating. A few weeks ago a 14 year old girl in Kenya, Jackline Chepngeno, got her period for the first time while at school. With nothing to use for a pad, she bled through her clothes. Her female teacher shamed her, called her “dirty,” and made her stand outside. Jackline took her own life that day, and period shaming was the cause.
Menstruation is nexus of the systematic subjugation of women and girls. Girls are meant to be innocent, clean and obedient. Not bleeding. Yet girls are meant to become breeders for the system. Menstruation is when control over a girl’s body meets the potential of the patriarchy to perpetuate itself. By not providing girls with access to free products to assist with this basic and necessary bodily function, the system says they are not worth the cost of keeping them safe and healthy. Menstruation keeps girls out of school, and makes them targets for bullies and rapists. The price can be death.
But you can be an advocate for menstrual justice. Next time you get your period, take a moment to be grateful for your ability to deal with it in whatever manner you choose, and then donate to a local group who collects sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them or do not have access to them at all.
How much more basic can a human right be?
-Ashley E. Remer
Girl Museum Inc.