Conditioning and influences of society through the ages
It's not uncommon to have been brought up with a perceived notion of periods. That they are bad, and most importantly "hush hush" because it's a women's problem.
The creation of menstrual taboos manifests in different ways in society. Women are excluded from entering temples, touching certain foods (such as pickles) and in some extreme cases provided a separate area where they can stay for their "time of the month"
In modern society as well, these inane practices have extended but in a more subtle manner. In modern workspaces there is often a layered insinuation that targets women who speak their mind, often hinting at her being on her period in a derogatory manner. Such ostracism stems from predominantly religious beliefs that deem women on their periods as ‘impure’ or ‘unclean’. For this very reason, many men and (unfortunately) women take it upon themselves to indoctrinate the masses about the restrictions to be imposed on menstruating females.
How has this permeated into society today?
The Modern Menstrual Industry
The modern menstrual industry is shaped by age old practices and a shunning of the reality of menstruation. For e.g. the blue liquid in commercials has been the way period have been connoted since eons.
Another trope is the hesitant woman, who shies away from doing normal activities as she is "down" or gotten her "chums". And surprisingly becomes a cheery, dewy eyed persona of ultimate motivation once she wears a pad (of a said brand). I mean who really feels like that on their period? And more importantly why should we?
The reality of the matter is menstruation is annoying (not dirty!) and we have spun so many tales that capitalism has had a field day with it.
And even though we have left most regressive practices such as not allowing a menstruating woman into the kitchen in the past, we still haven't fully evolved into a society that can talk about menstruation openly in conventional circles - and this is where patriarchy has succeeded!
Men & Their Period Journey
Growing up, periods were such a hush thing. Like???
I remember my school organizing a session on menstruation. And all the girls had to attend. Of course, that was a free period for the boys. I never really questioned that when it happened, but isn't it important to include men in this topic too? I think overtime we have come to accept certain societal norms without questioning them, and men's involvement in menstruation is one such thing.
For a long time they were excluded from conversations around women's anatomy. Such a shame know to talk about the female reproductive system with men? So many times women who live in joint families flush their pads. Mainly because they don't want their family members (read : brother, father, grandfather) to even get a hint that they were on their period.
Largely boys/men aren't sensitized to menstruation. They don't first hear about it from trusted sources, such as their parents, teachers or doctors but rather from friends and peer groups. This increases intrigue, creating a notion of something mysterious while in reality it is one of the most basic biological function that has ensured our existence on this slowly dying earth.
Many of them even have their first encounter of it only post marriage. And their unlearning begins. And this is where we recognize so many men who have unlearned what society has taught them about periods and tried to be a support system for their wives & daughters. And I feel largely this has helped lift some of the stigma, but we still have a long way to go.
The Extremes of It - Workplace & Beyond
As we addressed the men who are there for us when we menstruate, there are also those who use this as a means to patronize. And every women, at some point has faced a man doubt her capabilities only because she is a woman and cannot handle her "emotions". As if emotions were the private property of only one gender.
These are the same men who would ask if you were on your period if you weren't constantly smiling and exuding warmth. Thank God this is no longer allowed in workplaces anymore. And Thank God to the countless women who fought on our behalf to make this happen.
I feel though it still exists, but now it cant be talked about openly. So we have "advocates" who try to explain to us why women are definitely different from men and cannot be treated same. You know, your friendly next seat mansplainer.
And no way in hell would you ever show such a person that you need a break or some time off on your period cause that would automatically translate to women being weak and not responsible to handle big projects/more work responsibility (as per your context). So we work hard and harder. Going above and beyond our stated duties to prove that we can do everything a man can, even on our periods.
In conclusion, as I write this I understand that in such subjective discussion so many points of view can be presented. Again, I acknowledge that men cannot be pushed into a box and stereotyped. However, patriarchy has continued to exert its influence on menstruation. The above examples aren't the result of one man's action, but rather a reaction in line with constant conditioning on men & women's role in society.
What are your views? Let me know in the comment section below.