I had a weird encounter with a lady last week in the marketplace and it again showed why many women are ashamed of their monthly periods – especially talking about it or buying sanitary pads and tampons in public.
I had gone to the popular Amaechi two-story mile one market in Port Harcourt. I was on the first floor looking for an item I had earlier purchased and was about to get my other items from a particular store I had kept them when a woman kept calling me, “oh girl, come here.”
I didn’t turn at first because I thought it was one of those men there catcalling me but when I realised it was a female voice, I turned to listen.
She called me back, sized me up and down with the most disgusting look on her face and said, “something don stain your skirt ohh.” I didn’t understand at first because I was in such a rush to go home, I replied “I don’t understand.” Almost immediately, I remembered I was on my monthly period and I said, “ahh I’m most likely stained with blood,” told her thanks and was making my way out of there when I realised I had forgotten something in the shop before hers.
I went back, got the item, and as I walked past, she called me again and said, “you never go comot this skirt?” She then turned to the man beside her, and said, “this girl no get shame.”
I was livid. I turned back and the stare the man gave me was out of this world; I could see disgust and disdain in his eyes. I left after I was done with what I had to do at the market because there was obviously nothing I could do about my clothes. Having blood on my skirt wasn’t a great sight but I shouldn’t have to be treated like thrash or be ashamed about being stained. Is a lady on her menstrual period supposed to be embarrassed about it?
I’m not saying women should go about carrying wraps of used sanitary pads on their heads, but why should I be ashamed about something that is very much natural? A man can walk into a supermarket or pharmacy to buy condoms without shame but many ladies walk into supermarkets to buy sanitary pads or tampons and then cover them with other items or wait until almost every guy in sight is out of there before paying for it.
I’m saying this from experience. My parents have always owned a supermarket and over the 17 years and counting I’ve had to stay in my parents’ supermarket, I have noticed ladies hiding their sanitary pads from the full glare of the men around.
When some women look at the cashpoint and it’s one of our male workers sitting there, they make me attend to them because, according to them, men are not supposed to see that they are in their menstrual period. Some say everyone begins to look around their butt area to check if they are stained or not.
Another set of women come into the supermarket with their hand bags even if they are not supposed to, dash straight to the counter where the sanitary pads are stacked, put them in their bags, walk straight to the cash point and just mutter the amount to me and expect me to figure out the item they had taken because, to them, it shouldn’t be “exposed”. There are only few women who come to the counter holding their sanitary pads or tampons with their full chest.
What, exactly, is the ‘period shame’ for? Why are we, as women, ashamed to talk about our flow or boldly hold tampons in public?
Let me not start on what religions say about women in their monthly period – from calling them dirty to not allowing them worship, some religions or denomination treat women’s menstruation like something that’s dirty.
As a woman, do you feel ashamed being on your menstruation period or buying sanitary pads or tampons? Why do you feel that way?