Last night, I finally watched the Oscar-winning documentary (short subject) Period. End of Sentence. The film details the many women across our world who have missed opportunities for education and employment due to the lack of menstrual hygiene products. Furthermore, women would use items like dirty rags, ashes, and leaves in order to avoid bleeding through clothing.
As seen in this film, Arunachalam Muruganantham created a method in which women could make their own pads and market them. By doing so, women found better access to menstrual hygiene products, became empowered and, experienced better health practices.
While there are men like Muruganantham who are attempting to end the stigma and create opportunities for women, other men – even in the western culture – find the subject taboo. One anonymous male Oscar voter stated the following on his ballot:
“[I’m not going to vote for] Period. End of Sentence — it’s well done, but it’s about women getting their period, and I don’t think any man is voting for this film because it’s just icky for men…”
The reality is periods are “icky.” They are messy and complicated. And that’s exactly why we need to talk about them.
Having a menstrual period is much more complicated than the image we see on a tampon commercial: a cis-gender woman experiencing a discharge once a month for five to seven days. Because of the many injustices and complications, how do we talk about the difference facets of menstruation and in the injustices surrounding this biological process? From affording hygiene products to discussing various health issues relating to menstruation, it’s crucial to see the issue from a variety of perspectives:
Why do women have painful periods? How can we better advocate for ourselves when dealing with menstruation experiences that are unhealthy?
And how does religion play a role in how we look at menstruation? Years ago, I remember my aunt telling me that in the more orthodox Armenian Apostolic faith women were not allowed to take communion while on their periods and not allowed on the altar during her childbearing years. While there is little evidence that this communion practice is a widespread rule, the debate over menstruating people taking communion surfaces from time to time.
When a woman who is continuously bleeding touches the hem of Jesus, she is immediately well. However, if we read the Leviticus 15 text, we see that, technically, when this woman touched the clothing of Jesus he becomes unclean. And yet, Jesus never says “ick.” As we see in Luke 8, his response is “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
By listening to stories, by advocating and providing products, we too can provide wholeness and peace for all who menstruate. Periods are not abnormal or shameful. Periods are the reality for approximately half the world’s population. Destigmatizing a healthy biological process is key for people to experience wholeness across our world.
Educating ourselves and listening to stories are key to standing up against menstruation injustices. Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is a brilliant book detailing the struggles that many face when getting their periods. Watching documentaries like Period. End of Sentence. will help us to see the struggles of people in other cultures.
Furthermore, advocating for eliminating taxes from our products as well as free menstrual hygiene products in schools and prisons will allow these items to become more accessible.
Saying the words “period” and “menstruation” in our sermons and writings will continue to break down barriers of shame. By having a church-wide collection of menstrual hygiene products, periods become a normal part of the human experience.
Jesus didn’t shame the menstruating woman with whom he came in contact. By eliminating shame and encouraging equity, we too are able to tell menstruation people “go in peace.”
For more information on The Pad Project which is associated with the film Period. End of Sentence. go to https://www.thepadproject.org/
The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Senior Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Belleville, Illinois. Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She also has chapters in the books Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy and A Child Laughs: Prayers for Justice and Hope. Torigian blogs at http://www.michelletorigian.com.
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.