Menstruation is a concept that men can learn about but never experience. The fact that society treats periods as personal and private, something “gross” that should not be discussed, reduces the parity amongst men and women.
Not just men, about 80% of girls in Malaysia learn about menstruation from their mothers; this can lead to incomplete and sometimes incorrect information such as taboos and traditional beliefs being passed on.
In many villages in Nepal, menstruating women are banished to live in isolated huts that are often unstable, unhygienic, and badly ventilated. They are also not allowed to use public water sources, take part in festivals, or even touch anybody else when they are on their period. This tradition is called Chaupadi, and is still commonly observed although it was banned by Nepal’s supreme court in 2005.
Even in a highly developed country such as Japan, myths surrounding menstruation still exist. For example, it is commonly believed that women are not allowed to be sushi chefs because they menstruate. The myth that surrounds it, is that having your period makes you less capable of being able to assess the tastes and smells of raw fish – one of the requirements needed in a sushi chef.
Besides affecting girls socio-economically, the effects of these taboos are often understated; which includes perceiving periods as ‘disgusting’ and ‘appalling’, and cause girls to feel self-conscious about something they have no control over.
In addition, men primarily learn about the existence and functions of periods at home, primarily from sisters or mothers. The subject is not usually verbally broached with family, and information is picked up through friends, pad commercials, or the internet – often involving over-dramatized half-truths.
Therefore, it is important to break the silence and stigmas around menstrual hygiene, and to help in ensuring that more efforts are taken into place to educate the world (especially men) about it.
We’ve summarised a few main points about menstruation that men should know about, and how they can help their friends, girlfriends, and wives through their uncomfortable time of the month!
The 101 on periods
- The average menstrual cycle is typically 28 days long, with periods lasting 3-7 days.
- During the menstrual cycle, an egg is released and travels down the Fallopian tubes. If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm, the egg and the lining of the uterus sheds, causing menstruation.
- Period cramps occur because of the contraction of the uterus to expel its lining.
- Contrary to popular belief, the average total amount of blood lost during a period is about two tablespoons to half a cup. Anything more could be a sign of something more serious.
- Using a tampon can’t cause a girl to lose her virginity.
How you can help make a girls’ life easier
1. Feed her chocolate!
Dark chocolate has helpful antioxidants that are linked to boosting Serotonin levels – a chemical released by the body that can improve mood, enhance sleep, and reduce sensations of pain.
2. Be patient with her
Premenstrual syndrome is a real thing; so try to understand where she is coming from and relax instead of just brushing her off as being ‘moody’.
3. Be her exercise buddy!
Exercising can help her feel less sluggish and boost her mood! Yoga, aerobics, dancing, or even light cardio are some great exercises that are easy to do, and could help reduce premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
4. Offer to do sanitary pad runs
Sometimes, you might need to be the hero and help a girl get a pack of pads from a nearby pharmacy. Don’t be ashamed – the stares that you’re getting when paying for the pads are probably more admirable than repulsive ones!
5. Most importantly, don’t be disgusted!
Menstruation is a biological occurrence, and is not something any girl chooses for herself. You can help make a huge difference in breaking the taboos surrounding menstruation by first accepting it for what it is.
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