Is Media an important influence for Menstruation?

This article is about how has media portrayed periods – is it wrongly shown to people?  How does it have an impact on people especially on women, etc? And why it is still considered as a taboo or as a stigma to talk about in 21st century?

First, what is menstruation

This is actually a process that happens monthly in women which is basically regular discharge of some blood and tissue from the uterus‘s inner lining through vagina. This is also known as periods. Thus, it is just basic topic that is a biological process that everyone should be aware of. But in our society a menstruating woman tagged as impure and untouchable etc.

Next what actually happens in menstrual cycle?

It is process that occurs in a month’s time.

  • Stage 1:- An ovary gets ready to release an egg
  • Stage 2:- The ovary is released. The soft lining starts to thicken inside the uterus.
  • Stage 3:- The egg travels along the Fallopian tube to the Uterus. The lining of the uterus gets thicker.
  • Stage 4:- The lining is not needed and most of it is shed through the vagina.

Hence, this is the biological process that actually occurs in a female body.

In order to know how media is showing periods we will need to know what happens in households. As a child’s first place to learn is its home. These restrictions are projected in household which the child learns are – like do not go inside the kitchen, do not touch others, do not enter temple or church or mosques, etc., do not go near plants, they are isolated and considered as impure, and even outside the householdperiod is considered as a taboo that is periods is not a topic to be spoken about in public setting, and also periods products such as sanitary pads should be kept in private. Next we need to know is that:

what people thinking about periods in past?

  • Ancient Romans thought that menstruating women were basically dark witches who can kill crops and insects and can stop storms.
  • Ancient Egyptians used softened papyrus as tampons and Greeks used wood as tampons. Even wool was used.
  • Medieval Europeans burnt toads to ease the heavy flow of periods. The French thought period sex would lead to ‘monsters’ were being born.
  • The Africans thought period blood as aphrodisiac that is love portion.
  • Viennese thought women on their periods create toxic substance which destroys plants.

This was how the stigma around menstruation was formed.The next thing need to be known is –

 what are the cultural restrictions found around menstruation? 

There are some religious or cultural views about menstruation that are in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Etc. In these religions there are similarities in restrictions for menstruation being seen. They are:

  • Menstruating women are considered as impure or unclean.
  • Restrictions to visits some places such as temples, churches, mosques, etc. And are asked not to do prayers.
  • They usually have a bath and then are considered as pure.
  • Sometimes females are isolated and are asked to avoid interactions with other people.
  • And also culture prohibits sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman.

This was how the stigma around menstruation got more strengthened.Media influence and menstruation

Now that main question how has Media like movies, television shows shown menstruation to the public?

Media has tagged periods are for gross scenes sometimes it gives a negative message to the people were they already think that it is scary and a secret that be kept and this strengthen this stigma around menstrual cycle.

  • Hollywood movies 

For example, ‘Carrie’ is a 1976 horror movie which is about a girl with telekinetic powers. There is a scene where that girl that is Carrie experiences her first menstrual period where is not even told about periods and where she thinks she is going to die and runs for help and that is where she is bullied and insulted for not knowing about periods and after going to her house her mother who considered menstruation has a sin and locks her up in a closet.  This is considered as one of the most famous to show about periods.

‘Dirty Love’ in the year 2005 where the lead actress goes to shop to buy a sanitary pad but she starts bleeding before she could buy a pad and she floods the whole grocery store’s floor and an old lady slips and falls down. It is basically a fun scene and there is nothing to laugh about it here except the fact how the story has no or zero knowledge about periods.

‘Broad city’ is a series in the year 2016; it is shown that those men are uncomfortable surrounding women with periods. A scene where a lady puts periods pants in order smoke weed in the airport and how men are uncomfortable with her.

  • Indian movies 

‘Pad man’ in the year 2018 was film based on menstrual hygiene. Where a husband sees is wife using an unhygienic rag and how she is called impure and comes to know how expensive sanitary pads are. And then he tries to break the taboo about menstruation. He borrows some money to make a pad making machine. It was shown in the film how much the man is insulted to even to talk about periods and trying to do something good for menstrual women. It is must watch film as it is realistic that is it depicts what actually happens in India especially in the rural side in India. And there are no other Indian film or television series about period or that have period related scenes.

The topic ‘menstruation’ in media platform is treated as some drama happening in someone’s life. And media gives menstruating women distressing, embarrassing, traumatic feelings etc. A menstrual taboo is considered as a social taboo. Researchers have found that menstruation topic itself gives people more uneasy feeling, thus more supportive and positive feelings can be helpful to deal with this taboo.


What do you think?

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Written by Sahana Rajeev

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