Running A Marathon Without A Tampon Has F*** All To Do With Period Taboos

10/08/2015 09:41 | Updated 09 August 2016
Bloomberg via Getty Images

When I saw pictures of Kiran Gandhi over the weekend, who ran the London marathon in April without a tampon to de-stigmatise menstruation, my first thoughts were: "What the hell?"

It may not be the most elegant and sophisticated reaction, but I felt it so powerfully in my gut that I was compelled to call it for what it is: nonsense.

I completely get as a fourth wave feminist the importance of de-stigmatising menstruation.

I applaud artists and activists like Rupi Kaur for taking on giants such as Instagram for censoring periods when they are perfectly happy to feature soft porn.

The fact that I can't even drop the M-word in front of male colleagues without them harrumphing awkwardly, looking at their shoes and changing the subject when their wives, girlfriends and mothers all undertake a perfectly natural female bodily function, proves this.

I also think Gandhi's intention is well-meaning: to raise awareness about women who don't have access to sanitary care. But I also know these same women would think the idea was madness.

In a rural Indian village, where young girls are likely to miss school because of their periods, if they had a sanitary towel they would use it - they wouldn't let it flow free down their saris to emancipate their sisters.

On a much more serious note, menstruation taboo is a massive problem in certain parts of the world.

Whether it is East Africa, India, Nepal - it has a huge impact on the education of young girls. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to subvert the idea that women on their periods are 'impure' or disgusting - and this also includes the Western world.

But let's not be under any illusion here - menstruation is a bodily function. It is a fluid - blood - that the body is rejecting because it is not pregnant. It doesn't have magical properties, it won't solve world peace and I wouldn't want it flowing down my legs anymore than I would want any other excretion.

If we're resorting to unwarranted nostalgia here because of the reason why we menstruate (and blood is blood however you look at it), men could just as easily carry vials of sperm around their necks as a nod to the life source they carry within themselves. (But please don't, guys).

The fact is that boycotting tampons is not going to de-stigmatise period shame.

Wearing used tampons as earrings is not going to do that, nor is eschewing the sanitary towel bin and stapling them to toilet doors for male janitors to find next to the words 'eat blood, sexist scum!'

While this may seem like the most tenuous segue ever - trying to bring about actual change for women is sort of like the Labour party leadership. Go too far left, and you end up alienating up all the other parties and sitting-on-the-fence voters. Go for a centrist, and you have a chance of effecting change.

In the same way that feminism needed to evolve to bring about the next era of change - by involving men - so too does the period movement.

There's no denying that everyone has an opinion about Gandhi's decision to run sans tampon, and at least we're discussing it loudly on the media rather talking in hushed tones.

But I'm not sure what a picture of someone's bloodstained crotch is going to accomplish in the long term. In fact - honestly - it tightens the vice around the very women we are trying to help.

Because if even hardened feminists like me are scratching our heads and worse - feeling alienated by it - I don't even know where that leaves older generations of women and men.

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