There is one undeniable fact that numerous inquiries have proved – “practically all the boys would be horrified to be girls and almost all the girls regretted not being boys.”
The reasons when given range from more love from parents to more fun and no botheration of clothes etc. This dissatisfaction with themselves is manifested in their idle vigour turning into nervousness, boredom and slipping into a world of day dreams and escape mechanisms to compensate for their growing position of inferiority. Fantasies, histrionics, childish tragedies, false enthusiasms and odd behavior- the reason for all these should be sought not in mysterious feminine soul but in the child’s environment, her situation.
Dr. Liepmann’s research on the replies given by young girls concerning their first knowledge of sexuality to highlight the curiosity, confusion, fear, dread and disgust which the young girl is filled with concerning this issue and may lead her to declare the intention of never getting married. Whether or not she is well forewarned, she feels in these changes the presentiment of a finality which sweeps her away from selfhood and she divines a dependence that dooms her to man, to children and to death.
The onset of puberty and all its symptoms fill the young girl initially with shame and later with pride in her body. Menstruation seems repugnant and humiliating to her and the day to day problems associated with menstruation horrify her. She hates the monthly cycle and feels herself doomed to it.
Menstruation carries a taboo in a lot of societies and this emphasizes the feeling of humiliation experienced even by educated women who may be forced to adhere to restrictions by the society during this time. Most of these humiliating restrictions when menstruating or due to menstruation in general, are advocated and supported by religion.
When the actress Jayamala touched the idol at Sabarimala in Kerala, there was a huge hue and cry, with purification of the idol and an active blog forming part of the whole scene. Some views on a blog by Kishore (2006) on the incident and the article in Indian express on the same are presented below.
The Jayamala incident is a permanent blot on the sanctity of the Sabarimala temple and even more horrifying is the fact that she was allowed to touch the idol which is a strict no-no for all. Women are not allowed to enter the temple because they menstruate. Men are allowed because they don’t. And religion says that menstruating women are dirty. And so, there will be a massive purification campaign to cleanse the temple because a woman touched the idol.
Here’s what religion says about women. A discussion of Religion and Menstruation says that a Zoroastrian woman in her menses is doctrinally held to be in a state of impurity. Some Christian denominations, advise women not to receive communion during their menstrual period.
Many Hindu women avoid routine work and do not enter the kitchen or pooja (altar) room. All religions have some restriction or the other on women during menstruation. So it is just not the physical and psychological discomfort that a woman has to face during menstruation; religious, social and cultural taboos make it discriminatory and humiliating.
The traditional Islamic interpretation of the Qur’an forbids intercourse, but not physical intimacy, during a woman’s menstrual period. During menstrual period, women are not required to perform prayers and fasting. In Judaism, a ritual exclusion called niddah applies to a woman while menstruating and for about a week thereafter. Orthodox Judaism forbids women and men from even touching or passing things to each other during this period. In Hinduism, a woman experiencing her period cannot be part of religious ceremonies for the first 4 days of the cycle.
In Buddhism menstruation is viewed as “a natural physical excretion that women have to go through on a monthly basis, nothing more or less”. However Hindu beliefs and practices have been carried over into Japanese, Thai cultures, where menstruating women are banned from attending temples. Guru Nānak, the founder of Sikhism, condemned the practice of treating women as impure while menstruating. Jainism does not permit women to cook or attend temples while menstruating.
Things are changing especially with the nuclear family but we should not see this simply in perspective of metros. Even today girls feel ashamed of menstruating and the resultant problems which ensue from lack of facilities and hygiene.