When Kiran Gandhi realised she was going to be on her period on the day of her first-ever marathon, she decided to do something unexpected – she ran the entire race free-bleeding.
The 26-year-old trained for a year to complete the London Marathon in April. She said she made her decision to "run free" and not wear a tampon because she wanted to highlight how women are often shamed for having their period.
"To me, period-shaming is when you – as someone who is experiencing the bleeding – have to make somebody else comfortable before yourself," she told BuzzFeed News.
"There were two things that helped my decision to run free. Firstly, I thought, Oh god, I really don't want to run a marathon with a tampon in, as it's something I've never done before.
"But it was also the fact I had to think about what other people would think of me that helped me make the decision. You shouldn't have to worry about how you look for others on a marathon course. To me, that shed light on the fact there is no global conversation about periods."
She says that period blood should not be a big deal, and that women "should be able to run or do whatever we want to, how we want to."
Kiran, who has written several blog posts about her experience, says the global response has been split. She says many understand her reasoning, but that others think she is "disgusting" for doing it.
"I don't feel personally offended by their opinion, as it's a normal, human thing that 50% of the world goes through. The fact that simply showing people that it exists, and that it made so many deeply uncomfortable, is the point."
Kiran told BuzzFeed News that she didn't expect so many people would care about her story, but that she's thrilled a global discussion about periods and women's bodies is happening.
She thinks her next step is to understand the issues she addresses even further by working with, and learning from, those in the field around the world.
"I addressed the issue from someone living with a position of privilege," she said. "I want to help focus the attention in the right way. I think being aware, and doing something that you think can create a conversation, being brave enough to do something that may make people pissed at you – that's where I want to be and what I want to be doing."
Kiran has a message for any critics who may hate on her choice to free-bleed: "I don't care if people want to make fun of me. I felt good doing it, it's my life, and it's my story."
Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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