Arushi Dua is a 20-year-old from New Delhi who has been working towards removing the taboo around menstruation in society over the past few months.
In an effort to change things as they stand, the third-year student at Delhi's National Law University wrote Mark Zuckerberg an open letter asking him to add an "On My Period" button to Facebook:
I am Arushi Dua, an aspiring lawyer from New Delhi, India. I identify myself as a proud feminist and my intention and motive behind writing to you today is in furtherance of the same.
Last night, as routine, I slept early with a plan in my mind for the next day. I woke up in the morning today with a schedule to follow, but as my uterus would have it, instead of energy and enthusiasm to start my day, I was woken up by severe cramps and fatigue. Usually, I am able to sail through the day when my menstrual cycle kicks in but there are bad days and as a result I was held back at home with my schedule shattered to the ground.
I want to highlight the situation here in India about how menstruation is taken to be a taboo. For you are an influential man and in a position to broadcast, convince and make people listen. Sir, you can help make a massive change in this regard.
In India, women have always been on the receiving end. They have been suppressed and are taken to be lesser human beings than men. I am privileged to have had awareness of this fact and be in a position to fight against it.
Women are expected to bear children, failing which they are shunned and tortured. At the same time, no one wants to acknowledge and address the fact that women menstruate and it is completely healthy and natural. Some see menstruating women as "impure". Such an attitude is deeply engraved in our culture and ideologies. For example, people believe that menstruating women cannot cook, visit the temple, touch pickle as it will go bad, and a lot of other baseless myths . Another time when women are made to feel ashamed or conscious about menstruating is when one visits the market to purchase sanitary napkins. The seller would purposely either wrap the packet with newspaper or put it in a black bag.
Why? Why does everyone get so uncomfortable about me purchasing a sanitary napkin? Should I be conscious about it? Is it bad to menstruate? Should I hide it too? This is the thought process of any little girl who has hit that stage of life where god has blessed her with a beautiful body and the ability to prepare for when she will be able to give life to another being. The little girl is not strong and mature enough to fight such reactions yet. She does not know that menstruation is not bad or a matter of shame. Rather, it's a healthy and a beautiful process.
In rural India, girls have been skipping school for a week every month just because they are not sure or confident enough to step out during their cycles. Sir, this culture is making girls compromise on their education. This fact alone is indicative of the necessity to make immediate efforts to improve it.
I know it is going to take time for people to change their attitude towards this subject and I will keep on working till I reach that day when one would celebrate when a girl menstruates.
With the same objective in mind, sir, I have a request. You can make a massive contribution in this endeavour.
Facebook has come up with various features such as status updates, feeling xyz, uploading pictures/videos. All these essentially enable a person to share with others her/his experiences and thoughts. I would like to suggest another mode of expression on such an influential social forum. A button right next to the status bar that says "on my period'/ 'menstruating" through which women can share the fact with others with just a click.
Other social forums have blatantly expressed their indifference and deliberately taken off posts of women who have tried to pursue this cause and classified them as "against community guidelines". Facebook as a platform is highly influential and can majorly contribute in promoting a friendly attitude towards menstruation. I have approached you for help because I have confidence that Facebook is sensitive to such issues and will help promote a good cause.
This feature will encourage a healthy space where women can be confident about their periods. Also, others who are reading the posts will develop a level of comfort and realise that it is indeed not a big deal. This will hopefully lead to a change in the mindset of people and eventually myths floating all around will settle down.
Sir, this hostile attitude towards menstruation haunts and affects women on a daily basis. It is time we fight it with full force.
Please. A sincere request.
I hope to hear from you on this issue. I hope for a change.