Kiran Gandhi started her menstrual cycle the night before the London Marathon and decided to run the 26.2 mile race tampon free. According to the young woman, it would have been too uncomfortable to run the race wearing a tampon so she decided to embrace her womanhood and take on the task with blood racing down her legs. Some would consider this feat gross, however, Gandhi found it empowering.
The 26-year-old ran unashamed for nearly five hours with a smile plastered across her face. Gandhi said the decision to run unhindered was to encourage women around the world against being embarrassed about their menstrual cycle. The Harvard Business School alumni said even on the marathon course, sexism can be beaten. The part-time drummer even posed for pictures with other runners to validate her claim. Gandhi penned the following message on her personal website:
I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs. I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who do not have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it does not exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.
One writer named Erika L. Sánchez called the stigma surrounding menstruation a form of misogyny. In the course of her dissertation, she stated that society is conditioning young women to believe the biological process is shameful. As a result of this thinking surrounding the woman’s menstrual cycle, people have been engrained to believe that possessing a period stain in public is one of the most embarrassing things that can happen.
Although an accident like this is inconvenient and unpleasant, why would it not just be viewed or accepted as spilling coffee on a pair of pants or catching food with one’s shirt at a restaurant? It is like menstruation taboo, however nearly every female has had a menstrual mishap at one point or other during the course of their lives. Another woman, Jaque Mate, agreed and added:
Menstruation is an essential component of the continuation of the human species, yet there is a long history of cultural mythology that has deemed menstruation as dirty and impure, but it is important to understand that these ideas were created by humans. Our ancestors created them, and we have lived with that legacy for too many years. Now it is time to unravel those ideas and change the way that women’s bodies and health are understood.
The marathon runner’s decision is not the first instance of people speaking against sexism in hopes of embracing the feminine body. There is a whole movement aimed at reminding people that the female anatomy is not just an object to be sexualized. In order to bring awareness and education, Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated by organizations around the world in efforts to break the silence around female hygiene needs.
However, there are many women who disagree with Gandhi’s actions and believe they were self-serving. One woman said there is nothing liberating about blood running down a woman’s legs, especially while running a marathon, and believes the ploy was disgusting. Jackie Carr expressed similar feelings when she stated:
Please do not claim you are doing this for the good of women. I do not want to be associated with this. Thank you, but my bodily functions ARE private!
While others have said they understand Gandhi’s perspective, they have vowed never to go as far as the drummer by foregoing a tampon or sanitary napkin to prove a point. Although many women claim to embrace their feminism, including menstrual cycle, they refuse to bleed freely in public as an advocate. Without shaming Gandhi’s personal preference, many have opted to use a tampon for sanitary purposes, but not as a gauge on whether or not they have embraced or are embarrassed by womanhood. Kiran Gandhi, however, felt running the 26.2 mile London Marathon tampon free was empowering.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Huffington Post: This Woman Ran A Marathon Without A Tampon To Fight Period Shaming
Medium: Going With the Flow
Al Jazeera America: Menstruation stigma is a form of misogyny
All Images Courtesy of YouTube