We’ve all played Chinese Whispers as children, haven’t we? We pass on a secret message in a group and by the time it reaches the last person it gets contorted and takes on a whole new meaning. Unknowingly, however, most of us even play the game as adults everytime we buy into an old wives’ tale and pass it on from one generation to the next. Over the years, several convoluted old wives’ tales about periods have been passed on from grandmothers to their daughters that now need to be debunked, more than ever before.
To detect whether any advice in regard to your period should be followed, you must ask yourself if it makes logical sense to start with. The following are some everyday places where myths about periods have followed women across the world:-
In Places of Worship
When on periods, women are often told to not enter places of worship. In Judaism, a menstruating woman is called “niddah” and is considered to be ritually unclean. Similarly in Hinduism, menstruating women are discouraged from entering the temple. This age old myth has infiltrated the notion about periods for so long that it has almost become a tradition.
Ever wondered why this may have even started? Back in the day, women did not have means of ensuring proper sanitation and used cloth or pots to maintain their bleeding – which as you may imagine can be immensely uncomfortable and also unhygienic. Since places of worship were considered to be clean and holy, the response to menstruating women in largely patriarchal societies was immediately to disallow them from prayers, and all religious activities.
In the Kitchens
While we may be a part of a considerably evolved society, we still almost unflinchingly abide by certain old wives’ tales about periods especially those around women in kitchens. Italy seems to believe that women during periods should not knead dough because it would not rise. Similarly, in France it is believed that in the hands of a menstruating woman, a jar of mayonnaise will curdle, and Japan says women on periods cannot make good sushi owing to an imbalance in their ability to taste. In India, women are restricted from entering the kitchen altogether. I could go on but the truth would largely remain unchanged. Periods do not affect culinary skills but it is extremely important to eat healthy during the shark week.
In ancient times, women would perform heavy physical tasks that caused discomfort, cramps, excessive blood flow and this is why the general advice was to minimize physical tasks, leading to the prescription of rest from all household activities. This along with the belief that women are “impure and unhygienic during this time” resulted in these old wive’s tales surrounding the kitchen.
Nowadays, when we have several means of sanitation, and men and women lead more or less similar lifestyles that are not as physically intensive, women should be free to cook whichever dish they’d like and whenever they so desire. Many women cook professionally or many others do to de-stress and hence a myth of this sort can hamper their lifestyles to a great degree. Nothing ought to stop them from experimenting in the kitchen.
This continued belief of avoiding sex during periods prevails mostly because we either did not pay attention during sex-ed classes, or because we didn’t have access to them in the first place. However, it’s never too late to know the facts. To start with many believe that it is impossible to be pregnant while having sex – and that is not true. It is highly unlikely, but not impossible. A man’s sperm can live inside a woman for up to 72 hours after ejaculation. If you are toward the end of your period, your chances of becoming pregnant are higher. Hence, nothing is different about the sex when the woman is on her period – other than increased lubrication, which is often a good thing. And yes, period blood does not harm a man’s penis in any way.
In Swimming Pools, Beaches and Bathrooms
Who let the sharks out? Not women on their periods. It is believed that when women on their periods swim by the beach, they are joined by sharks. Contrarily, women on their periods only bleed an average of 6 – 8 teaspoons during each menstrual cycle -definitely not enough to attract a shark from the depths of the sea. Moreover, due to the pressure of water, the blood flow from your vagina pauses temporarily until you move out of the water- be it the sea, a swimming pool or a bathtub.
Myths about washing your hair at the start of your period or at the end of your period are prevalent across all cultures. Some promise good hair, other’s build fear around hair fall. All in all, there has been no scientific evidence of any correlation of a woman’s period and the washing of her hair. The only truth is that the hormones in a woman’s body during periods may fluctuate tremendously, which could result in a slight change in regular hair growth/fall patterns – but washing or not washing the hair at certain times definitely does nothing to prevent it.
Over the years women have been made to believe that they are “cursed” because they bleed, but the truth remains that without menstruation, there can be no second generation for humankind. It is time we recognize the power behind our monthly period and accept it as a natural process that is essential to the very existence of life on Earth.