My Body Is Not Your Punchline

I was just eleven when I was conditioned to think of my body as a deplorable entity. It was the second semester of sixth grade, when innocence was ubiquitous and minds were malleable as dough. I walked to the school bathroom with a pad loose between my fingers, the plastic wrapping fluttering unabashedly in the air like a flag for all curious eyes to see. Unbeknownst to me was that in the next month, it would become crushed inside my fist like the wings of a bird that could fly, but was too confined by its own doubt to extend its feathers.

I was just eleven when society seized me in its claws, threw me in a cage with lions, and mistook me for the predator.

Later, they would haste a dubious look at the pad in my hand as if it were rotting into my flesh. As if it were acid seeping into my cells and tainting my very existence. You’re supposed to hide it, they told me.

Later, they would tell me a plethora of things.

They told me in saccharine voices that I was too sweet of a girl to speak freely on something so vile. They told me in jeering smiles to suck it up and stop being overdramatic when my emotions were glossed over as “PMSing.” They told me with knives as tongues that my days at school would be barren of friends if I opened my mouth and dared to say the word “period.” Those three syllables were loaded guns and my body was the battlefield. But how asinine it is that a process allowing for the creation of life is warped and twisted into poison. How ludicrous for society to normalize drugs, infidelity, and violence but manifest stigmas around a female’s natural chemistry.

And now, I think of the eleven year old girls with juvenile minds and naive hearts, vulnerable to the opprobrium of those who perceive menstrual cycles as akin to disease. Who will have to build immunities to people who think their understanding of a woman’s body is better than the woman’s herself. And who will tire of the standards imposed on them and decide they have sat there long enough with their mouths clamped and their hands tied and will have had enough.

And having enough is okay. It’s more than okay – it’s exactly what we need. Why should we silence ourselves and allow others to define menstrual products as luxuries? We must use our voices to speak for the voiceless – the homeless women who suffer from inadequate hygiene and the women in developing countries that are forced to isolate themselves once a month due to stigmatized conceptions.

To all the women out there: now is the time to shatter the monolithic abyss of shame society has fettered us in. Our lives have been spent on the sidelines listening to politicians make decisions about our bodies. If we cannot change their minds, we can start with us. We are capable of forming universes with our actions. We hold the power of a thousand galaxies in between our legs. Our bodies might be battlefields, but we can use them to release our chains and fight for freedom.