A poem on the occasion of Women’s Day, that, hopefully, does a good job of explaining why I won’t celebrate Women’s Day.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
They gave us free sanitary pads — winged and scented for our comfort — and taught us how to use them.
The room was coloured in hues of pink and power; the walls adorned with glittering prophecy.
Who runs the world? Girls!
In that room we sat, on red chairs, for corporate sponsors to teach us how it would be to be a woman one day.
We put our bags over our bare thighs, so the teachers wouldn’t measure us with two-fingers and punish us for the length of our skirts.
Two-fingers the judge of our modesty, forevermore.
A man in a brown coat stood just outside the door, explaining to the presenter, the salient features of being a woman she was allowed to share.
He wouldn’t enter the room, the door closed against his back, this talk was for the girls. Oh what a delightfully safe space!
She got on stage and performed the theatre of empowerment, with confetti and dance; one conceived no doubt in a boardroom where no tampons ever went.
Before us she brandished, a white pad wrapped in green-plastic, and explained how losing blood is what made us women.
Oh, it would hurt.
How could it not?
We were allowed not to run if it hurt too much, but that didn’t mean we shouldn’t; we could sit quietly and not complain, or we could run in pain and not complain.
Womanhood means having a choice!
My friend, she raised her hand, and asked what else she could use because the material of most sanitary pads made her vagina itch.
A panicked, underpaid teacher hurried onto the stage in her heels, whispered into the ear of the presenter and shot a haughty look at my friend as she retreated.
“We shouldn’t use such words in public!” The kind lady relayed, “They are your private parts and private parts should be kept private.“
No other answer to her question ever came, she turned her head to me and rolled her hazel eyes, as her attempt to make them acknowledge a menstrual product that you had to put inside you fell flat on its face.
The lady explained the science of the magic pads, failing to mention they would clog our rivers forever, as we stashed our little notes in our bras lest we be caught communicating with one another.
They reminded us to pay attention because later we would be tested on what we had learnt, and we wouldn’t make it to the scholar’s list because we had failed the test of being women.
We watched her demonstrate something most of us had already been doing for years, as the boys ran in the grounds and shot hoops outside the canteen.
But there was a big surprise! Our attendance wasn’t for nothing! A free pack of sanitary pads for each of us! What an incredible treat that was!
Perhaps I would have cared more if they had remembered to mention, that I’d be taxed on products I needed well into adulthood because not bleeding all over myself is a luxury.
An accident of fate and I could have been born in state where I would be relegated to a shed to bleed my uncleanness to death.
At the exit doors, stood yet another teacher, reminding us to put those little green packets into our bags before we left. This world is our little secret, we mustn’t let our empowerment be too loud!
I shoved my pads into my bag and rushed down the stairs. Past the exclamation-mark ridden posters of an exclusionary sisterhood.
Later I used one of those free pads to staunch the bleeding from having a man inside my private parts.
Sometimes rape bleeds, but at least we had the free pads!
I sat at my study-desk and began to do my homework, they’d taught us about womanhood, so we had to show our work.
“Women’s Day: A Day Of Empowerment“
I titled the page. With a red marker I drew two lines underneath the title.
The lies in my notes stared at me like a thousand little nooses hung haphazardly in a room full of stains. I’d lost so much blood to this womanhood game.
And I would celebrate your holiday, I swear, for celebration, i have a knack.
I was just wondering, if first, I could have my blood back?