On Sunday morning I went to a hotel fitness room for a run. While on the treadmill, I heard news about US politician Donald Trump. Referring to Meghan Kelly, the news moderator who hosted a republican debate that he participated in, Trump said that during the debate she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.”
Her wherever meant her vagina; he was talking about menstruation. Mentioning menstruation is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to disregard, disempower and disadvantage girls and women. Menstruation is a normal biological function, but, happening to the female half of the population, it has been a symbol of weakness, emotion and incapability for centuries. Gloria Steinem mused that if men could menstruate, “clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event.”
Still frustrated over Trump’s comments, off of the treadmill I received some positive menstruation news: 26 year old Kiran Gandi ran the London Marathon while on her period- without using a pad or tampon.
Kiran, who had been training for a year and ran with her friends to raise money for Breast Cancer Care, got her period the night before the race. According to social norms, her options were bleak: she could either forfeit the marathon or run while wearing a pad or tampon. Since she would not be able to stop to change a pad or tampon, this option wasn’t viable. And neither was forfeiting. So she created a third option: running without a pad or tampon.
Kiran saw this as an opportunity to break taboos and advocate for girls and women. “On the marathon course, sexism can be beaten,” Kiran explained on her website. “Where the stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant, and we can re-write the rules as we choose. Where a woman’s comfort supersedes that of the observer.”
Kiran also said, “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons.” Globally, adolescent girls who lack access to pads miss a week of school a month, which puts them behind their peers academically and perpetuates the marginalizing and disadvantaging stigma that continues into adulthood. Women who lack access struggle to work outside of the home because they cannot miss one week of work a month.
While Trump worked the existing power structures, Kiran worked to break them down. Let’s run in her footsteps and rewrite the social rules.