Monday, April 18, 2016

Pads are not a luxury

Students of Beaconhouse National University recently protested against the stigma attached with menstruation and used one of the accessories needed by women in ‘those days’. They stuck sanitary pads on the walls of the institution to talk about something that is hidden behind a lot of negative mythology, especially in our part of the world. 

The students dared to talk of the unaesthetic biological process that is directly connected to fertility, something without which the world cannot move forward. No new brilliant brains will be born, no new astronauts made or engineers or doctors if this process did not exist. At least! not yet. But still, unlike the Neolithic people of Çatalhöyük, we chide those who bleed once a month.

We can say in religion that under a mother’s feet is the way to paradise, but we cannot really wrap our heads around the process which enables her to bring that paradise to life. We simply hate menstruating women, but we also hate those who are beyond that age and hence of no benefit to men who want to continue spreading their seeds, whether they are needed or not. We can easily ‘bitch’ about them when we feel like, especially if we have a bloated male ego.

So it is not a wonder that Shaan Taseer was very upset with the BNU students. Using his position of power, Taseer spoke of the students as privileged who did not know the situation, as a very small percentage of women in Pakistan uses pads.

In his haste to judge women, especially on their class, Shaan Taseer forgot his own privilege, which was pointed out by a journalist. That did not sit too well with the spoiled brat of the late Taseer and he resorted to further insults to her as a woman, as a feminist, and as a ‘guttersnipe’.

Shaan Taseer forgot that being a male, and that too a privileged one, born to a family known for having an extravagant lifestyle and stealing wages of its workers, he was treading on soft ground. He also forgot that being male he does not menstruate and cannot really tell what a woman goes through or feels when she is told ‘not to touch the Quran’ or ‘to not even think of being an imam at a mosque because of being filthy’.

He does not know how a woman panics if her shirt is stained because she sat for too long or when she forgot her ‘date’. Shaan Taseer apparently does not even know that menstruating is beyond class, caste, or color. Perhaps he is too busy wallowing in his sorrows about his stolen heritage and drowning in foreign booze.

Half the humans of this world menstruate, have menstruated or will menstruate some day. So the protest by the BNU students was very much valid and very much needed. The ill comments made by Shaan Taseer were neither needed nor welcome.

The BNU protest or awareness campaign was labeled un-aesthetic and very displeasing by the bourgeois, who said 'there are aesthetic ways' of doing so. Perhaps wrapping those pads up in brown paper bags would have pleased their aesthetics. Or maybe never even mentioning the word pad could have done the trick.

The ignorance is very striking. Pads are not a luxury, but a necessity. Using branded pads might be a matter of class, but not using homemade pads or some other form of absorbent, including homemade tampons. For almost all the women, Always or Stayfree pads might be considered a ‘luxury item’ due to the cost, which shouldn’t be the case. A woman living in the village, who is turning old rags into a pad, an urban woman who cannot afford pads and is using cotton and cloth, both need access to sanitary pads. (A woman whose salary has not been paid needs money to buy pads and wishes that money was not being squandered by her employer on booze and foreign trips).

If Shaan Taseer had said that a very small percentage of women in Pakistan have access to branded and hygienic pads, it would have made sense. If he had said having access to sanitary pads should not be a matter of privilege, his comment would have been appreciated. Instead of attacking the women who disagreed and the women who protested, had he simply said pads should not be a luxury item, it would have been different.

Sadly, he did not say any of those things and simply used derogatory language and continued to attack whoever tried to intervene or show him the privilege mirror.

And like in all debates, when a privileged male takes a negative stand on something, there are always people who want to come to the rescue of the shehri baboo. In this case the descendent of a man who is considered a martyr by the liberals of this country. Who, we are told was being defended on stealing the wages of Daily Times workers by his son.

.....and they said daagh to achay hotay hein!

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