happy to bleed

2015 Was the Year of the Period, and Happy to Bleed and Pads Against Sexism Are on It

So everyone — including NPR! hey NPR! Welcome to the period party! — has been all about how 2015 has been the biggest year for menstruation since fourth grade, when I pretended to not be totally into that video they showed us in gym class. Cosmo said it and Buzzfeed said it and Hello Giggles said it and did I mention NPR? They all made lists about big moments in the menstrual news of 2015.

But in their chronicle of the year of the period, Cosmo and Buzzfeed and Hello Giggles and even NPR left out two cool pro-period campaigns: Pads Against Sexism and Happy to Bleed, anti-menstruation-taboo campaigns led by student feminists across India.

According to the organizers, Pads Against Sexism (also called Pads Against Patriarchy) was inspired by a public art project by German artist Elone Kastratia, who celebrated International Women’s Day by sticking sanitary napkins (period diapers? vagina towels?) with feminist messages across her city.

Impressed by Kastratia’s work, student activists at Jamia Millia Islamia, a government university in Delhi, decorated campus with their own feminist menstrual messages — and students at other universities followed suit, padding (yup, pun) campuses with messages like:

Streets of Delhi belong to women too

Rapists rape people, not outfits

Activist Nikita Azad started Happy to Bleed in November, as one of a chorus of feminist responses to a statement by Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the Travancore Devaswom Hindu Temple administering Board in the southern state of Kerala. Women aren’t currently allowed access to the state’s Sabarimala Temple (one manifestation of many world religions’ charming tendency to stigmatize menstruation). Gopalakrishnan posited that this could change when a magical machine was put into use to detect whether blood was — in the immortal words of Trump – coming out women’s whatevers:

There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.

In response, Azad posted a rallying cry wherein she encouraged feminists across the country to post their own messages of menstrual solidarity on pads and social media.

A flurry of media activity in response to both campaigns helped lower the stigma and raised the profile of menstrual issues in India. Writers also took down the idea that periods are only chill because they’re important in making babies and babies are important to patriarchy. And Azad and other activists pointed out that menstrual stigma particularly affects lower-caste women and women living in poverty, who are often forced to miss school during their periods or have no sanitary accommodations at work. 

As an added bonus, the campaigns paved the way for lots of puns on the phrase laal salaam, or “red salute,” which is both a leftist laudatory exclamation and my new favorite radical period euphemism. 

A big ol’ red salute to Elone Kastratia, Nikita Azad, Kiran Gandhi, Rupi KaurSarah Levy, and all other menstrual warriors of 2015. And happy 2016, menstruating people of the world: Let’s bleed all over this new year.

Photo credit: Happy to Bleed Facebook page

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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