Padman’s promotion has missed out on the main issue feminists feel. Its a woman’s menstrual hygine subject! Women have many stories to share about their menstrual health, sexual health, reproductive health and health in general. The promotions seem to have missed out on the WOMAN in the story.
On a social networking site some women shared their stories and their view ON ‘PADMAN’
Heba Ahmed writes-
“Photos of smirking men posing with clean white sanitary pads on facebook and instagram reminded me of something that I had forgotten about my own menarche (menarche=onset of menstruation). My first menstrual pad was not a shiny new Whisper/Stayfree. It was a small sewn pouch of scrap. The making of that pouch has a painful story as well. Ammi would ask our house help, Imrana aunty, to fetch the “katran” or scrap material left over from the footwear-manufacturing workshop where Imrana’s brothers worked. (Footwear manufacturing is a major caste-based profession for many low-income families in the Muslim ghettos of Calcutta). Then Ammi would cut up an old cotton sari or salwar, make a small pouch, fill it with the fragments, and sew it up. Needless to say, that bulging pouch of s(crap) was excruciatingly painful for me, especially when attending school. It was only after a couple of months, when I complained to Ammi about my pain, that Ammi began to buy sanitary pads for me and then my sister.
The other day, I asked Ammi why she gave us those pouches. Like some of my other questions, this one was very embarrassing for her to recall and reply to. She said that she too had been denied the comfort of clean hygienic sanitary pads by her own mother and so she didn’t know any better when bringing up my sister and me. She too was used to using scraps of katran for herself. But that is Ammi’s story, and I must not appropriate it for my own narration.
What is clear, however, is this: Ammi and many many other women have been made to believe that their own health, their menstrual health, is not something worth spending money and effort on; that you should not give more than just a cursory attention to your bodily needs because anything more is sheer exorbitance. Today, when I see silly-ass men posing with a pad as if they’re going to bring a revolution with it, what looks more meaningful instead is the little personal histories of women and their notch-by-notch struggle with the edifice of patriarchy.”
The well known feminist activist responded to Heba’s post –
“ Thanks Heba Ahmed for sharing this. My mother gave me a piece of cloth, without explaining why I was bleeding, when it would stop, if it would keep coming, Nothing. I used cloth , washed it and reused it for years. I don’t know if my mother or even I knew about pads in the village where I was growing up. We did not have money. I think using washable cloth is the best option. Where will the billions of sanitary napkins with plastic go? I am glad organisations like Goonj in Delhi and Jatan in Udaipur are making these washable napkins and making them available. Mountains of used , non bio degradable napkins will drown humanity and the earth and fill the seas. Love.”
“oh yes..The best service to women would be to promote and supply the sanitary pads to the poorest of poor..when i look at the poor young girls on streets it makes me think over and over again..Universal immunization programme is there why not universal menstural hygiene programme..Respect to the womanhood.”
“Very Well said Heba di and i agree with u. Women from my own family too had been denied the comfort.. Including my mother. Most say they werent available else expensive. Especially in village areas. I have been lucky that i didnt have to go through all that. My mother made it sure. My mum did share her experiences with me..”
Another Feminist activist Geeta Seshu wrote- “I was equally annoyed at seeing all those pictures of smiling men! Not a single woman in all those Padman promos 😦 Vainly hoping they understand how tough it still is for women.”
The film maker and the producer have focused on the shame associated with sanitary napkins. In their own way they have started a mass scale discussion on menstrual health and hygine. Their campaign has focused on bringing out pads/sanitary napkins in the open as “normal” and not a thing to be ashamed of. However, the campaign should have had women talking about their stories…after all that is what the film’s purpose is …to make women address their menstrual health.