It might not be for everyone, but we still need to talk about it openly.
The other day, my not-very-smart cousin posted an article about free bleeding along with a not-very-smart comment saying that it was a movement of “disgusting” women who only wanted to get people's attention. Personally, I’m not super pro-free bleeding, but whenever I see a comment like that, especially coming from a person who claims to be a feminist, it's just one of the most hypocritical aspects of today’s society. Why do some people believe that their lifestyle and choices are the only valid ones out there? Why should you care if a person wants to experience their period in a more natural way? Are you seriously entitled to judge or express your opinions about someone else's decisions? I don’t think so, really.
The only thing my cousin was right about (and she didn't even know it) was the attention part. Some of the women who have chosen Free Bleeding do want to call people's attention, but not exactly for themselves as she and many others believe, but actually to de-stigmatize menstruation and blood. It’s unbelievable that it's the twenty-first century, and we still have to discuss menstruation because people think about it as something disgusting (to borrow my cousin’s lovely term). Having said that, this isn’t going to be an article about defending free bleeding because I don’t think it’s something that has to be defended. On the contrary, the point is to see other people's experiences and learn that everybody has the right to live their lives as they desire without us judging them for doing so.
Of course we had to start with Kiran Gandhi, who was basically one of the first to put the movement under the spotlight (though this is actually an immemorial practice) when she went free bleeding in 2015. She was one of the first women who actually stood in front of everybody not caring what they thought about her and her noticeable stains. She wanted to show everyone that menstruation has to be normalized, since it’s as natural as eating or drinking water. In addition, one of the aspects that she was most interested in was to put an end to that culturally-ingrained notion of pretending menstruation and periods don’t exist.
Another woman who chose free bleeding in public is yoga instructor Steph Gongora, who last year decided to post a video of her practicing yoga while on her period. Perhaps one of the most powerful elements of her video, besides the obvious stain of blood, is the description she gives. The way she sees it, yes, periods can be painful, uncomfortable, and messy, but also beautiful. We have to understand ourselves and teach future generations that “it can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but NEVER something to be ashamed about.”
Perhaps one of the most talked-about cases was the photo that poet and artist Rupi Kaur uploaded in 2015 to Instagram and traveled the world, not without sparking tons of comments both positive and negative; in other words, starting a conversation and discussion about how periods are often demonized as if they weren’t natural. The photo was censored by the platform, but she decided to upload it again with a great description in which she thanked Instagram for proving the point of the picture. Why should a fully-dressed sleeping woman be censored? Just because she has a stain on her pants? Why are we as a society okay with this kind of censorship?
As you can see, this is a movement that’s been around for a while now, but that in the past months is getting more and more attention and followers. No, there’s no medical benefit or risk to going free bleeding, but whether you choose to do it or not, it's important to acknowledge it and think about it as a social movement that wants to raise awareness about a natural process we’re taught to pretend doesn’t exist and that many see as something to be ashamed of.
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Cover image by @pusssywitch