By Amy Stewart, LMFT
“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything.”
Filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi is in my running for the best opening line of an Oscar acceptance speech, EVER, in response to her project, “Period. End of Sentence” winning documentary short subject.
On Netflix and easily worth your 26 minutes, the film is a snippet of rural Indian women’s experience with the introduction of a low-cost pad making machine. It deftly highlights the powerful impact of menstrual equality on women’s overall equity in society and directly addresses the taboo around menstruation. All in an environment where women and men alike are swimming in deeply-rooted stigma.
As shown, fewer than 10% of women have access to menstrual pads, with many forced to use whatever cloth or rags they can find. Unsanitary, obviously; dangerous and unsafe, even more troubling. Women are made to stay home from temple during their periods, as they are believed “unclean.” Nothing like the patriarchy to kick women out of the very same space they go to worship a female goddess for deeming dirty something female bodies do naturally.
Further, many drop out of school due to inability to manage their periods while there. Imagine: rather than the threat of being kept from riding a white horse in white jeans as suggested by a tampon commercial, the reality is being kept from school thus kept from an education thus kept from a job thus kept from doing anything beyond staying kept in your “place.”
Breaking Taboos, One Pad At A Time
The women not only have the freedom of wearing the product and literally going places, (ahem, school) but also take part in it’s creation. The brand is named Fly, because “now we want women to rise and fly.” They are made by women, providing jobs and a source of income. They sell door to door and hold education groups, communicating with others and passing info on, creating an upward spiral of newfound freedom. Ultimately, these women are dispelling myths, breaking taboos and evaporating shame, one pad at a time.
The machines and film were funded by The Pad Project, a non-profit started by Oakland high school students and professor Melissa Berton, who wins my award for best closing line of an Oscar acceptance speech, saying:
“ A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.”