GENDER

Happy To Bleed: Women Fight Against Temple Ban With Period Protest

An Indian temple announced a ban on women until a period "scanner" is invented—and women took to social media to revolt

GENDER
(Illustration: Diana Quach/Vocativ)
Nov 23, 2015 at 5:52 PM ET

If only there were a high-tech device that could out menstruating women—a metal-detector, but for periods! Such was the thinking of Prayar Gopalakrishnan of the famous Indian temple Sabarimala, who announced last week that women will continue to be banned from the pilgrimage site until the invention of such a device. “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,” he said. “When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.”

Historically, it hasn’t been unusual for Hindu temples to ban menstruating women—although one small-scale survey found that plenty of women ignore such prohibitions—but Gopalakrishnan’s remarks have nonetheless sparked a social media firestorm. Indian women are taking to Facebook and Twitter with photos of sanitary napkins bearing three words in bright red ink: “Happy To Bleed.” It’s part of a growing hashtag movement, #happytobleed, which was launched over the weekend.

The movement was started by 20-year-old Indian activist Nikita Azad. In a post on Countercurrents.org, she explained the thinking behind the hashtag: “Happy, as a word, is used as a satire, a taunt, a comment, on patriarchal forces which attach the understanding of purity-impurity of women with menstruation.” Similarly, the Facebook group Feminism in India, which forwarded Azad’s campaign, describes the movement as “a form of resistance against patriarchal beliefs about menstruation and chauvinist notions that consider women the property of men, or society.”

Not all of the social media posts associated with the campaign employ the tactic of pads-for-protest. Some women have simply scrawled the slogan on poster board, while others tweet challenges to menstrual taboos. A particularly popular theme has been to call attention to the basic biological function of menstruation. As one woman wrote on Twitter, “Don’t forget its [sic] the same ‘Impurity’ you survived on, for nine months inside your mother’s womb. #HappyToBleed.” In a Facebook post, Japleen Pasricha, founder of Feminism in India, put it like so: “My vagina bleeds which is ironically why you accept me as a ‘woman,’ else I’d have been dismissed as barren. So shut the fuck up about impurity, this blood is the reason why you’re alive.”