Monday, August 10, 2015

That Bloody Marathon Runner Is Weird. Period.

Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while on her period and has gained international attention for it.

(Image: Kiran Gandhi website)
That should probably shock you.  Not that she ran a marathon while on her period; surely women have run marathons while on their periods in times past. There were probably at least few others running right alongside Kiran in the very same marathon. Interestingly enough, women go about their lives doing cool things all the time while menstruating like nothing unusual is happening. It's not an issue because they don't make it an issue.

Kiran (a professional drummer with some bands I've never heard of) made it an issue... a very visible issue. She ran the entire marathon - all 26.2 miles - without a tampon. There are plenty of pictures to document Kiran's issue, too. She bled all over herself... because empowerment.

And questionable hygiene.

All while gaining the attention of an international audience that, for whatever reason, is fascinated with Kiran's monthly discharge.

'Serious' news magazines like Cosmo and People picked up this socially relevant "news" story, running pictures of her bloody pants and calling her a shero (a corny feminist play on the word 'hero', I think). In her Cosmo interview she said, "I really can't think of anything that is the equivalent for men, and for this reason, I believe it's a sexist situation."

I'm almost speechless.


This is why so many women can't bring themselves to wear the feminist label. When the images we see are bloody running pants and dyed armpit hair, it's difficult to see feminists as anything other than crazy. So a quick word of advice to third wave feminists: If you want to convince us that every woman needs feminism, you might want to change your poster children. Because free-bleeding man-haters with long blue armpit hair just aren't cutting it for me.

Kiran Gandhi wrote in her blog (titled Sisterhood, Blood, and Boobs... I guess you can't be much more stereotypically feminist than that, huh?), "On the marathon course, sexism can be beaten. Where the stigma of a woman's period is irrelevant."

Wait a minute. If the stigma of a woman's period is irrelevant, why does she feel the need to bring so much attention to it? Most women know that their periods are fairly irrelevant, although admittedly often inconvenient. Most of us carry on with our daily lives like nothing is wrong. We just pop a couple of Midol, maybe binge on some Hershey's chocolate, and deal. It's irrelevant because we are women. Menstruation might be a fact of our biology, but it doesn't define who we are, and it doesn't define what we are capable of achieving.

For the record, I've done some pretty amazing things while menstruating... like overnight hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and testing for my black belt in karate (both very physically grueling tasks that didn't afford me frequent bathroom breaks). And you know what? Nobody else knew that I was menstruating. No one (except my husband because he has to deal with my whining. I'm pretty sure that was part of the marriage contract). I didn't want or need the attention.

There isn't a stigma (at least not in this country) with a woman's period. We aren't shuffling our women and girls into the isolation of dark tents for 5-7 days every month. Women aren't treated as unclean beasts and forbidden to break bread with men while they menstruate. Women still go to work and school and carry on with their daily lives. Shocking, isn't it? That we could do so much while actively bleeding and most of the time nobody even knows?

"I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn't exist."

Really? Maybe we aren't pretending that it doesn't exist. Maybe we just continue to live our lives like nothing out-of-the-ordinary is happening because... I know it's shocking... but nothing out-of-the-ordinary is happening. We just go on with life. We just do what needs to be done. We live our lives like nothing is happening. Because it ISN'T A BIG DEAL.

Of course, I haven't run a marathon while free-bleeding (thankfully). Kiran Gandhi thought that it would have been "uncomfortable to worry about a tampon for 26.2 miles." Maybe Kiran is just using her tampons wrong. I personally think running with blood flowing down my legs seems pretty uncomfortable, not to mention sticky and gross. (Who am I kidding? Running farther than half way down the street sounds incredibly uncomfortable... but I'm not a runner.) Still, I think I'd rather wear a tampon. Call me crazy.

Kiran also claims to have run the marathon tampon-less to "to encourage women to not be embarrassed about their periods".

Sorry, what? Are we still in middle school? Most fully mature adults are over the awkwardness of adolescence, when we are just learning about the human body and how it functions. Most of us aren't giggling ridiculously anymore like we did in the back of 8th grade health class. Most of us understand the differences between men and women and are okay with them (except for feminists, who seem to think there are no differences... except when there are, and then they want to shove them in our collective faces screaming about gender equality).

The majority of us aren't okay with bodily fluids streaming down people's legs in public. Mostly because it's kind of gross and at least slightly unsanitary. But it mostly makes us uncomfortable, because the person so visibly proud of their visible bloody flow, seems more than a little mentally disturbed.

Women have managed their monthly period without tampons since the beginning of time (some women still have to), and they've done it while maintaining a level of hygiene and dignity. Kiran Gandhi's antics seriously lacked both.

But hey, now that her name has been plastered all over the media, she might be able to land a gig with a more recognizable band. I just hope she'll be hidden behind a nice big drum set.


Robin Follette said...

I just...

...and she...

It's so...

No. Just no. We can simply send tampons where they're needed. Contacting companies goes a long way. I know she's drawn attention to an issue but surely there was another way. I doubt the men who are separated from menstruating women were watching the marathon blood bath on television. I doubt this accomplished much of anything other than media attention in the US.

Janine Woods said...

Yep. I agree with every word you wrote!