A video of a yoga instructor, wearing white, performing a pose and letting her leaking period show through her leggings, went viral last week.
Steph Gongora, who posted the video to her Instagram account, and racked up over 340,000 views, says she was making a point about cultural shame.
"I am a woman, therefore, I bleed," she wrote on her Instagram post. "It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible and it's beautiful. And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. I bury things at the bottom of the trash. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight-lipped, painted-on smile."
Look. There is a lot to be said for the shame women have to endure about this normal bodily function. It's illegal, but there are some villages in Nepal that banish women to isolated sheds while they're menstruating. In Malawi the shame over a woman's period is such that nobody talks about it. At all. In fact, in Malawi (and other parts of Africa), young women end up dropping out of school because they stay home when they have their period and fall behind in their studies.
And yeah, period cramps are sometimes so painful, no amount of breathing will ease it, particularly if you suffer from endometriosis
But, can we be real for a sec? We're not using tampons or pads or even menstrual cups because of shame, we're using them because we don't like mess! Do you know how stubborn period stains are?
I don't sip my smoothie through a straw because I'm ashamed of blueberries. I don't wipe the sweat off my body on a hot day because I want to bury things at the bottom of some kind of metaphorical trash. Is deodorant a response to cultural shame? Yeah, because bad body odour is real, guys. It's real and it is disgusting.
If I may borrow the soap box Steph was posing on for a minute, I would argue that we're fortunate in Australia to have access to a variety of sanitary products, (and clean places to use them). And despite Gongora stating on her Instagram post that she wasn't "free bleeding" (yes, it's a thing and it means not using any sanitary products and just letting your period free-flow), the post went viral because people thought she was. So, her post and the white yoga pants rang a bit hollow to me.
Gongora also wants us to stop using nicknames for our period, (and that's a shame because I was quite attached to Cab Sav). She says we should stop hiding our tampons in our bathrooms and purses. I'm not sure I'm hiding my tampons so much as forgetting to clean out my handbag but whatever, let's go with your thing.
Bottom line: this is a yoga instructor using her platform to promote education – awesome. She even went so far as to throw her support behind an organic tampon company that donates pads to girls who can't afford them.
Cynic that I am, I thought Steph was awakening us all to a deeper consciousness of White Girl Pain in all its glorious privilege and well-intentioned naïvety. She said she wants to make it ok to talk about periods, even on social media. Apparently there is an intolerance?
Hey, don't get me wrong, White Girl Pain is real, ya'll. I should know, I experience it almost every day. Here, I'll list some examples. So you don't feel alone.
-When I went to see La La Land and left the cinema underwhelmed. I mean, a white jazz aficionado falls for a young lady who wants to put on a one-woman show. They then proceed to dance like they're understudies in a school play. It's the whitest musical in years; I should've loved it. I didn't. I don't know who I am right now.
-When I asked for a large coffee with almond milk and was served a regular with almond milk. What was I going to do? Correct the barista? There's too much cultural shame around alternative milks these days, people would've raised their eyebrows at me, and with my fragile sense of self-worth, gleaned largely from Dove commercials, I would be crushed.
-When I walk into Country Road and the shop assistant asks me how my day is going. Can't she respect my boundaries as a woman and understand I'm in no mood to talk?
-When I can see on my iPhone that the person has received my message and is reading it but then they don't reply straightaway? I mean, the rudeness.
-When my Uber driver plays the music too loud and I can hear it over my podcast about the cycle of poverty among minorities.
-When Lena Dunham does something that I wouldn't do and I feel alienated from my own tribe.
-When women show off their yoga poses on social media. Wow, I guess we've come full-circle. Hang in there Steph, maybe one day, when cafes stop serving under-ripe avocados and organic shampoo properly foams up, the world will accept that middle class women can bleed through their white leggings if they want to. Namaste.