Love Your Body
On August 9th, Azadi, Healthera, and Badal ja! co-hosted a unique exploration of spoken word and facilitated discussion around what it truly means to “Love Your Body.” Both Azadi and Healthera work in the menstrual health space to empower women to take control of their bodies and health. Thus, they were ideal partners in creating a safe space for participants to share stories of success and frustration around menstruation, body image, and the role of society and media in shaping these perceptions.
The event opened with four brilliant spoken word performances by Suhani Mohan from Healthera, fellow BJ!-er Nilima Achwal, literary enthusiast Anu Elizabeth Roche, and spoken word artist, Alfred Lee. Each performance was different and as poignant as the one before it, leaving the room spellbound and empowered, and fostered a deeper sense of understanding and community.
The performances varied in topic and included an exploration of the plethora of all too familiar menstrual taboos that exist in India, a heart wrenching conversation with Ganesha on accepting our womanhood, and reflections on what’s not to love about a woman.
A personal favourite, dedicated to the girl child in each of us, explored the shame society imposes on having a vagina—shame that can stem from something as simple as not being able to pee on public transport. Powerful lines from her piece that still resonate with me today implored us grown women:
I don’t know if you will name
that little button-shaped nub
the one that melts when you crush it between your thumb and forefinger
a clitoris. And I don’t care. All I hope for is that you know
there is one place
in your entire body
meant to pleasure no one else
Another piece asked sarcastically, “What’s not to love about the female form?” and reminded us of how women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized by society and exploited by the media.
Building upon the energy from the performances, we opened space for discussion. Participants jotted down topics that they wanted to discuss into the “taboo-breaking box.” As the made its way around the room, it was fantastic to note that the ratio of guys to girls was more or less equal, and everyone openly shared their views and struggles on menstruation and body image. Many times, we laughed at the idiosyncrasy of some of the personal stories shared.
When asked the question “Why do men act uncomfortable when menstruation comes up in conversation?”, one male participant shared that he doesn’t engage in “period” talk because he simply has no idea what to say. Others in the group were all too happy to throw suggestions his way!
From periods, the conversation then turned towards body image, loving our bodies, and how the media affect our perceptions, sometimes without us realizing it. As a person who has struggled for decades with body image issues, I found this part of conversation to be particularly healing—especially when we turned to steps others have taken to overcome their struggles. Another male participant shared an inspiring story about how some people mocked an athletic achievement—climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro—saying he doesn’t look “athletic enough” to climb a mountain. From that day, he resolved to never allow anyone to belittle his achievements based on his appearance.
Our conversation concluded with messages of gratitude, understanding, and empowerment. Participants committed to daily small steps to love and respect the body. Post discussion, we bonded further over chai. This event left me with a strong sense of community and solidarity.
Here’s a list of positive small steps for loving our bodies and living without shame that the group came up with. Which ones would you adopt in your daily life? What other steps could be added here?
- I will ask the store not to wrap my sanitary napkins in newspaper and a black bag. We do not need to hide our periods!
- I will say the word “period.”
- I will approach my boss and tell him if my period is hindering my work travel.
- I will compliment others on something other than their appearance or clothes.
- When I go to the bathroom, I will carry my pad without hiding it in my purse.
- I will start exercising to connect with my body.
- We can ask our girlfriend/wife/sister/mother/friend what you can do to help her feel better during her period.
- I will tell myself I am beautiful each day.
- I will tell someone else they are beautiful each day.
- I will facilitate more conversation around body positivity and menstruation at home.
- I will teach my younger sister to control decisions around her hair and her body.
Many thanks to the folks at Azadi and Healthera for inviting us to co-facilitate this beautiful gathering. Thank you to The Hive for hosting. And most importantly, thank you to all the participants who came out to share their stories with such honesty and openness! It is moments like these and people like you that inspire us to continue what we do at Badal ja!—so once again, thank you!
All of this community building leaves us hungry for more. Join us this September for our next Small Steps meet up, during which we’ll cover sex and sexuality! We’ll announce the date and venue soon—be first to get scoop by joining the mailing list and Small Steps community forum.