New Delhi: It is a week when selfies with pads, and not pouts, were the most talked about. From film stars, sports personalities, and in general netizens were seen flaunting a sanitary pad but more important was the message they were conveying, ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of about periods.’ Sceptics can brush it aside as a mere promotion for a film and question its real impact beyond social media. But in an otherwise opaque world where girls are conditioned to not talk about menstruation even within the privacy of homes, let alone in public domain, at least the #PadManChallenge got the vocal world of social media buzzing with, ‘Let’s talk about menstruation!’
The #PadManChallenge was initiated by India’s real PadMan – Arunachalam Muruganantham, who 14 years ago fought against all odds to come up with India’s first low-cost sanitary machine for women in rural India who were unable to avail the products available in the market, for economic and other reasons. After Murugantham tagged the stars associated with the film based on his life and work, the #PadManChallenge took off. From Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Twinkle Khanna, Radhika Apte, the challenge found support from the likes of Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma, among many other Bollywood stars. It then had sport personalities like Cricket coach Ravi Shastri, Badminton champion PV Sindhu and Wrestling star Geeta Phogat joining in.
But amidst all the glamour, the common netizen too was actively taking up the #PadManChallenge and doing their bit, to break the taboo around Menstruation.
After all menstruation is a natural process, that’s all!
— sreepoorna majumdar (@Sreepoorna31) February 2, 2018
It’s a sanitary napkin, what’s there to hide?
Bought these without newspaper/black paper bag. A group of men were starring at me while I was carrying this in my hand, but never mind I clicked a photo rather! Thanku @mrsfunnybones @akshaykumar @sonamakapoor @radhika_apte @PadManTheFilm for this confidence. #PadManChallenge pic.twitter.com/853EZXWMPg
— Karishma Asoodani (@tweettokarishma) February 2, 2018
Say boo to taboos. Period.
— DEEPAK KALRA (@Thedeepakkalra) February 3, 2018
United for a cause, #TalkAboutMenstruation
— Vidit Dhavale (@DhavleVidit) February 8, 2018
Yes, there’s nothing to be ashamed of – speak up!
— Anwesha Brahma (@brahma_anwesha) February 6, 2018
Once the silence is broken only then can conversations around issues begin. Apart from women’s health aspect of menstruation, a sanitary pad also highlights the lack of access to hygiene products which is a reality for 88% of menstruating women in this country, due to economic and other constraints. A pad is also a cause of concern as it is sanitary waste that ends up in landfills untreated. So some on social media, as part of this challenge, went the extra mile and posted pictures of holding eco-friendly sanitary napkins. So it is not just about fighting the stigma, pushing for hygienic solutions, it is also about being environmentally responsible.
I see your #PadmanChallenge, and I raise you my menstrual cup. Around 1.5 years ago, I switched to something that made my periods less inconvenient, smelly, painful, and expensive. It's probably one of the best inventions to ever come my way as a menstruator 🙂 (it's now a word) pic.twitter.com/IAhaiktyfQ
— Antara (@AntaraT) February 6, 2018
The challenge initially associated with promoting a brand new movie Padman, where the celebs are posing with a sanitary napkin to show their support… pic.twitter.com/x53oQ0bhc0
— Sindhu (@travelingrao) February 6, 2018
— Mayuri Bhattacharjee (she/her) #dignityindisasters (@Mayuri_tezpur) February 5, 2018
It is only pertinent that such issues get highlighted. The PadMan biopic is on Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who made sanitary pads accessible to women in rural parts and his products are both low cost and biodegradable. The true achievement of the challenge and the movie, which releases on February 9, will be to open up the discussion on menstruation, where menstural hygiene, and management of menstrual waste are not brushed away as a problems that don’t exsit, just because no one talks about them.