After all the hullaballoo over the censor board not allowing PadMan to release in Pakistan, there were many reactions on social media. The conservatives found the subject of the film to be in poor taste while the liberals shed many a tear over the ban since according to them the film was an attempt to break taboos.
On the other hand, the ‘religious liberals’ took to the social media bandwagon quoting the courage of women in Medina who would ask the Prophet (PBUH) about menstruation and other related matters. And then of course, there were those who love to mock anything and everything and hence, they took to making memes and ridiculing the idea of female issues.
But in this interesting chaos one thing which all groups agreed upon is that the issue of ‘puberty’ must be addressed. And I have spent the last few days reading long debates on social media about female puberty. Some say it’s a natural phenomenon and hence, it should not be dealt with as a taboo. Others suggest that it doesn’t need to be highlighted so publicly.
What is puberty?
In a society like ours, many issues remain unaddressed and puberty is one of them. The hygiene and health factors related to puberty vary among different social classes in our society. Children in our society are not taught about their raging hormones; neither at home nor at school. However, girls are a bit more informed as compared to boys. An important part of puberty for any girl is menstruation or monthly cycle and it is addressed to some extent in schools and at home. But boys, on the other hand, are left at the mercy of friends or the internet, from where they often receive misleading information.
Puberty in a female is a lot more than just menstruation; it’s a physiological shift in a girl’s body. It is not only the monthly discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus, the growth of hair particularly on the pubic area and armpits and physical changes in the body; it also results in mood swings, urges and raging hormones. It is an exhausting process both physically and mentally.
Menstruation, on the other hand, is the second stage of puberty. Once a girl starts her period or menses, she must be given proper guidelines about health and hygiene for a healthy reproductive system. Sadly, many girls in our part of the world have no or limited access to healthy sanitation products.
But what about puberty in males? As lamentable as the condition of female puberty is, our young boys are in an even worse state. Most young boys in our society don’t have even basic information about the changes that occur in their body. The sudden transformation in their body is as exhausting as it is for girls. They may not bleed, but they too feel the physiological changes in their bodies. And unlike girls, they receive no empathy from home or school as they have to live up to the age-old ‘mard ban…mard’.
This lack of empathy makes them confused and I am quite sure some of the callousness and insensitivity that young boys show is due to this confusion.
Why do we shy away from talking to our boys?
So, my question is this – how do we expect society in general, and boys in particular, to suddenly be able to talk about menstruation and be open about puberty when their own puberty has never been discussed with them?
Did you warn your son about the impending physical changes in his body?
Did you explain to him what he might experience in his pubic area or talk to him about restlessness or certain discharges that may occur?
Is your son prepared to handle his raging hormones?
I have a feeling your answer will be ‘No’ because most of us don’t educate boys about these issues at home or at school. They are never given any hygiene or health guidelines for their reproductive health. Mothers usually feel shy in discussing puberty with their sons while fathers are simply not ready. They don’t have the words to explain puberty to sons. And most parents hide behind the answer,
“Uskey dost bata dein gaye.”
So, then how do we expect boys to look at a sanitary napkin and be okay with it when to them puberty was never a serious topic? After all, the lack of information makes it a non-existent issue for them, doesn’t it?
Why do we misuse social and religious paradigms?
Another issue that irks me is the misuse of religious and cultural contexts. Why do we forget that the Quran and Hadith give clear instruction regarding not only menstruation, but issues related to men as well? The entire concept of taharat (purity) is to address all the issues that both men and women face. If Islam promotes it as a subject that needs to be taught to girls AND boys, who are we to make it taboo?
However, we need to understand that there are many ways to convey information according to the sensibilities of the society we live in. It is not always necessary to flash a pad to educate. Many times information can be given in a manner which does not make the receivers uncomfortable.
But the important thing is that we as parents need to educate our sons and daughters about puberty for a healthier society. If we want society to be open about health and hygiene, we must address it in our homes first. Moreover, schools should be encouraged to give informative lessons to both genders.
One may or may not agree to the approach taken by PadMan but at least, the movie has sparked an important discussion, right?