Francis Galton invented the word association test in the 1800s in an effort of investigating how word meanings are
stored in our memories. It was used extensively by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung to uncover the workings of the
subconscious mind. The test couldn’t be simpler: the person administering the test says a word, and you have to
respond with the first thing that comes to mind.
Those of you who’ve seen the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara understand exactly what this test gets at.
I was quite amused by this game the first time I saw the movie, and tried this out on several unwilling family members
and friends whose answers were never as entertaining.
Until one day, when I offhandedly said the word ‘’period’’ to garner a response of ‘’impure blood’’.
There are two things extremely wrong with this answer, so let’s break it down into two parts.
- Period blood is not dirty blood. This is a myth that has been around for quite a while so let’s set the record
It’s just blood. Not dirty blood, not impure blood, not toxic blood. Just blood.
Biologically, though, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Menstruation is the breakdown of the lining of the endometrium in case fertilization has not taken place. It is
this lining that comes out through the vagina as blood and mucous. However, there are several other
components that are discharged during the menstrual cycle.
The dark color of the blood is owed to the fact that it has been oxidized for a longer time as it takes a while for
the blood to leave the body. This blood can be accompanied by thick, viscous clumps which is a part of the
endometrial lining. Menstrual blood also contains some secretions by the vagina and cervix along with some
bacteria. But there is nothing to suggest it being ‘’impure’’.
- That answer wasn’t a word.
Menstruation has to be stop being associated with impurity. Menstruation has to be stop being associated with
uncleanliness and it has to be stopped being portrayed and perpetuated as being something sinful. What is has to be
associated with, though, is as being something natural. It is not a ground for discrimination or harassment. It is a
biological process, similar to breathing, similar to digestion. A perfectly normal biological process whose scientific
reasoning has been diluted in the mess of myth and folklore.
Let’s make an effort to undo that. Let’s make an effort to normalize something that is – and has always been –
Let’s stop with the irrational associations.