Monday, December 11, 2023
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A poem dedicated to gender equality and menstrual justice

By Nandar

A Gentle Revolution

This is for those who bleed and have bled
This is for
My grandmother
My mother
My sisters
My nieces
And for those we call brothers

I know what it feels like to see blood coming out of a vagina
Not knowing whether it is a curse or a blessing

I remember the first time I bled
An alarming worry in my mother’s eyes
The look of people wrapping my body with
Shame, Disgust & Myths
It was an out-of-body experience
“I lost my body.” I thought
For seven days,
I couldn’t go to school
Away from home and family
I didn’t see the light
My head pondered with questions
That nobody answered

“This is our culture,” they said.

Culture is an ugly word
When we use it to seal voices
This is our culture
Boys don’t cry
This is our culture
Women are second-class
This is our culture
Real men don’t wear makeup or thanaka
This is our culture
Stop talking about
Sex education,
Feminism and LGBTQI+
This is our culture
We don’t like questions
This is our culture
You do this and don’t do this
“This is our culture” is used for
caging girls and boys
Unable to utter a word
Those girls and boys die a slow death

I did die for the first time,
when I bled,
Hating my body
Battling with self-esteem
Forgetting the joy of womanhood
Not celebrating my health
Shaming myself for having a vagina
“What is wrong with you?” I asked.
In my head was a brain,
A brain, washed and whitened.

“This is our culture.”
I died second time
Staring at the lifeless body of my father
My mother refused to touch him
Since menstruating women CAN’T touch men
It will reduce their lifespan or hpone or aryu, or
Whatever they think men have that women don’t have
My poor obedient mother,
Did NOT, could NOT, and would NOT touch
As she watched him take his last breath, helpless
That day,
Someone lost their son
Someone lost their husband
Someone lost their father
Someone lost their brother
Someone lost their friend

“This is our culture”
This time,
It was a wake-up call
A reminder
No lives deserve to die
Due to the natural blood flow
From the vagina
It is how we reproduce
How we mother our children

If women don’t bleed, how would YOU exist?

If anyone has the power to change
It is us, it is us
The one who bleeds
Every month
Carrying the agony of
Mood swing
Breast pain
Yet, we show up
At work
In Schools
At temples

Brick by Brick
Building our alternative land of justice and equality

This! This is our gentle revolution,
Just to exist every day with our menstrual blood

Next time when someone tells you
“This is our culture”
You yell them back,
“We are claiming our bodies from the culture that wants to destroy us.
This, my friend, is our revolution,
Our gentle revolution has just begun.
With our menstruation.

Ma Nandar is a feminist activist, a storyteller, and a podcaster from Shan State. Her passion for justice and equity started early in life when she began to question the cultural norms in her community that were demeaning women’s and girls’ lives. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Purple Feminists Group and hosts the podcasts G-Taw Zagar Wyne (in Burmese) and Feminist Talks (in English).

In 2020, she was named to the BBC 100 Women list. She has recently been selected for the CAHR Protective Writing Fellowship at the University of York, UK. In her free time, she enjoys walking, writing, reading, and watching comedies to rest and respite.


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