Shame on the Period Shamers

Ah, period shaming during Ramadan. How many Muslim women can honestly claim that they haven’t been told to eat secretly so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities of an ummah who can’t handle the knowledge that a woman might menstruating? Let alone the fact that we somehow manage to get caught sneaking a bite during “that” time of the month anyway. Because, of course.

Which Muslim woman can claim that she hasn’t fielded side-eye after side-eye because, “God, she isn’t even praying! Shameless!” Chances are, every Muslim woman has experienced shaming for this God-given biological process, and let me tell you, NONE OF US appreciate the gesture. It’s a dehumanizing experience, and holds us accountable to provide answers in a gendered space. Make no mistake, we do not owe anyone answers, particularly to those who practice the culturally-ingrained stigmatization of the period!

And so, in an effort to depict just how eye-roll-worthy it can be to be a Muslim woman on her period during Ramadan, we asked our #MuslimGirlArmy to sound off! And ladies, you did NOT disappoint, so here is a collection of the best you had to offer. Perhaps we can unite in our experiences and own the biological processes God blessed us with:

“These Dummies Forget Everything I Explain to Them About Ramadan, so I Have to Re-Explain Every Year…”

“When my boss asks me if Ramadan is over because I’m drinking coffee, and I awkwardly have to explain that it’s not over, but I can eat this week. Then he asks, ‘How come?’ And I have to decide whether to tell my employer that I’m on my period. I already work in a male-dominated field (law) so it gets weird talking about something so personal about my body. Plus, these dummies forget everything I explain to them about Ramadan, so I have to re-explain every year…”

“So, I was fasting and it was the first year my period came, and my mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to fast. Meanwhile, my dad knew nothing about this and he caught me eating in kitchen. There were probably two  hours left to fast, and my dad was telling me, ‘Aren’t you embarrassed? You left two hours for this, and you are a grown-up now. Look at your sister, she is younger than you and she can manage it,’ but then my mom came and told him the truth. Somehow, I felt as embarrassed as he did.” 😐

“My mother always made me feel like my period should be kept secret from any man, so they should not see me eating in Ramadan — even if I’m not eating in front of them. Some of my friends go as far as to avoid eating in front of their dads or siblings so that they wouldn’t find out they’re on their periods. So, they basically fast on period days too, which is just idiotic in my opinion. I personally am growing out of that. I don’t advertise my period for everyone to see, but I don’t make the same effort to hide.”

“Then We Kind of Looked at Each Other and She Was Like, ‘OH.’”

“My first time ever being on my period during Ramadan, I was around 12. I didn’t really think about it, and kinda forgot that people were fasting because I wasn’t. So, I drank from the water fountain at the mosque and got yelled at by this older man. This wasn’t my first time going head to head with him. Anyways, he made me feel super ashamed to not be fasting because I was on my period. I was 12, dude. I didn’t think that it would enrage a 40 year old man like that. Yikes! 🙄😂😷”

“So, I was an ‘ajnabia,’ or a foreigner in Jordan. I was fasting for Ramadan, and then when I had my period I stopped fasting (as you do). I went to the corner store to grab something to drink, and I wasn’t going to drink in front of anyone, but this lady gave me a long lecture about how now is Ramadan and people in Jordan fast. Okay, I get that maybe she thought I didn’t know because I don’t ‘look Muslim.’  I don’t wanna blame her. But then, I told her I was fasting during Ramadan. She said that’s not possible if I’m going to drink. Then we kind of looked at each other and she was like, ‘OH,’ and the shopkeeper was sitting there doing his best to not be involved in this convo. It was all in Arabic so obviously he understood everything, and in Jordan it’s eib/taboo to talk about periods in front of anyone, especially unrelated men.”

“I used to feel ashamed when I was younger. I’ve been told it wasn’t permissible to eat in front of fasting people; that it would confuse non-Muslims. But now, I don’t care, especially in the summer. In fact, I use it as a learning tool. I tell non-Muslims, ‘You notice I am not fasting today as I was last week. Ramadan is not over, but I’m menstruating so for my health, per Islam, I do not fast.’ Also, I did not fast when I was pregnant or breastfeeding, both times. Lots of people tried to shame me for that one, but they were not responsible for my children’s health so bye. 👋”

“It Was as If I Had Something to Hide.” 

“Growing up, a lot of the Pakistani culture that I was surrounded with would make me hide my period. They’d tell me not to eat in front of men during Ramadan; to eat in secret. And even attending after school mosque/Quran class, I would have to keep going whilst on my period but learn/read Urdu as an alternative, and not say why I wasn’t learning Quran. It was if I had something wrong to hide. It’s disgusting. Young Muslim women are raised and taught to be ashamed of their periods as if it’s something bad, or horrible. When really, it’s NATURAL. Allah CREATED women like so! So now I don’t feel the pressure to hide my period. I embrace my womanhood as it comes monthly. All women should. It’s a cycle of our creation and life — literally!”

“When I was a bit younger, my mom would tell me to act like I’m fasting so my father and brother wouldn’t realize that I am on my period. As I grew up, I realized how much I disagree with that! Now, I don’t hide it anymore; periods are a God-given, natural, regular thing for women, AND fasting is excused — why hide it from a male? Especially a family member? Luckily, my mother started to understand and see if through my eyes too. So, now it is a mutual understanding in my household, and I know I won’t ever tell my daughters in the future to ever starve themselves when they aren’t fasting, just to hide their periods from male family members!”

“In my culture (British Pakistani), bleeding is seen as such a disgusting thing! People get so superstitious, thinking women who are on their period can’t be in the kitchen or else the food will make everyone sick. It’s so dehumanizing to women. I make a point of not hiding it, and openly tell family members, ‘It’s that time of the month,’ or ‘Allah has excused me from fasting this week,’ just to prove a point that there’s nothing shameful about periods! Honestly a distant family friend of mine sadly passed away due to a postpartum hemorrhage (something that is very easily treatable). When I asked why she died and did not seek medical advice, I learned it was because all her life, she had been made to feel ashamed of her bleeding. She literally bled to death after childbirth due to the shame and social stigma around vaginal bleeding. Women are taught to ‘shut up’ and ‘have shame’ and not to discuss vaginal bleeding — and not talking about it is literally killing women! We should talk about it. We should discuss it (where appropriate) and know what’s normal/not normal. My mother never had a ‘period talk’ with me. She just handed me some pads, and told me I’m a woman, and that I need to start wearing a hijab full-time and covering up in front of men, or else they’d do things to me. I got my first period when I was 8 years old. I was still a child mentally, although physically I was fully developed. I feel as though my childhood was literally taken away from me! However, Alhamdulillah, I’ve used my past experiences to shape my future career (midwifery) in the hope of raising women’s voices, and letting them share their childbirth experiences. There’s nothing disgusting or shameful about our biological processes. I didn’t feel supported by the women around me, but I hope to support the women around me, through my career, and my personal life.”

“I once attended a strict, all-girls Islamic school, and during Ramadan, you better be praying or hiding. It didn’t make sense seeing as we were only around girls, and it’s an expected monthly thing. No eating on the school grounds (during Ramadan), and no showing that you weren’t fasting. You ended up staying hungry the whole day anyway. In a way, that made me ashamed of having my periods during Ramadan.” 

“My dad used to shame me about my periods during Ramadan, and told me I couldn’t eat in front of him. So, I did it anyway because I don’t see the harm in it, and sometimes I couldn’t do otherwise. And so, he yelled at me one day, telling me I should be ashamed of myself. I have lots of friends who are not allowed to eat in front of their dads/brothers/husbands.”