Free Bleeding: Going with the flow?
In a world where period stains are one of our worst fears, here’s a concept that questions shame and stains: free bleeding. As the name suggests, it means menstruating without the use of period products, in private and in public.
Free bleeding strives to address and openly challenge:
· the social shame associated with menstruation
· the enormous financial costs that many cannot afford
· and the environmental damage caused by the waste generated by menstrual products
Some wear normal clothes, allowing their menstrual blood to soak and show, while others opt for period-proof clothing. While it is a lifestyle choice, it has been used to fight the well-known tampon tax in many countries.
What started with Sarah discussing the epiphany about bloodstains on ‘All about my vagina’ led to ‘Operation Freebleeding’, a misogynic stunt that ironically introduced the idea of free bleeding to a larger community. This radical movement received quite some more attention when drummer Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon with bloodstained leggings while free bleeding and when Instagram took down a picture of poet Rupi Kaur’s period-themed pictures. The #bleedwhiletrans campaign on social media continued this with an equal inclusion of trans men in the movement.
Back when rags and cloth soaked up blood in the absence of pads, tampons, or cups, free bleeding was not an intentional choice. Although today, it’s a huge part of menstrual activism. There are no proven health benefits of free bleeding. But some obvious advantages are:
· Keeps your vaginal fluid and bacteria healthy: much better than a barely soaked tampon or a dry vagina
· Better for the planet: thanks to you canceling your menstrual subscription service
· Saves money in the long run
· No more distractions, toxic shock syndromes, or chemicals
Although overcoming stigma and starting a conversation is a ground we all need to stand on, menstrual blood is capable of transmitting diseases like HIV, and not to mention, leaving behind a foul smell. Several viruses, including hepatitis, can live in dried blood for up to 4 days. You could be spreading infections on the area where you bleed, putting people at risk for a variety of diseases. We can all agree that raising awareness is vital, but it cannot come at the expense of someone's health.
Free bleeding yoga is another interesting element of the free bleeding movement. It is observed by menstruators all over the world to commemorate all menstruators, both those who have periods and those who cannot. Free bleeding yoga practitioners aren't ashamed of their periods, and they don't think others should be either. While “free bleeding” through their yoga pants, a series of yoga poses help alleviate menstrual cramps.
Opinions surrounding this practice go both ways. Period blood is not unclean or unnatural, but a lot of menstruators do not resonate with the movement. It ultimately sets the progress we made backwards, disregarding our health and also of those around us.
Then again, free bleeding is also believed to be symbolic of breaking through patriarchal oppression. It’s more than a trend, but also isn’t something that a huge bandwagon of feminists has jumped on to.
In the end, it all comes down to choice. Choose what is right for you. Bleed your way, clean it up your way, and do not let others tell you how or why.
Have a bloody good period!
Written by Nibha Patil
Artwork by Khyati Patkar