In the United States, a first period is often met with excitement. The same level of excitement is not consistent in all parts of the world.
The lack of excitement in other parts of the world has allowed for creatives to jump in with their own representation of the life event and introduce some normalcy into it. For instance, according to First Post, Ariana Abadian-Heifetz wrote the comic book Spreading Your Wings to educate young Indian girls about their periods.
After moving to Uttar Pradesh, Abadian-Heifetz realized how different of an experience it was to menstruate as a young girl in rural India. There girls were often known to use packets of ash, mattress stuffing, or dirty rags as menstrual products, instead of tampons or pads.
The inception of the comic book gave Abadian-Heifetz a different platform through which she could reach all menstruating kids; it was a platform that extended beyond the four-hour menstrual education sessions she hosted through her work with an NGO.
In collaboration with illustrator, Pia Alizé Hazarika, Abadian-Heifetz put together 100 pages of scientifically accurate information about menstruation, including input from medical professionals and experts. In both English and Hindi to make it increasingly accessible.
In addition to the basics, Spread Your Wings also offers advice for educators on how to provide training sessions about menstruation based off her experience working for an NGO.
Abadian-Heifetz further stressed that family planning, sex education, and consent deserve an entirely separate book.
“Young women already grow up thinking their bodies are toxic and dangerous, so there’s all this fear already tied around puberty,” Abadian-Heifetz explained in an interview with the United State of Women’s blog. “Then menstrual hygiene is taught in a really scary way as well. Our team believes that this is counter productive. So the comic book is inspired not just to provide information but to do it in a way that calms anxiety, is really body loving and recognizing just how incredible the female body.”
The comic book is especially relevant because of how, by existing, it challenges the patriarchal views many of these countries are governed by. According to the Hindustani Times, “eight of ten Indian girls are not allowed to enter religious shrines when they are on their period; six of ten girls said they are not allowed to touch food in the kitchen, and 3 of 10 are asked to sleep in a separate room.”
Many of these traditions are passed down from generation to generation in India, as well as in other countries. In the US, it’s grown more common for politicians to imply that dismissing a woman’s statement is allowed because she may be on her time of the month. For example, during the August 2015 Republican debate, then candidate Donald Trump said Fox News host Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever,” according to Slate.
Through her work, Abadian-Heifetz is shedding light on the reality behind a person’s menstrual cycle and debunking many of the myths associated with it, in the process.