I grew up in a community that never spoke about women’s bodies.
When topics of reproductive and sexual health came up, the conversations existed in whispered tones. Most times I felt too embarrassed to even ask questions when I found myself feeling curious. Instead, I turned to the internet, or close friends, to find my answers.
To provide some context: My family is from Pakistan, a country where women are considered mothers and wives before all else. And while I grew up in the United States, my immediate surroundings were still heavily influenced by the culture my parents had grown up in.
Through my experience, I learned how culture can dictate the conversations that are had about women’s bodies and how they’re had. Because my family is from Pakistan, conversations about first periods, that for some of my friends may have been awkward but still empowering, for me were hushed and with heavy undertones of shame.
It wasn’t until these conversations started openly happening in other social settings that my perception of them began to shift. Being able to openly read about a woman’s lived experience has helped remove the shame that at one point eclipsed the conversations.
Now, however, I’ve also realize that speaking up about women’s health is the only way to remove the taboo. Especially with my family, I have tried to have more open conversations about my health and my body. It has not only made me feel less ashamed, but brought me closer to them.