Kiran Gandhi, the woman who ran the London Marathon with her ‘flow’ in full flow shocked me. Living through what I’ve lived through (stories saved for my memoir) I thought nothing could shock me. Gandhi proved me wrong. It seemed I wasn’t the only one to have had such a strong reaction. Women – and men – around the world voiced their own opinions. It was interesting to read and be a part of the discussions. While there were some women who supported the decision, the vast majority rejected it as a distasteful act.
Gandhi wrote on her website: “I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs. I got my flow the night before and it was a total disaster but I didn’t want to clean it up. It would have been way too uncomfortable to worry about a tampon for 26.2 miles.”
Where did I sit on the matter? I sat in the camp that disapproved.
Firstly, I don’t agree with the logic behind not wearing a tampon because I don’t see how it can be uncomfortable. I am sure women the world over have run marathons on their periods and they’ve worn tampons with no issues. I feel this decision was a calculated media stunt. I should know, I’ve been in the PR, marketing and advertising world long enough to know a stunt when I see one.
Gandhi continued: “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.”
I think credit should be given where credit is due so I commend Gandhi for her strength of conviction. However, I think she is extremely misguided in her idea that running with her period flowing somehow relates to overcoming and “transcending oppression.” A woman’s period is not a sign of oppression. It is a fact of life. Just like if a man suffers an erection at an inopportune time or a person publicly suffers from diarrhoea.
An act of self-importance?
To also state the she is advocating for women who don’t have access to tampons is to me absurd. I assume women use washable and reusable cloths in the third and developing worlds. In fact, I’d be more interested to hear their voice on the matter which is almost inaudible due to the many voices expressing disgust.
While I think Gandhi’s heart was in the right place (I hope it was, otherwise it’s just a weird act of moral superiority and self importance) I think the approach to raise awareness was ill-conceived. I think she would have received more buy in if she did it in a way that was less about her and more about finding the solution to the bigger problem, which is of course, poverty. Why not do something about that Gandhi?
Feminists are allowed to disagree.
As a staunch feminist I believe that people have the right to choose. If Gandhi chooses to run and flow freely that’s her choice. However as a feminist I also believe that I have the choice to disagree with the act. I personally wouldn’t have made that choice, but I won’t stop anyone from making whatever free choice (within the confines of ‘just’ laws) that they want to make.
Gandhi should understand that being a feminist does not absolve her from the judgements of other feminists. I do not support the way in which the cause was promoted but I do support her right to make whatever choice she wants. I wouldn’t personally choose to have six children, but there are women out there that do and that is their choice. There are women who are exotic dancers. I wouldn’t personally choose this line of work for myself, but this again is their choice.
This idea that feminism means that all women should agree and be a part of some sisterhood is also false. As a feminist I believe that women should be free to debate and disagree without it being seen as catty and bitchy.
The other concern I have is how the media has linked this to an act of feminism. This I’m sure is why women are afraid to call themselves a feminist; they don’t want to be painted with the same negative brush. Women get confused and think they have to not shave their legs, stop wearing bras or bleed all over the place when in fact this is not the case at all. Feminism is essentially about seeking equality.
In a comment left on the People article “Woman Runs a London Marathon Without Tampon, Bleeds Freely to Raise Awareness,” Brian Leger left one of the best comments I have read so far on this issue. A woman named “Kris” defending Gandhi’s actions stating this is about “women living in extreme poverty” who don’t have access to menstrual products and pads, Brian retorted: “But if free-bleeding is normal and a non-issue, why do they need pads? You see the conflicting messages here?”
Hear hear Brian. I completely agree with you.
To find out more, read Kiran Gandhi’s blog
So do her actions harm or hurt the feminist cause? Are there other ways to raise awareness? Could she have lobbied governments and companies? You decide. What do you think?