If you got to the finish line of a marathon race and noticed the crotch of your running tights was soaked in blood you’d probably be mortified. If you were Kiran Gandhi, you’d be pleased. In fact, that’s precisely the result the 26-year-old musician was going for when she decided to run the London Marathon sans tampon a few months back.
Cosmo caught wind of the story on the Harvard Business School grad’s website and decided to reach out to get some much-needed answers to the slew of questions I’m sure we all have about her motives. But try as I might, and no matter how many times I read over her reasoning, I still can’t get with the free-flowing period program.
For five questions, Gandhi recounts, in various ways, what isn’t news to any female over the age of 13: periods suck, and for a number of reasons. While some women have been blessed to have no concept of PMS, Gandhi is one of the millions of women who, each month, experience extremely painful cramps the first couple of days of her cycle and contemplates even getting out of bed — much less running a marathon — in that state. Recounting the fear that she wouldn’t even be able to run when her period arrived the night before her race, as well as the memory of a friend whose chest is now chaffed from wearing a tampon in her bra during a race last year just in case she got her period, Gandhi explains how she came to the decision to forego any method of sanitation at all:
“The actual marathon day, I remember being in pain. It’s that plus the anxiety — butterflies in my stomach before running. I took Midol, which helped. I was trying to be in the moment, and Ana and Meredith (her friends) were so hyped. Those are the things that allowed the pain to subside and for me to just run. And feel fucking empowered to run bleeding on a marathon course. Once I started bleeding, I felt kind of like, Yeah! Fuck you! I felt very empowered by that. I did.”
Asked why bleeding through one’s pants should be looked at any differently from marathoner’s peeing in their running clothes (didn’t know that was a thing), Gandi further explained:
“It’s more about owning your own comfort level and being confident in your own skin to do what you need to do to accomplish something. Really making it about yourself instead of about other people. For me, it was a bit of a metaphor. I was like, Running a marathon is a very, very big stretch for me. I need to do whatever it takes to get myself to the end of that line. We were running for a greater cause, we were running for breast cancer… I just wanted it to not matter. But it does matter in our society, right? If it didn’t, everyone would be bleeding freely all the time, but instead we have to cover it up.”
As for how she’s feeling about the resulting attention on her, Gandhi said:
“Men and women alike, they get it. That is my favorite part about this whole thing, that people are remembering that women have this thing that they have to deal with. For some people, it isn’t a big deal, and for other people, it is. It’s amazing that every month, they clean it up, and every month, they act like they aren’t in pain when they are. That’s a big fucking deal.
“The other thing that’s a big deal is that people around the world who can’t either afford to clean up because society tells you you have to and can’t go out in public and participate in work or go to the pool…it is oppressive to make someone not talk about their own body.”
Had Gandhi led with the very last point she made in her Cosmo article instead of the woe is menstruating me narrative, I could’ve gotten behind her actions. I really could have. No, I couldn’t see myself imitating what she did, but you can’t deny there’s hardly a more vivid way to demonstrate the issue of access to feminine products which many women across the globe face. While Gandhi may not have felt any shame while running because she wore her stains by choice, there are millions of women who don’t have such a choice and that is most definitely a problem. Being expected to not bleed all over your clothes and office chairs and train cars and restaurant booths during that time of the month is not.
Periods are a part of life. In this day and age I don’t know many ladies who do things in spite of their period. They just do them. Honestly, I’m more impressed with the fact that Gandhi ran a marathon, period, not that she did it on her period. I know the struggle. There are greater ones to overcome in this life. There’s also a difference between oppression and expectations of common decency. I don’t agree with the idea that everything natural must always be on display, much like one’s aversion to seeing such acts doesn’t equate shaming. I don’t want so see images of Gandhi in blood-stained pants because I don’t like looking at my own blood every 28 days. And I don’t like looking at my blood every 28 days, not because the Bible said I’m “unclean” or society taught me women in this state are dirty, it’s because period blood is messy, and smelly, and requires far more work than I feel like dealing with just to tinkle. But it’s life. Sometimes I talk about it, like when I come in the office looking like death asking for Tylenol and someone offers me Ginger Ale because they don’t realize it’s not that kind of stomach ache. Other times I don’t bring it up because (1) my “condition” is not unique and (2) I am obviously one of the last of a dying breed that believes some things still belong in a category labeled TMI.
While I think what Gandhi did was absolutely bold and courageous, her true purpose, let alone the success of her plan, are lost in the sauce — or the blood in this case. To be honest, she could’ve gotten further with me by sharing a sob story on a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for women with limited access to sanitary napkins and the like. Now I’m just looking at her like an attention-starved woman who wants a pat on her back for doing something women across the world do on a monthly basis, not to mention one who’s also ignorant to the other means of blood absorption besides potentially chaffing tampons. Try again girl; next time without all the period pomp and circumstance.
Photo Credits: Kiran Gandhi