BY: KAROUN CHAHINIAN
After realizing she was going to be on her period the day of her first marathon, Kiran Gandhi had to make a choice: to be “a crazy chick who needs to just calm down and reach for an effing tampon,” or a “liberated boss madame who loved her own body, was running an effing marathon and was not in the mood for being oppressed that day.” After running 26 miles while bleeding freely to eliminate the stigma surrounding periods and to raise awareness for women all over the world who do not have access to feminine hygiene products, she definitely earned the status of a “liberated boss madame.”
Gandhi, a 26-year-old Harvard MBA student and former drummer for M.I.A., spent a year training for the London Marathon, in which she was going to run for the Breast Cancer Care. On the day of the race, she was blindsided by her period, but didn’t let that stop her from crossing the finish line and instead decided to run while bleeding freely. What was originally about not wanting to be uncomfortable by running with a tampon turned into a powerful social experiment to end the stigma surrounding periods and to raise awarenesss for women in the world who do not have access to basic sanitary products.
On the day of the race, she was blindsided by her period, but didn’t let that stop her from crossing the finish line and instead decided to run while bleeding freely.
“As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50% of us in the human population share monthly,” said Gandhi in her personal essay, Going With the Flow. “Because it is all kept quiet, women are socialized not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see it happening. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably ‘not a big deal’.”
“As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist.”
Through her status of a marathon runner, “the one person society can’t eff with,” according to Gandhi, she had more courage to go against the societal norm of period shaming.
“A marathon in itself is a centuries old symbolic act. Why not use it as a means to draw light to my sisters who don’t have access to tampons and, despite cramping and pain, hide it away like it doesn’t exist?” she said.
Gandhi did exactly that and gave zero fucks about what others thought of her. While it would have been easy to wear black bottoms to make the blood look subtle, she took the opposite approach and wore a bright pink athletic combo to further represent breast cancer.
“We were running for breast cancer so I really wanted to represent that from head to toe. I wanted to be bright. I feel good in bright clothing; it felt really celebratory,” said Gandhi to Cosmopolitan magazine. “If I were to bleed through, I really wholeheartedly believe that at least on a marathon course, no one can say anything.”
While it would have been easy to wear black bottoms to make the blood look subtle, she took the opposite approach and wore a bright pink athletic combo to further represent breast cancer.
While she thought no one could or would say anything to her during the race, a few fellow runners approached Gandhi and in a horrified tone said that she was on her period. Gandhi said she would sarcastically respond with a laugh and a “wow, I had NO idea!”
On April 26, Gandhi ran for the 1 in 8 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, but also bled freely for the 88% of women in India who do not use tampons or pads and for the 40 million women in America who live on the brink of poverty and can’t afford feminine hygiene products. She also ran for the 66% of African girls who know nothing about menstruation until they experience it because of the stigma surrounding periods.
On April 26, Gandhi ran for the 1 in 8 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, but also bled freely for the 88% of women in India who do not use tampons or pads.
While she is being bluntly criticized by being called “disgusting” and “unhygienic” all over social media, she is also being equally praised by thousands of feminists from all over the world for her brave and badass form of activism.