The night before Kiran Gandhi’s first marathon, she got her period, and some brutal cramps to go along with it. Gandhi, an accomplished 26-year-old who’s earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and toured as a drummer with MIA, had never practiced running while menstruating before. In an essay she wrote for Medium last month that set the internet ablaze, Gandhi recounts weighing her options:
“Running 26.2 miles with a wad of cotton material wedged between my legs just seemed so absurd. Plus they say chaffing is a real thing. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I knew that I was lucky to have access to tampons etc, to be part of a society that at least has a norm around periods. I could definitely choose to participate in this norm at the expense of my own comfort and just deal with it quietly. But then I thought…If there’s one person society can’t eff with, it’s a marathon runner. You can’t tell a marathoner to clean themselves up, or to prioritize the comfort of others. On the marathon course, I could choose whether or not I wanted to participate in this norm of shaming.”
So Gandhi ran the London Marathon aided only by the help of some midol — no pads or tampons. She bled freely (and visibly) through the entire race in an act of solidarity with the countless woman around the world who aren’t fortunate enough to have access to feminine products. Periods are frequently a source of shame and embarrassment in the US, but in many other parts of the globe, things go a big step further. Many women are forced into seclusion during their cycle, expected to use unsanitary rags in secret to manage their flow, and forbidden from cooking or touching others until menstruation is over. For much of womankind, periods mean feeling invisible, so on the morning of her marathon, Gandhi set out to be anything but.
I have to admit, running with blood flowing freely sounds like it would be very physically uncomfortable, maybe more so than running with a menstrual pad in place, but Gandhi’s choice had effects far deeper than a few hours of discomfort. What do you think of her bold decision?