Period. End of Sentence: How can we challenge White Supremacy and Saviourism in Menstrual Activism.
The documentary screening of Period. End of Sentence took place on the 23rd January 2021 at 5 PM. The essence of the discussion was to challenge the narrative of White Supremacy and Saviourism observed in the Menstrual Activism space. This event saw an attendance of fifteen people from across the world.
This Academy-winning short, directed by Rayka Zahtabchi, revolves around a group of women in Hapur, India, who learn how to operate a machine that makes low-cost, biodegradable menstrual pads, which are then sold to other local women at affordable prices.
The discussion post-screening was insightful, and some of the questions elicited responses that left us with more questions. Read on to know more -
1. What are there scenes or instances that have made you uncomfortable?
Some examples of scenes that were uncomfortable to watch included- a dog walking away with a sanitary napkin and the screening itself, which some of the participants said felt like an advertisement for disposable products.
One scene that was heart-wrenching was when the cameraman walked into a classroom, and the girls were asked if they could explain menstruation. The two girls who were publicly called upon to answer were nearly in tears, trying to explain what they knew through the embarrassment. In an interview, the director Rayka, with regard to the scene, has said, “ In real life, we got about three minutes of footage of her where it seemed like she was going to faint. It was so hard to watch and realize that the shame was so painful. In the edit, part of you wants to indulge in the drama of it and continue that shot for as long as you can…..” (Roy N (2019)
Would the west feel the same if someone barged into their children's classrooms, held a camera to their faces while they felt embarrassed and scared? There would definitely be a hue and cry. So why is it acceptable to do so here? Especially with the knowledge of stigma and shame that already exist about Menstruation?
It is interesting that they chose to keep such scenes. In this regard too, the film failed to be a very feminist representation of menstruation politics.
2. Do you think inadequate and ignorant western ideologies lead the narrative of menstruation in the global south?
There is actually an abundance of period poverty in the West. But why is the focus on ‘poor women from countries recovering from colonialism’? Is this because it is easier to show them as being helpless. The idea of poverty sells, and the documentary itself was not an accurate representation of how India supposedly ‘manages’ menstruation.
A participant said, “You can see this also in the west (from upper class in relation to working classes and period poverty, for example). But certainly western campaigns to “Save women in Poorer countries from menstruation shame’... I see the value of raising inequalities and do that in my own work in relation to incontinence, but at the moment, I’d rather learn how things are done rather than tell how they should be done”.
3. Whose gaze does the documentary cater to? Was it voyeuristic?