A Tale of Womanhood

(A Sociological Reflection of the Documentary Film “Period. End of Sentence.” This reflective analysis is coursework in Sociology of Gender.)

     The documentary discusses the essentialist view of gender and its power, which poses the distinction and disparity between men and women. Essentialism elucidates the facets of human behaviour and identity as part of its essentiality (Jackson and Rahman, 2010, p. 16-17). The film “Period. End of Sentence” reflectively exposes this disparity in human behaviour and identity. The salient points of the documentary are the following: but are not limited to the teenage girls’ inferiority about their menstruation, the elders’ cultural and religious beliefs relative to menstruation, a patriarchal family structure that represses girls in discussing biological experience within the family and among their peers, and the women’s struggle for freedom and empowerment. These issues need to unveil and to understand better gender and femininity and their significance to women’s work toward equality with men.

     The inferiority complex brought by the stigma of menstruation among teenage girls in rural India troubled them. This atypical experience of girls is a life transition from puberty to womanhood, which describes femininity’s quintessence. Judith Lorber (2010, p. 15) observes that the anatomical differences between men and women destined them for an exclusive roles in a completely different social life. Yet, social practices entirely changed them. Such menstrual experience of women is a way to determine sex biologically and socially classify them as female (West & Zimmerman, 2015, p. 35). This idea confirms girls sex assigned at birth by a doctor, which the family reinforces.

     Patriarchy has a significant influence on the construction of gender. An Indian family is an example of a patriarchal society that illustrates the father’s authority, while the mother’s roles are limited to domestic affairs. Thus, male ascendancy prevails and legitimizes its dominance in all aspects of societal groups. In this status quo, it is tough and troublesome to discuss something about women. Similarly, even among female friends or women’s groups, menstruation is an awkward topic to discuss since it is peculiar and idiosyncratic. This natural experience of women, which is genetically different from men, developed a psychological perspective among children in the family about the males’ superiority (Jackson and Rahman, 2010, p. 41). This thinking’s repercussion tends toward low self-esteem and trepidations, resulting in women’s submission to men, which in turn male domination persists. This ramification is best demonstrated in the first half of the film through the girls’ facial expressions, body language, and discomfort because of their menstrual experiences’ stigmatization. Nowadays, men should comprehend this feminine “thing” as the essence of women’s sexuality, which is more significant than reiterating their traditionally given social roles.

     Somehow, there is a gradual shift in the patriarchal system where the family ancestry easily recognizes its head through the male bloodline. People remember the family’s head through his successful and educated daughter’s name in the changing time. Sneha described this gradual influence alteration in the patriarchal structure through the story of a daughter who works in Delhi Police Department. At this point, a woman working in the socially described masculine job deviates the masculinization of certain types of employment.

     More so, the elders’ cultural sway and religious beliefs affect women’s ability to demonstrate their essential roles in society. In the film, Sneha enunciated such cultural values and spiritual practices that uphold inequality between men and women. She observed women’s repression and deterrence to earn a living, especially after marriage. In this context, making income is an economic power toward independence, which the patriarchal system prohibits women. Likewise, defiance of religious practices is ignominy. Menstruation is a shame and taboo in Indian society. Therefore, any expressed disagreement with this norm and standard means being pugnacious to the entire village. The masses gradually view this psychological labelling optimistically through the schools, health education, and community awareness program reinforcements.

     Furthermore, the documentary depicts women’s struggle for freedom, empowerment, and impartial status in society. In a feminist view, human culture sets the limits of women not reaching their full potentials in societal accomplishments or public life. The school principal’s argument that women are the foundation and a powerful cluster of every society shows a feminist philosophical thought; however, most women do not recognize that power within themselves that they could do more. On the one hand, the purposeful social interaction among their peers can unlock women’s possibilities of doing more. On the other hand, the awareness sessions, proper education, peer meetings specifically at work, and marketing of manufactured sanitary pads by women demonstrate women’s capability to do more.

     Gender equality, in a way, through equal job opportunity and earning money boosts women’s dignity, intensifies their self-esteem, and gains respect from men, particularly from their male spouses. Earning money from their labour and making them busy rather than idle at home illustrate a shift in men’s thinking about women’s social role.  Reflectively, menstruation is not a stigma as traditional society describes, but rather a symbol of womanhood and a beginning of women’s intrusive minds to emerge its full potentials parallel to men.    

____________________

References

Jackson, S., & Rahman, M. (2010). Gender & sexuality sociological approaches. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Lorber, J. (2015). The gendered society reader. “Believing is seeing: biology as ideology.” Chapter 3, pp. 15-22. Oxford University Press Canada.

West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (2015). The gendered society reader. “Doing gender.” Chapter 5, pp. 34-44. Oxford University Press Canada.

Zehtachi, R. (Director). (2018). Period. End of Sentence [Documentary Film]. The Pad Project 2018, India.

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