“Can you tell us about your experience of being on your period while fasting during Ramadan?”
THINX recently asked me to write a short piece on this topic, and I think I wildly disappointed them when I shared that Muslim women are exempt from fasting while menstruating. So even though they decided to "go in another direction" I remembered that I have another place to post all my ridiculous thoughts (right here hehe). So thanks for the #inspo THINX 👌🏽
I can’t (and never claim to) speak on behalf of all Muslim women, but this question prompted me to think about the relationship between womanhood + religion. And for me, so much of what has defined this intersection in my life is the month of Ramadan.
THINX was on the nose with their question - there is a potential added physical discomfort and hardship that comes with praying/fasting while menstruating, and so Islam specifically provides a framework for women not to put ourselves at harm, and instead encourages us to rest and be mindful of our nutritional intake. As most of us know, in too many cultures, period-talk is taboo. Women are shunned, shamed, and mistreated all over the world while menstruating. There are of course milder degrees of this, but in most South Asian families (among others) even now, periods aren’t openly discussed -- particularly around men.
I used to cringe from embarrassment at the thought of my dad knowing I was on my period. I'm not sure why, considering he has 3 daughters, and there’s so much that he would do for us that I never thought was weird. He’d buy us pads from the grocery store, take us to threading appointments, wait patiently as our mom took us to the bra sections of the department stores. He let it all happen in a gentle way, without awkwardness and also without conversation.
During Ramadan, when I wasn’t waking up for suhoor, my dad was worried that I would starve myself all day out of solidarity and/or embarrassment. I used to pretend that I was fasting, and that I was taking a 7 day hiatus from suhoor 😂 but he knew I didn't want to tip toe around the kitchen and make myself breakfast/lunch while everyone else was fasting.
So every morning, my dad would wake up early and leave a glass of chocolate milk and a banana for me next to my keys, along with some lunch money. I'd gulp it down and grab my banana to go.
Like many South Asian dads, my dad tends to be quiet when it comes to anything emotional or uncomfortable. But he is fiercely protective. And fiercely loving in his own quiet way. And though I didn't appreciate it then, I can see now that he unknowingly bridged the gap between the culture he knew and the culture he wished to create. Instead of ignoring what had probably been ignored for generations in his own family and upbringing, he challenged an unspoken rule and just did what came naturally to him: he took care of me. And through this simple act of love, he taught me how to take care of myself, thereby teaching me how to honor my own rights in Islam. (#RespectTheWomb)
This last Ramadan, my girlfriends and I made it a point to be open about when we weren’t fasting. There were so many looks of discomfort around us, our guy friends squirming and avoiding eye contact. (Is that new though 😂😂😂) When they asked us why we shared so much, we’d laugh and shrug it off. But there were so many reasons.
Because I never want to hear you say “dude I don’t have any sisters, how should I know?”
Because you are the dads of the future. And you should be ready to treat your future daughters with the compassion that will mold them into strong, confident women who embrace their femininity and use it to find within themselves their greatest strengths.
Because if our immigrant fathers — who had to bridge discomforts that we’ll never know — could facilitate change through love and compassion, isn’t the least we can do with our 1st generation American privilege talk about the things that make us a little bit uncomfortable.
Because with this privilege comes the responsibility of creating change through dialogue, empathy and a truer understanding of another’s realities.
Because if we can’t talk about the facts, then what can we talk about.
Because there should be more dads like mine in this world.