Unpopular Opinion: What If I Had Run a ‘Tough Blooder’ Like Kiran Gandhi?

So…Can we talk about Kiran Gandhi, since she’s been on ALL of my news feeds? If you aren’t familiar, she’s a woman my age who ran a marathon with her menstrual fluid running down her legs (pun intended).

Kiran Gandhi Photo: Kiran Gandhi
Kiran Gandhi
Photo: Kiran Gandhi

Her purpose was to raise awareness of our sisters across the globe who don’t have access to sanitary products and/or are shamed during their times of the month. This is an important cause to me and I have done things in the past to raise awareness as well. I think what Kiran did was courageous and it’s a wonder that we’re just hearing about it.

Many people are calling “bananas” about her motive, but let’s act as though we are 100% sure her motives were genuine. Then, let’s pretend I got the idea to do it (I mean REALLY pretend). If I had Kiran Gandhi’s idea to run without a tampon/Soft Cup/Diva Cup/sponge, here’s what I would have done differently…just because I am me.

Include a Call to Action: I’m not saying she hasn’t done anything else for the cause. I just haven’t been able to find anything else about it! When I read her blog about the run, I did see a lot of facts. It’s nice to inform people, but the call to action was missing.

Someone once taught me to teach using the Hook, Book, Look, and Took method (used mostly for Bible studies and sermons). Kiran hooked us in with her statement at the marathon. She gave us the information through facts on her website.  We understand the need for someone to do something about the way people see menstruation. We should be helping those who don’t have sanitary products. However, she didn’t have anything for people to do about it (the took part). Her blog, which outlines her experience, didn’t include any links to a foundation or a sanitary napkin drive. I searched for something like that, but couldn’t find anything more than the journaling and statistics. To be honest, I didn’t comb the entire Internet looking for it. If someone has seen some type of call to action from her, feel free to share. A person shouldn’t have to look too far from the story to find it, though.

Get Attention, But Don’t Be A Distraction: I know it’s a bit of an oxymoron, but hear me out. Kiran says she prepared for this race for a year and I imagine others have done the same. When I read the story for the first time, I thought about all the people who may have slowed down, sped up, or otherwise altered their run to let her know that she was leaking fluids. Sure enough, she says that’s what happened. I know someone may read this and think, “But that’s the point, lady!” It is the point, but I don’t think a statement should hinder the flow of someone else’s run. If it were me, I would have worn a shirt or sign across my back to let people know to not interrupt my run. “Yes, I’m on my period. No, I don’t plan on doing a thing about it!” tees, anyone?

Even if a person had some way of knowing that I was leaking fluids for a cause, where’s the real opportunity for them to learn why? I guess I would have to hope they’d find me at the end of the marathon to ask. I guess I can hope that they stumble across my website. Better yet, I suppose I’d have to bank on the unpredictable chance that my story goes viral…four months later. Without information, I imagine people having the wrong conversation about the act.

“Oooh…Did you see the girl at the half mark with the bloody va-jay?”

“Why didn’t she prepare? She could have used a Soft Cup!”

“If her flow is that heavy, she should have skipped this one!”

“She had to have known it was coming…”

The list of natural possible reactions to period leaks is long.

Be Mindful of the Event’s Purpose: Apparently, the marathon was in support of breast cancer awareness. That should have been the main focus of the day–especially because these types of races can be emotional for survivors and their families. There are other things going on in the world, but everyone is focused on this thing for this moment. Hmm…That sounds familiar, but that’s another story.

Usually, I’m against the “[Big story] is distracting you from [smaller, more important story] #ButImSleepDoe!” statements, but not here. It’s inevitable that people will use a marathon as a platform for other related causes, but it shouldn’t take away from the cause that brought everyone together. If I got the idea to raise awareness for menstruation shaming, I’d probably do it during the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. That’s a platform that could be used for a myriad of gynocentric issues.

Prepare in Advance: Kiran admits her idea came from her period coming the night before the race. Despite preparing for a year, she “had never actually practiced running on [her] period,” according to her narration. I’m somewhat sure her decision to not practice during her period can be attributed to cramps and the doses of Effitol many women take during their time of the month. However, the slight chance of running the marathon with her period probably crossed her mind within those 12 months. I’ve been one to be conscious of my period start date. That being said, I probably would have given myself a little more time to map out a complete campaign. I’m talking about hashtags on my running shirt, my family holding signs with my blog URL, and information for a drive on my website.

I think that since the idea was last minute, a good deal of preparation was lost. As a result, it seems to me that the conversation is now about “the crazy lady who ran with her menstrual fluids flowing down her leg” and not what we can actually do to change the menstruation discussion. When we’re not discussing how we can remedy the issue, the act can easily get treated as just a stunt. That doesn’t seem to be Kiran’s intent. To fill in the gaps that I feel she left, I’ve included some opportunities below for my readers to do something. If you’d like to help, consider visiting the following links:

  • Project Hygiene is a non-profit that is heavily supported by my alma mater, Bowie State University, and its Student Alumni Association.
  • Laundry Love washes the clothes of those in need for free.
  • Homeless shelters are often short on feminine products and in need of donations. Find one in your area and organize a drive.
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