#FWOTM: Kiran Gandhi, London Marathon Period Pride Runner

Kiran Gandhi PortraitEarlier this year, we asked the question “Are Periods Still Taboo?” to find out if after seven years of sharing Maxim’s product benefits via what some have called bold and in-your-face marketing tactics, have made a difference in how the general public perceives periods. The recent uproar around Donald Trump’s questionable condescending feminine blood related comments we reported on last week, only continues to feed our conclusions to this question- Yes, periods are clearly still taboo!

Alternatively, on a more positive note, since we asked this question, we’ve also seen the reintroduction of a bill that will shed light on the #tampontruth and the emergence of Lauren Wasser’s story of contracting TSS go viral. This tells us there is a growing rally of strong voices and actions since the early days in which we took to the streets with our grassroots efforts as seen in this throwback video. We might have been young and small when we first filmed this “No Toxins In Our Vaginas” campaign, but thanks to women like this month’s #FierceWoman of the Month, Kiran Gandhi, we’ve seen more bold and positive conversations around menstruation over the past six months than we’ve ever seen in the past seven years since our products’ launch!

Kiran Gandhi, period

If you thought burning pads in store aisle demos and at period parties like we often do in order to ignite conversations about periods and the harmful ingredients found in period products is bold, then you’ll be overly delighted by Kiran’s courageous run in the London marathon on the first day of her period without the use of any menstrual care products just so she can raise awareness for the many women around the world that are shunned by their communities while on their period and who don’t even have access to products to help them feel comfort while on it.

In our exclusive interview with Kiran found below, she tells us that out of all the pushback and praise she’s received over her choice, “the number one thing I have learned was how deeply stigmatized periods still are. They make everyone uncomfortable, and that prevents innovation, protection and comfort for women.” We invite you to read on for more on Kiran’s perspective that will hopefully inspire you to join the growing movement towards #healthymenstruation.

At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why?

The fierce women in my life have been M.I.A., an artist who is constantly changing the world with her ideas, as well as my first boss, who mentored me through an innovative job at Interscope Records (home to Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Mary J Blige!). That said, new fierce women have recently come into my life, such as The Pakistani 17-year-old who wrote to me this week to thank me for speaking out and explained how she has to miss a few days of college every month, or the 25-yr-old in Croatia who wanted to Skype me to ask how she could make a difference in her community. Relating to your phrase, “fierce woman,” I have been using the phrase #LiberatedBossMadame to describe the same sentiment. Here it is in it’s original context from my blog:

I was going through all these crazy thoughts and analyzing whether I was ether a) a crazy chick who needs to just calm down and reach for an effing tampon (someone came up behind me making a disgusted face to tell me in a subdued voice that I was on my period…I was like…wow, I had NO idea!) or b) a liberated boss madame who loved her own body, was running a marathon and was not in the mood for being oppressed that day.

You describe yourself as a feminist. What does that mean to you and how is being a feminist different today than it was when Gloria Steinem was leading the movement?

It is not different. Feminism is about wanting to make the world a better place for women. I believe both men and women can align on this goal. My job is to honor Steinem’s work and build on everything her generation created for us. The time is now to end shame and stigma around menstruation, as it is here to stay. It’s not a “hot button issue” that will go away tomorrow. Women will have their periods as long as the human race is around, and being a feminist to me means combating social norms about menstruation that hinder women’s health, comfort and liberation.

Most women are mortified by the thought of having a menstrual leak. Be honest, did you at all feel embarrassed at any point during the run when the blood was dripping down your leggings?

I wasn’t embarrassed at the start, because I was on a marathon course where I knew everyone was on their own journey. We were all in it together. But then, the only time I felt embarrassed was when I approached my dad and brother at mile 9! I remember pulling my shirt down awkwardly, but then when they scooped me in their arms and just wanted to take a photo and celebrate the moment, I felt instantly uplifted and liberated. At that point, I ran free, and felt incredibly empowered. That taught me also how important it is to have the main people in your life not make you feel bad. For them to make you feel good. It does feel good. It was the rest of the race that got my mind going on about how serious this issue is for women in developing nations, and how rarely we talk about something that affects 50% of the population. Imagine, period shaming keeps women at home, and hinders their participation in the economy. Then, they are unable to lift themselves out of poverty and stay dependent on the men in their lives. Period shaming is the linchpin of oppression. It’s really got to go.

Some women find it difficult to exercise during their period and are advised against it. Did being on your period affect your projected finish time or make the process more painful for you?

I don’t know if having my period affected by finish time as I had never run while flowing before. I usually get severe cramps and have to take it easy on day 1. I have heard that running can help, but that was never the case for me. So being able to run an entire marathon in an incredibly painful setting felt empowering. It made me want to kiss every woman on earth who does incredible things on her period without talking about it. I think women’s strength is so often overlooked, to our own detriment!

Your website says your “goal is to combine her intellectual and musical talents in order to re-imagine a music industry that is healthier for women and girls around the world.” What would the industry look like in your re-imagined world?

What an awesome question! I want women being free, expressing themselves more liberally, inventing things, being bold, not worrying constantly about how they look for others, not apologizing, making music that tells and celebrates their stories. This is the beginning of description of the world I want to create.

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