Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls

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REVIEW

Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls

By : Muthamma B. Devaya  /  2015
Tags : 
Growing Up,
Human Body,
Menstrual Cycle,
Periods,
Puberty,
Overall Rating : 
6
Story/Content : 
3
Illustration : 
4
Language : 
3
Design : 
3

“Mummy, does Madonna have periods too?” I still remember this line from an article I read in a magazine when I was in my teens. Nothing much seems to have changed today. Most girls still consider the menstrual cycle as something that makes them impure and something to be ashamed of. Even in this day and age of information overload, it is a source of humiliation and embarrassment for girls. Should there be any spotting on their clothes... oh, what a scandal!

Parents, too, are at a loss when it comes to talking about puberty, the menstrual cycle, menstrual hygiene and their daughters’ sexuality. This only perpetuates myths surrounding menstruation and creates a void when it comes to getting basic information about what is a normal bodily function. Fact remains that most girls rely on old wives' tales to this day.

Young girls on the threshold of puberty are usually uncomfortable discussing the topic of menstruation either because they are intensely private or because of some deep-seated fear. As the mother of a tween, I have often found it difficult to reach out and discuss the subject, despite considering ours a rather straight-talking home. Even though my daughter and I had spoken about puberty and growing up over a period of time, it was rather frustrating when she kept stonewalling me every time I broached the subject. So I jumped at the opportunity when I was asked to review the Menstrupedia Comic, with the suggestion that I do so with my tween. My daughter, however, went “yuck, yuck, yuck” the moment I showed the comic to her.

Menstrupedia Comic addresses queries and doubts that every young girl has about puberty and the menstrual cycle in an accessible comic book format. This is certainly not your everyday textbook with boring illustrations that count on your imagination to understand the concepts being discussed. Instead, it is like a story, narrated through conversations between three friends, Pinki, Jiya and Mira, and Pinki’s older sister, Priya Didi, who is a doctor. The girls find it easy to talk to Priya Didi and ask her questions, presumably because she is the older sibling and not the parent. Being a doctor helps take the conversation forward without any awkwardness. Priya Didi not only tells the girls about physical changes that take place in girls and boys during puberty, she also advises them about nutrition, how to avoid cramps, exercises that help alleviate the pain, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, all this without being preachy.

Once I'd read the comic, I made sure I left it on my daughter's table. I was relieved when she finally picked it up, read it, and shared her thoughts with me quite openly. “It made me feel less uncomfortable to learn about my periods because the characters in the book spoke to each other very freely and openly,” she said. “I learnt some important things about myself and I am not so embarrassed about my periods anymore. The illustrations grossed me out a bit... but really, they were not bad and helped me understand my body a lot better.”

In one segment of the comic, Priya Didi teaches the girls how to track their menstrual cycle, take care of menstrual hygiene, use sanitary pads and dispose them properly, all of which my daughter found quite useful. The story also has some lighthearted moments, which add a fun element to it. I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter said, “Boys must also read this book. It is important for them to understand this, but I hope they will just read it... and not make fun of us. I'm sure Daddy knows about it but does not tease you!”

Finally, the Menstrupedia Comic is a very good source of information and makes a great reference book for every young girl, more so for those who are shy to speak up. Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul, the author and illustrator, have done an excellent job of choosing a topic that is considered taboo and talking about it openly. There is no ambiguity in the comic book, whether in terms of the topics covered or the illustrations – everything is clearly spoken about and shown. Young readers will get comfortable right away, because nothing is left to the imagination and, more importantly, the book is not preachy at all.

My only quibble is that the comic book looks like an advertisement for the Whisper brand of sanitary napkins, thanks perhaps to them having sponsored its publication. I wish the publishers had put in a full page advertisement instead of having the sponsor's logo appear so prominently on the cover and the inside pages.

Muthamma B. Devaya is a partner at Funky Rainbow: The Travelling Children's Bookshop. She is an activist for disability rights and is passionate about the philosophy of inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity.

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