“It’s a Mense World:” When should Men shut up?

by Toluwanimi Onakoya

There is a discussion panel of five men. Can you guess the topic of discussion? Economic recession? Investment Policies? Aeronautical Engineering? Well, you guessed wrong. The topic of discussion is…wait for it…. menstruation.

Why did it ever seem okay for five men to chair a panel that would be talking to young girls about menstruation?

Not to say that women don’t deserve to talk about topics in the male-dominated field such as engineering, but at least we can comprehend the lack of representation. Considering the slow progression the world continues to move in when it comes to recognizing women in these fields, it would be no surprise. However, this situation truly puzzles. Do men now menstruate and we do not know? Could they possibly have new and valuable information they could add to the conversation that would not be better said by women?

The groundnut on the garri would be the caption of the conference titled “It’s a Mense World,” An insensitive spin on the cliche term; “It’s a Man’s World.” It makes one wonder who might have considered this caption as exuding brilliance. While it was eventually revealed that there was, in fact, an earlier panel with women addressing the topic tagged another eye-rolling caption of “It’s a Womense World,” it still remains puzzling. It begets the question, why then is the male panel necessary at all?

What could they possibly have to add to the conversation to a group of young girls that had not been better said by women?

Disapproval, and deservedly so, followed the announcement of the Facebook live event, which took place on the 28th of May; on Menstrual Hygiene Day. The panel consisted of a General Overseer, a Pastor, a Journalist, an IT product owner and one Medical Doctor. The only male figure on that panel worthy of the platform is the Doctor.

The Twitter account publicising the event defended the choice by saying “We have wives and daughters and sisters who suffer silently during their periods. Mense World is talking about it this way to change the narrative so they can get help.” Deep, heavy, spiritual sigh. If indeed, the panel is aimed at dismantling the stigma associated with “periods” and to address why women have menstruation shame. Shouldn’t the discussion be directed to men and boys, the gender that is enforcing the stigma? Because I can assure you that women are not afraid to share their menstrual experiences with other women.

Some male voices in the comment section defended this is as well, calling it “male involvement” or “male support.”.No, it is male hijacking. Men centering themselves in a conversation that has nothing to do with them. And then blindly terming the discussion “It’s a Mense World,” on a topic about menstruation akin to only women.

Unless you have a vagina and bleed from it or have an educational qualification in regards to the matter, there is no reason to elevate yourself on a platform to speak on it. You do not see a group of female preachers,  IT technicians holding a talk on ejaculation, blue balls, or the mystery of wet dreams for young adolescent boys.

Still, it is no surprise that in a patriarchal world, patriarchal things are happening. But it’s something that would continue to happen unchecked, if not spoken against. Women are reclaiming the conversations about matters that focus on them. They are holding their own and elevating the volume of their voices and men should just listen.

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