People drift away from religion for many reasons.
For 22-year-old Ashlie Juarbe, her journey out of religion happened at her Catholic high school, when a male teacher shamed her for getting her period in the middle of class. She wrote about it in the New School Free Press:
“Ashlie, I said you’re up.” He was at the foot of my desk, the overhead light glinted off his bald head. I feared my jeans were stained.
“I’m not feeling well, Mr. Cooper. I’d like to sit this one out,” I said. I started to sweat again. There was no way Mr. Cooper would let me go up there if he understood. I hoped God would give him a sign.
“But Mr. Cooper, I have…” I began, but his eyes were daring me to sit a second longer. I looked at my classmates, still the words “my period” wouldn’t tumble out. For a normal phenomenon that has over 5,000 slang terms, it was never talked about in public without hushed tones and uncomfortable faces. Going to an all-girls religious high school was worse. Talking about anything below your waist was blasphemy. If it wasn’t virtuous, it wasn’t taught.
You can probably guess what happened next. Only after Ashlie’s humiliation was witnessed by the entire class did Mr. Cooper grant her request to go to the bathroom.
Mr. Cooper made me ashamed of menstruating. There was no easy way of becoming a woman, especially when the institution that promised to educate you failed to mention the word “vagina,” because it wasn’t respectable for the students. At an all-girls high school, it should have been easier to teach us about health, about our bodies. But it wasn’t.
This incident was the beginning of Ashlie’s journey into atheism, as well as the beginning of her awareness about the challenges of menstruation for women around the world. Girls who lack access to sanitary pads often have to stay home from school, since it is widely believed they are “unclean.” It is a problem rooted in both poverty and superstition.
Events like Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28th, which Ashlie writes about, can help raise awareness about the subject so that situations like the one she experienced never happen again.
(Image via Shutterstock)