Runner Defends Letting Period Bleed Freely at London Marathon: 'Women's Bodies Don't Exist for Public Consumption'

"If we don't own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us" Kiran Ganhi tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy Kiran Gandhi(2)

The woman who ran the London Marathon while “free flowing” on her period tells PEOPLE that the massive outcry over her story proves just how important her message was.

Kiran Gandhi, a drummer for singer M.I.A. and Harvard Business School graduate, was called “disgusting” and “unladylike” after she ran the 26.2-mile race in April with blood running down her legs. She said she did it to raise awareness about women around the world who have no access to feminine products and to encourage women to not be ashamed of their periods.

She tells PEOPLE by e-mail that the hateful comments she got don’t offend her. Instead, critics only prove her point that “we are still deeply uncomfortable with a very normal and natural process,” she says.

“You see, culture is happy to speak about and objectify the parts of the body that can be sexually consumed by others,” she told PEOPLE. “But the moment we talk about something that is not for the enjoyment of others, like a period, everyone becomes deeply uncomfortable.”

She added: “Women’s bodies don’t exist for public consumption.”

After prepping for the big race for a year, Gandhi got her period the night before and decided that it would be too uncomfortable to run the miles with a tampon, she wrote of the race on her website. So, she decided to run “with blood dripping down my legs for sisters.”

While many commended the 26-year-old and congratulated her on social media, others slammed her “stunt,” asking why she didn’t raise awareness another way.

Gandhi’s answer: She’s an artist. She told PEOPLE that one of the best things she learned from studying art is the “impact of shock culture.”

“I exported what I learned from art to the marathon course that day,” she said. She finished the race in four hours, 49 minutes and 11 seconds. Afterward she took photos with her family and friends, proudly wearing her period-stained running pants.

“On the day of the marathon, my friends and I had a job to do, which was to run 26.2 miles, and we did exactly that and rocked it out.”

Now, Gandhi says her goal is to shed light on the truth that many women and girls don’t feel empowered to identify or talk about their own bodies and have to hide their periods. She tells PEOPLE that “we must remove the stigma” of menstrual cycles.

“If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us.”

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