I am going to talk about blood
On period, patriarchy and celebrating blood as LIFE.
It was a full moon, which is usually when I get my periods in this time of my life. I knew it was time, my ovaries told me, I had felt quite bloated the days before, and my best friend had witnessed one or two sudden spurs of anger.
A male friend was coming to visit me to pick something at my house and when I was asked how I was I replied “I’m good but hurting a bit. I got my period this morning”. His answer was “Gross”.
I had previously started reading ‘Red moon: understanding and using the creative, sexual and spiritual gifts of the menstrual cycle’ by Miranda Gray a few days before, and the ancestral rage on the stigma that has been put around periods was definitely strong in me. My blood boiled at his reply. What the hell is gross about a woman’s body doing its thing?
The disgust in his answer should not have surprised me. In a patriarchal society, we experience period as a passive event that happens, but is either ignored or hidden. This happens all over the world, from the simple fact of pads having a blue liquid in Ads, to tampons being taxed as luxury goods, to traditional practices that isolate women and girls from society.
The Stigma Worldwide
In Nepal for example, Chhaupadi is a tradition that subscribes to the idea that menstruation is a taboo. It prohibits Hindu women and girls from participating in normal family activities whilst menstruating, says this article on Words in the Bucket that I edited yesterday.
When I lived in Kenya, I remember that a prevalent issue in rural areas was that the lack of hygiene products, and the shame felt by girls who were bleeding created a huge educational gap, as many girls were skipping school because of their period. Organizations like Ruby Cup are working to solve this.
In some places, it is prohibited to enter a Hindu temple if a woman is on her period. The taboo and stigma is everywhere, in different forms but it is there. Canadian-English artist Rupi Kaur had a photo removed from her Instagram that showed her in bed with a period stain, a photo that was part of a larger project honouring her period.
Our cycle is holy, it’s what makes us women, mothers, sisters, lobas. It tells us we are working just fine. It makes us capable of accepting the impermanence of life since a young age. It is no coincidence that our menstrual blood can contain the micronutrients that plants thrive on, and some women I know have started giving their plants their blood with great results.
During our cycle, we go through the most incredible transformations, we may have days in which we thrive in creativity, others where we can do more repetitive tasks, some where we are incredible lovers, others in which we should honour peace and stay calm.
It is fundamental that women learn that it is not necessarily something that we have to deal with every month, on the contrary, it should be celebrated.What is also fundamental is that men learn to know our cycle, and honor it just the same. Men are just as important in the de-stigmatization of the menstrual cycle, and I thankfully know many men who would not answer “gross”. It needs to be understood deeply, it is not something to be feared, or to repel.
“i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.” Rupi Kaur, period.
Let’s honour blood as life.