Today, we want to tackle a tricky topic: the menstruations.
Have you ever noticed that in ads for sanitary products, the periods are represented with a blue liquid? Did you know that in many countries, girls and women are still considered as “impure” when a week per month? Why is everything accepted in porn, except scenes involving a woman having her periods?
This is part of what we want to write about today.
Let’s start with a short overview of how the representation of periods evolved through time.
The word “taboo” itself even comes from a Polynesian word that both means “sacred” and “menstruation”. The website Bustle.com listed seven myths about the menstruations, all of which highlight the strong feeling that seems to always have circled around the most natural cycle.
Menstruations are indeed a convenient scapegoat for all the world’s evils. Hippocrate considered them as “harmful”, Pliny the Helder said they were “destructive” and claimed that “Contact with [menstrual blood] turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees fall off, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled, hives of bees die, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”
According to the Old Testament, the mere touch of a woman having her periods makes you “unclean until evening“. Women on her menstruations were even forbidden to go to church, thanks to the Bishop Theodore of Canterbury (690 AD)!
Does it sound completely absurd to you? In a recent article in the Telegraph, we even learn that “In Britain and Western Europe, it was only until the middle of the nineteenth century that people stopped believing that if a woman had a nosebleed or was vomiting blood it was a way of releasing blood if the period was suppressed“.
So where do all those myths come from? The middle of the 19th century corresponds to the time when menstruations were scientifically understood. Before that, the phenomenon was regarded as maleficent, and women as sick and dangerous when they were bleeding. According to one theory, women were bleeding to evacuate dirt and impurity. However, scientific progress was not able to demystify the superstition behind menstrual blood. Thérèse, a French woman born in 1927, tells that a menstruating woman’s belly was seen as a “cemetery”: she had not been able to retain her partner’s sperm. Even in the 20th century (not to say in the 21st!), women are often viewed as mothers, and reduced to their function of reproductions. To that extent, having your period means that you are not fulfilling your primary role as a woman.
Today, even though those beliefs can seem absolutely ridiculous, there is still something wrong about having/talking about our menstruations. And if in some countries, it is only now a matter of representation, in others, it goes further and can become more dangerous. In some regions of Nepal, girls and women on their periods are not allowed to enter someone else’ house and they have to sleep alone. In India, women can’t cook during that time of the month, as they would contaminate the food. In some African countries, many girls miss school because of their menstruations, which then lead to broader issues such as lack of education and child marriage. In Madagascar, women are told that making mayonnaise during their periods will make it curdle.
If you look up a synonym for “menstruations”, here are the results you will find:
“The curse” is one term that Thesaurus suggests. As if this natural discharge of blood, experienced by half the planet, was the worse thing that could happen to us. Of course, it is legitimate to have this thought, considering the amount of “periods shaming” still going on in 2018 across the world.
Periods are yet another example of the power used against women. All their lives, they are told that when they have their menstruations, they are not clean, not pure, not dignified. They are supposed to hide, they even have to pay a tax on their sanitary products, even though it is clearly not a luxury. Periods pain is still not taken seriously.
Thankfully, nowadays, some women (and men!) try to break the silence and speak up about menstruations. It is the case of Elise Thiébaut, a French journalist, author of “Ceci est mon sang” (This is my blood). Throughout her book, she wants to debunk myths around the periods, in a humorous yet serious way.
The Madagascar scoutsmaster and science teacher Lahatra, sets himself a goal to teach scouts the truth about menstruations, to make sure boys as well as girls know the facts. Watch his short story below:
Dominique Cristina, a self-proclaimed womanist and slam poet, wrote the powerful “Period Poem”. We invite you to watch her beautiful (and funny!) speech below:
We hope that thanks to this article, you were able to learn more about the big and unnecessary taboo still very much alive around the periods, and that you will (re)consider your body/women’s bodies in a positive way next time your/their menstruations arrive!