Members of the group Sangre Menstrual at their performance in support of the "Manifesto for the Visibility of the Period."
Sangre Menstrual, a Spanish performance group, took to the streets wearing white pants and shorts stained with menstrual blood in support of their “Manifesto for the Visibility of the Period.” Sangre Menstrual wrote the manifesto to point out that, by attempting to hide our periods, a perfectly natural bodily function, we are participating in the patriarchal system and effectively punishing ourselves for being women.
But why? Why does menstruation make us so uncomfortable?
The ladies at The Red Web Foundation are working to promote a more positive and healthy approach to menstruation through education, healthy menstruation products, and the creation of a period-positive community. And their work can’t come a moment too soon. I mean, have you ever heard a woman say excitedly “Oh, I can’t wait! Aunt Flo’s going to be visiting soon!”? No, instead you hear groans and lamentations about the onset of “the curse.” Indeed, the Red Web Foundation states the reason for its existence as being “[b]ecause menstruation is misunderstood or often times considered inconvenient in mainstream culture, it can be difficult for a woman or girl to find comprehensive information and guidance” about her body or her “place in this world” as a woman. Menstruation has been culturally constructed as a period of punishment associated with the onset of womanhood, and while we could take it as an opportunity to celebrate what it means to be a woman, we instead deplore the pain and discomfort in our bleeding lady parts.
"My Uterus is in Love With Yours" by Emma Plunkett
In her short essay “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinam explores the sexism behind this period-negativity. She asks, for example, why the ability to give life didn’t lead Freud to theorize about “womb envy” instead of penis envy. She also vividly constructs the world which would arise “if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not… Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much. Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day… Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat ("You have to give blood to take blood"), occupy high political office ("Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priests, ministers, God Himself ("He gave this blood for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean")… TV shows would treat the subject openly…Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything at all? In philosophy and religion, how could women compensate for being disconnected from the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death and resurrection every month?… In short, we would discover, as we should already, that logic is in the eye of the logician.” Read the full essay here!
So, yes. Being on your period can suck. Cramps are painful. Your emotions go haywire. But if menstruation is part of being a woman, isn’t that something that should be celebrated?
Images Courtesy of http://wewastetime.com/ and theredweb.org.