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Menstruation and the “Ick” Factor May 8, 2007

Posted by kelly in menstruation, Mischa Barton, religion.

After our discussion today, I wanted to bring up a few things specifically about menstruation.

The idea that a woman’s period is “gross” is incredibly informed by history and religion. In traditional Judaism, a woman isn’t supposed to even touch her husband while she is menstruating (or for a couple of days after) otherwise she will pollute him. One of the reasons Buddhism first restricted women from attaining nirvana is because certain Buddhists believed that women washed their menstrual cloths in the river, thus polluting the drinking water of the monks. In ancient China, women who were menstruating were restricted from tending to silkworms.

I’m sure there are countless other examples of women being quarantined or marked as “polluted” while menstruating. It’s funny that the one clear power we have over men has been so demonized by society. Not only is it seen as dirty, but as “polluting,” like a disease that can be spread to others.

One would think a period would be something to be revered, a sign of female power and fertility. But, of course, patriarchy sees it as a power to be feared and thus seeks to control it by making us believe it is something to be ashamed of.

Last year a couple of images surfaced of Mischa Barton with blood stains on her pants. I remember at the time my friends and I cringed thinking of the embarrassment. But what is so embarrassing?

Why aren’t women honored for this periodic symbol of power? Perhaps because it’s just too threatening.



1. lindamc - May 8, 2007

I totally agree with what your saying. Often times blood is a sign of cleansing: in the Hebrew bible, it’s often used as a sign of renewal/ forgiveness like in the form of sacrafice, but periods are seen as gross and not talked about (all like we said in class). I agree that it seems as though this type of blood must be seen as gross because it is too powerful. Don’t ask how or why, but somehow I stumbled onto this women on the internet who paints…yes paints…with her own menstral blood…Ok, this may be getting too weird and so I totally understand. Procede with some caution, but here is her website where she answers questions about why and how she does it: http://www.kommiekomiks.com/blood-intro.htm. I paticularily like the question she answers: “Are you a maniac femenist who wants to kill off all men?” about half way down the page. It is kind of hilarious. She also lists other women who do the same thing… wow. Interesting… Some people are clearly discussing the “grossness” or menstrual blood in interesting ways.

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