There are quite a few myths about menstruation, but it's actually quite simple: women bleed from their vagina.
They have been doing this for eternity on average every 28 days for around five days. Women lose up to 80 milliliters of blood in one cycle, about as much as a bottle of perfume. In total, they bleed for about seven years in a row and lose an average of about 30 liters of blood. Around 450 times in a woman's life, the blood represents the end of a cycle in which her body has prepared to give new life.
Sounds almost heroic, but doesn't have to be. After all, it is a body function with which half of the population lives around 38 years. Some even enjoy it, others don’t. Bleeding is definitely one thing: pretty normal. However, dealing with it it is anything from normal. No other body function comes with more misunderstandings.
In most parts of the world, menstruation is mainly connoted negativly. Something that needs to be hidden and what women have to be ashamed of. Because often too little is known about it, and ignorance coupled with prejudices have led to partly absurd and partly existential misconceptions. The consequences are particularly devastating in developing countries: girls who do not know about the existence of an menstruation until it just happens. Some are too ashamed while menstruating to go to school. In many cases, they even have to drop out of school because of their absenteeism due to their periods. Missing education and no money of their own leads to even more dependence on men. Women and girls who have no access to (and or no money for) hygiene products and make do with emergency solutions such as old towels, socks, leaves or sand – infections and infertility often included.
That sounds extreme in our western ears. However, apart from the influence of committed big city startups, who recently marveled at the professional use of menstrual cups on a real vagina on Pornhub, we still don't spill glory in our supposedly enlightened society here in 2020 in terms of education, reconnaissance and breaking taboos . In Germany, girls and women are still ashamed of asking for a tampon. Many women still believe they can’t get pregnant while menstruating. Adult men still ask whether women can pee at all if a tampon is in them (for real tho).
On the structural level too, women are on their own in this regard: Even in rich Germany, there are still women who can’t afford enough hygiene products. Because the Hartz 4 share for the so-called ‘hygiene care’ is currently 16€ per month – including medication, plasters, hygiene products for daily use. That is rarely enough, not least because the so-called luxury tax of 19% was levied on all period products until the end of 2019. Up to now tampons, menstrual cups, bandages etc. were taxed more than truffles or flowers. After massiv protests and petitions, there was finally political insight. The reduced tax rate of seven percent has applied since January 1, 2020. A start, after all.
Even if the problems with female blood here sound banal compared to the existential consequences in developing countries, they still are problems that need fixing. The basic problem is the same: lack of reconnaissance and lack of education due to a completely irrational taboo. Even we children of the 80s grew up in a time when menstrual blood was shown in commercials as a light blue, clear liquid. To date, period products proclaim to be ‘clean, safe and discreet’ – the nice counterpart to something dirty that has to be hidden.
Period shaming is real. If you look at our western cultural history of menstruation alone, it quickly becomes clear why. But you don't really know whether to laugh or cry. Since ancient times it has been almost exclusively men who examine the ‘phenomenon menstruation’ and evaluate it with their standards – almost always as something bad, limiting or irrelevant. Aristotle was convinced that the woman was just an unfinished man, who had too much body fluid in him and had to excrete it while the man was cooking it and producing it into valuable sperm. Many medieval scholars saw menstruation as the consequence of a fall. In the 18th century, Rousseau saw menstruation as the consequence of a pernicious effect of civilization on women, which would be caused by eating too much, exercising too little and sexuality being restricted by social norms. With the spread of the theory of evolution in the 19th century, the white man moved to the top of the human hierarchy. The ‘otherness’ of women was equated with disability. Menstruation was degraded to a state of suffering. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Viennese doctor Béla Schick still theorized that menstrual blood contains the poison menotoxin, which can be found in the blood and sweat of menstruating women and which spoils flowers and food in their vicinity. Several scientific studies in the following decades could not prove the opposite. It was not until 1958 that the non-toxicity of menstrual blood was officially recognized. Any further questions?
The patriarchy of the past centuries has done a great job. Mainly men have shaped the cultural history of menstruation and explained and mystified it to their senses. While the female genital organs have always been hidden (in terms of pure anatomy), men have always carried their genitals anatomically and mentally to the outside – the bigger the prouder. The semen is the epitome of male potency, his superpower that he is proud of. Rightfully – he still also contributes to nothing less than the continued existence of human beings. But if men menstruated, they would probably say: "Dude, I have the longest and most violent period – look how full my cup is!" Maybe it's that simple.
The female circle, on the other hand, can be seen as female potency – the superpower of women. It takes a lot more education, discourse and guerilla campaigns to solve the deadlock in the mind and shake off the patriarchal bullshit bingo of the past centuries. There is a need for many more women who are proud of their bleeding bodies and who say this out loud. It takes a lot more men who understand female superpower in the first step and celebrate it as such in the second. And you need parents who don't let children get the idea from an early age that this could be some uncomfortable topic. Parents who exemplify gender equality and explain body functions of all kinds for what they are: normal. Then maybe in a few years we'll have one less social problem!
Sehr guter und schön geschriebener Artikel, denn so ist es und nicht anders! Meinen zwei Söhnen und meiner Tochter möchte ich, bzw WIR nichts anderes vermitteln – es ist gut wie es alles ist und gehört zum gesunden Leben dazu. No shame at all!
Chapeau auf the blood ❤️