Judy Grahn's essay on menstrual culture was written almost
ten years ago, and yet such information continues to occupy
the realm of obscurity. Even the women present at this
session who regularly participate in Selene Circle [EVE's
monthly gathering at the time to explore and celebrate
women's bleeding] were fascinated by Grahn's essay, one rich
in menstrual facts and lore.
It was pointed out that long
before men's role in the procreative process was identified,
women's ability to menstruate, give birth, and lactate were
revered as sacred mysteries. The realization of paternity,
one woman believed, no doubt coincided with the beginning of
a widespread hostility toward menstruation.
Another woman was
convinced that at the core of misogyny lies a hatred of the
menstrual act, a hatred of women who bleed but do not die.
According to Grahn, in prepatriarchal times power and
control were the same: those who bled held the power because
"the ability to shed blood equals the control of life
powers." We recalled that classic line, "war is
menstruation envy." Since men do not cyclically bleed,
some women were convinced that men usurped ancient female
power by denigrating women's menstrual and reproductive
powers. To menstruate is natural power, original power if you
Clarifying Grahn's concepts of power and control, one
woman made the analogy between a river and a hydroelectric
dam. Although a dam is perceived as powerful, it is the river
that possesses authentic power. The power of a dam in reality
is merely control, i.e., artificial power derived by
controlling a river's natural power.
We all agreed that
reclaiming our menstrual power can be a formidable
counterforce to the systemic debasement and patriarchal
control of all that is female.
If menstruation is natural power, one woman questioned
whether (her own) menopause is tantamount to disempowerment.
Several women were quick to assert that for thousands of
centuries crones were revered for the reservoirs of
knowledge, experience, and power endowed to them by decades
They cited books such as The Great Cosmic
Mother, The First Sex and Women's Creation
which claim that a consciousness of chronological time was
first developed by prepatriarchal women who notated their
cycles in harmony with the moon on pieces of wood
anthropologists call calendar sticks. Grahn et al believe
these menstrual markings eventually led to mathematics and
astronomy. Such scientific discoveries directly rooted in
women's menstrual wisdom contributed to human civilization.
Other women opposed conceptions of power based so narrowly
on biology. A few noted that men probably have bodily cycles,
too. Women were unclear, however, what form such cycles may
take (ex., morning ejaculations?), or what meaning to
attribute to them.
Other women noted that because the
male-dominated medical profession zealously concentrates on
women's bodies, comparatively little is known about the
specificity of men's bodies. Citing Mary Daly, one woman
stated that when gynecology was "invented" in the
late 1800's (precisely during the First Wave of feminism),
its male corollaryandrologynever caught on.
Another woman suggested that along with misogyny, homophobia
might well explain the aversion many male doctors may have to
the intimate and routine examination of men's genitalia.
In contrast to capitalism's nine-to-five regimen, several
women lamented that our species has become estranged from a
more natural regularity offered by women's lunar rhythms.
Menstrual leave, advocated by the Menstrual Health Foundation,
entails women's right and need to spend time alone and with
other women during their periods. Selene Circle, a modern-day
menstrual hut of sorts, exists in part to facilitate the
rapprochement between women and their menstrual blood that we
believe is key to deep planetary healing.
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