Not a Pretty History
Menstruation is not a good thing according to Western history. Mostold medical and religious writings on menstruation discuss it as shameful,unclean or unhealthy. These beliefs come from very ancient menstrual taboos.Ancient Greek andRoman writers described menstrual fluid as powerful and unclean. Forexample, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder described menstrual fluidas having these powers:
"Contact with it turns new wine sour, crops touchedby it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruitof 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, anda horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infectstheir bites with an incurable poison..."
And to think I'd always thought the packs of bees and dogs following me around were attracted by my animal magnetism.
Most of the writing we have from the past is written by men, and ofcourse, men don't have periods. So it should not be surprising that theythought menstruation was awfully strange, since they did not bleed thatway. It had to be normal not to have periods (after all, they didn't),and they searched for the reasons women bled. They believed there had tobe something inferior about the way women are put together. Or they thoughtwomen bled because they were cursed by God.
Some thought that women just had too much blood, so some of it had tocome out monthly. Others thought women menstruated because they didn'texercise or get out of the house as much as men did. They thought the bloodcame out of the womb (uterus) because the womb was considered the weakestorgan in the body, so it was the place the blood was most attracted to,like a hole in a bucket. At one point they thought the womb could movearound inside the body, even go up a woman's throat, and cause all sortsof strange medical problems. This was known as the "wandering womb."
These strange stories go on up to the present day. As late as the 1960's,medical guide books suggested that women should not take baths or exerciseduring their periods. If menstruation has always been feared or misunderstood,how do we learn to feel good about our bodies when we bleed?