Back in the day, some people believed that menstruating women could stain mirrors simply by looking at them (such was the power of menstrual blood). The Secreta Mullierum [Secrets of Women], written circa 1300 stated:
“If a woman has this flow and looks into a mirror during this time, this mirror becomes like a bloody cloud. And if the mirror is new, one can hardly remove the red staining from the mirror, but if it is old, one can easily remove it.”
Part of me likes the idea of staining my bathroom mirror red simply by looking at it while menstruating. Wearing red when menstruating, or somehow magically staining a mirror red without touching it, both seem to be ways of saying “HEY, world! I am MENSTRUATING!” Menstruation is something that I value & that I am proud of. Menstruation is something that is significant to me, and to many other women. It tells us at the same time “I can make babies!” and “I am not pregnant” (one or both of which can be very reassuring).
Western culture has a strong taboo of silence around menstruation – menstruating women must carefully hide any signs that they are bleeding and ‘act normal’. In contrast, many other cultures and religions around the world do actively acknowledge menstruation as a special time of the month. Many religions and cultures have special rules and codes of behaviour for menstruating women. Menstruation isn’t a shameful thing.
Menstruation is a significant, meaningful and very normal regular bodily change that women go through. It seems right to me that this change be publicly acknowledged in some way. Instead, in the West, women hide away all traces of the fact that they are menstruating and the only time it becomes public knowledge is when a woman has an embarrassing accident.
Part of me wants to react to my culture’s silencing and shaming of menstruation by proudly announcing to everyone: “Hey, heeey, world, I am menstruating! My stomach is cramping and I am bleeding copious amounts of blood from a hole in my body!”
The actual thought of saying that to anyone, especially a man, is far too embarrassing for me. Perhaps I’ll just stain the bathroom mirror red by staring at it instead… 😉