The Most Wonderful Time of the Month

“Are you on the rag?”

Does that question make your blood boil as much as it does mine? It seems to imply that a woman can’t rationally take issue with something, be upset or even be straight forward. Nope, her apparently cranky mood is all because she is, after all, bleeding from her genitals. That’s exactly how a male friend of mine once described my period. “I’d be in a terrible mood too, if I were bleeding from my genitals,” he said. Thanks for the sympathy, pal.

Which brings me to Donald Trump. There’s currently a Twitter hashtag #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult created specifically so that women (and why not men?) can send Tweets to “The Donald” to make it clear that his latest period comments were out of line.

During the recent Republican Party debate, Trump was complaining that FOX News’ Megyn Kelly was treating him too severely, “There was blood coming out of her eyes. There was blood coming out of her wherever.” Did he simply run out of bodily openings to reference regarding the former lawyer and political commentator Kelly, or was he indeed trying to say that she must have her period? Many contend that Trump was clearly intending it as an insult.

Maybe Trump was just having a bad hair day. That can throw any billionaire off his game. Though really, using menses against women is a tried and true tradition going back as far as recorded history. You can name just about any disaster or scourge, and fingers will have been pointed to women and their periods. Most every culture or religion has a set of rules to govern females who are menstruating.

Things got even more ridiculous once women stepped out into spheres of society that had been the exclusive domain of men. Surely, they couldn’t perform as well as a man when they were bleeding from their genitals. Even as recently as 1995, the period has been presented as a reason that women can’t perform certain roles. Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich blustered that of course women can’t go into combat because, “Females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days…”

However, it’s times like this when I like to pause to consider that there are several societies where menstruating women are treated with (dare I say it?) respect.

According to Alma Gottlieb, the author of, Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation, some cultures have a different attitude toward menses. Some are simply neutral about it, such as the Rungus women in Borneo. To them, menstruation is just getting rid of a bodily fluid like any other, nothing especially good or bad about it.

Other cultures saw the time of their periods as a time of purification. The Yurok are a native tribe from the northwest coast of the United States. The tribeswomen lived close to each other, and so their periods became synchronized. They shared a series of rituals together that was considered a significant spiritual experience. Sounds like they were having a big period party.

Many menstrual huts rightly get a bad rap, but there is one group where the time spent in the menstrual hut is more like a girls’ week out. Breast-feeding women and their children join the menstruating women, and the time in the hut has a festive spirit for the Ulithi women of the South Pacific.

When a woman gets her first period in some parts of Ghana, West Africa, the girl is seated under a gorgeous, ceremonial umbrella and the family presents her with gifts and pays her tribute. According to Gottlieb, the girl is “celebrated like a queen.”

As for Trump, he’s denied any wrongdoing. He claims that when he said news host Kelly had, “blood coming out of her whatever,” he had just run out of words. He wasn’t implying that she was questioning him too harshly because she was having her period! If he’d finished his sentence, he would’ve said she had blood coming out of her nose.

While his true intention is up for debate, there’s no doubt that the implication has raised a public furor, and the pair continue to battle it out via Twitter.


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