Thursday, September 15, 2005



In India, women on "ladies' holiday" are not allowed in the yoga shala (or temples) because if they were to set foot inside they would defile it. According to them the Time of Defilement lasts three days. Little do they know....

Women in India supposedly live in separate quarters during their holiday and aren't allowed to cook (which would of course pollute the food) or work. I suspect that if the quarters were posh this would not be such a bad thing. Except for the part where everyone thinks you're dirty and might get some of your dirt on them if you get too close.

My brother, who's not aware of this (and why should he be?) just sent me and a million of his friends the following BBC story with the heading, "It's always sunny in Nepal, lol." Because menstruation (like woman herself) is so, you know, scary and weird:

Women hail menstruation ruling
By Sushil Sharma
BBC News, Kathmandu

Women's rights activists in Nepal have hailed a Supreme Court order to end discrimination against women during their menstrual cycle.
There is a tradition in parts of Nepal of keeping women in cow-sheds during their period.

The practice is common in far western districts of the country.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to declare the practice as evil and given it one month to begin stamping the practice out.

The court reached its decision on Wednesday.

'Not enough'

Women's rights activists say the court has upheld their right to equality.

Pushpa Bhusal, a leading lawyer, said it was a positive move in removing the traditional discrimination against women.

She warned however, that a change in the law alone would not be enough.

She said people needed to be educated against such a scourge of society.

Women in poor villages in much of western Nepal are forced to stay in dirty cow-sheds outside the home for four days during their monthly period.

They are often given unhygeinic food and suffer verbal abuse.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/15 17:04:09 GMT


Anyone with half a clue knows that most religions -- Christian, Muslim, Orthodox Judaism, Zoroastrian, etc. -- have some frightening rules regarding women's "pollution" during that time, and keep them separate from the men. Which is kind of funny, when we all know the real danger occurs *before* menses.

There's still such shame surrounding it in secular western society. So much work goes into making sure we hide it; god forbid someone knows we're on holiday. I once got it, unbeknownst to me, during the middle of the afternoon at a temp job, where I was working as a receptionist. I got up to use the bathroom and a female employee pulled me aside and pointed out the giant dark red spot in the middle of my mint green summer dress. I was horrified with shame (boy, was my face red! and not just my face!); they let me go home for the rest of the day. First though I had to run to the bathroom and put cold water on the stain so it wasn't quite so bright. Then I had to walk home (oh, the days when one lived and worked in the South Loop) carrying my briefcase behind me, which is no easy thing.

Does anyone else remember the girls sitting out gym class, looking miserable? The contemporary version is the brazen women who practice yoga while on their cycle but don't do inversions (the reasoning is that inversions such as headstand and shoulderstand are counterproductive and can stop/reverse your flow. My firsthand research proves this, as do a few scientific studies. Nonetheless some teachers dismiss it as mysognist poppycock).** Fortunately there aren't too many snickering boys in yoga classes these days.

At the opposite end of the red spectrum are the two or three guys*** who are not just willing but wanting to perform oral during that time of the month. Bloody fools.

Then there's L7. In 1994 a member of the band pulled out her tampon and flung it at the crowd at Britain's Reading Festival. Singer/guitarist Donita Sparks then "proceeded to flash pussy to England's television audience."

Now that's putting a whole new spin on it.

However Native Americans beat her to it (notice however that it's a *man* who helps the narrator see the light):

The Native Americans understood very well the different feelings that women have when they menstruate--and for them, these feelings were part of something very meaningful about the cycles of the woman's body. The women would go to a menstrual hut to pass the time of their bleeding. It was considered to be the time that a woman was at the height of her spiritual power, and that the most appropriate activity was to rest and gather wisdom.

In 1986 I met a teacher of the Native American traditions. He taught me that a menstruating woman has the potential to be more psychically and spiritually powerful than anyone, male or female, at any other time. That turned my conditioned pictures of reality upside down. I'd always experienced my period as a time of weakness and difficulty--what on earth was the man talking about?

He told me to dig a hole in the ground and speak my negative thoughts about femaleness, about bleeding, into the hole. He said the earth would transform the negative energy I was holding about my female nature. I felt pretty silly doing this but I did it anyway, and I was amazed to discover how many bad feelings about being a woman I had lurking inside my highly educated feminist mind. This exercise was painful, but very effective.

I began to look at my blood with a tinge of awe rather than fear, disgust or indifference. By that time I no longer used tampons, so I got to look at my blood properly every month instead of just seeing it on a yucky old tampon. I saw that it was clear and red, and sometimes darker and clotted. If I really freed up my vision then I could see that it was full of life, full of magic, full of potential. I began to experience a frisson of joy when I thought about bleeding, about being a woman, that there was something, after all, so extraordinarily magical and mysterious about inhabiting a female body. The resentment about being female that I had had in my teens and early twenties, the feelings that boys had a better deal, faded away, and were replaced by a growing sense of wonder at the intricacies and depths and possibilities offered by the monthly cycle.

I began to take time to rest and meditate and just be with myself when I had my period. I found out that it was a time when I was particularly able to find insight, and that this insight was of a timeless nature. I felt I was tapping into some ancient and vast well-spring of female wisdom--simply by sitting still and listening when I was bleeding. Taking this time out when I was bleeding created a very different relationship with my body. My health improved, and gradually the bad cramps I had had for most of my menstruating life eased up, and my period became a time of pleasure rather than pain.

It's nice to know all that, now that it's about to start going away.


*you can find a picture of every possible sex act, organ, etc. on the Internet. But put "bloody tampon" in the search engine and it comes up empty. Still a little too taboo, perhaps?

**I usually don't practice on the first day of Ladies Holiday -- too weak and tired -- and then proceed as usual, sans inversions, until Aunt Rose has disappeared.

***again, primary research indicates that these men do indeed exist

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