I read this tweet and struggled as to whether I should write this article.
Religion is a sensitive subject to those who practice, and it is not my intention to offend, but it is what it is, I’ll dive right into it.
So, women menstruate. It isn’t pleasant, it hurts, it’s uncomfortable and I 100% don’t recommend. The idiot-proof explanation for why women bleed for a couple of days every month is simply because our eggs were not fertilized. It’s the body’s way of telling us that we didn’t get pregnant that month. WOW, it really be your own body. It is important to point out that not all women menstruate and not all women feel pain during their periods, and not all women experience a missed period as a sign of pregnancy.
Don’t even get me started on men who feel like they have a say on women menstruating or cringe at the mention of anything remotely related to women on their periods, or those who minimize the pain that periods can cause… Lord Chises!
Women have had a tumultuous relationship with the world for almost the beginning of time, I cannot imagine what it was like centuries, but today, it’s still a bloody mess. One major breakthrough for women was the inception of contraceptives. It turned things around for women. Although it still sucks that the sole responsibility of avoiding pregnancy is placed on women who are only fertile a few days a month as opposed to men who are fertile as loamy soil every single day is a patriarchal agenda that needs to be amputated.
So, the pill, I’ve tried it and well… different women, different bodies but personally it didn’t go great for me. Besides the spotting, cramps, raging hormones, crankiness, irritable, sore breasts, it was stressful for me because I wanted to enjoy sex without the fear of the getting pregnant, as far as I’m concerned, and just as your doctors will tell you, condoms will keep out the STI’s, but they aren’t 100% pregnancy-proof.
So how the pill works for those who aren’t familiar, there are two types, combination pills, and progestin-only pills which come either in a pack of 21 or 28, meant to be taken every day. The last set of tablets in a monthly package are called placebo pills, they have no hormones in them, during this period is when women will usually menstruate. For the 21-day packs, the final week, when you’ve run out, is when you bleed and afterward start back up on a new set. There are also the 91-day packs which mean women who use them will see their period once in 3 months. I just happened to learn that that ‘break’ to make room for women to bleed was created to convince Pope Paul VI; other factors were involved in it too but still.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI released a document called the Humanae Vitae, which in essence denounced any form of artificial birth control. In more awe that he had such a hold over his global congregation than anger that millions of women catholic or not have had to deal with periods as a result of his influence, I read the entire document to get a sense of his standpoint on birth control. Summary, I disagreed with pretty much the thing, but that will not be the focus of this article. The world is not always black or white, and the world has changed from what it was decades ago, and it is still evolving.
Organized religion really is a powerful thing. We already know that the social construct of religion was designed BY men, FOR men, treating women as second-class citizens. Religion has had a rather unpleasant relationship with women. It beats me that women were; and still are being treated some type of way just because we bleed from our vaginas every month, I would think religions would be more considerate since they believe in some form of Supreme Being(s) who created both man and woman, but that’s not the case.
I have theorized a couple of times about the spirituality of menstruating women and religion, and I remember how everyone has cringed or dismissed it. So here goes, I believe that the restriction of menstruating women from places of religious worship has something to do with blood magic. Theological inferences aside, blood is power. Blood is what keeps us, humans, alive when a person is losing blood; this signifies the loss of a person’s life. Blood is in essence; life. It seems to me that women are banned from holy places because there is a conflict of ‘power.’
Could it be that ‘forces’ are threatened by a menstruating woman because, as is the norm, a person ‘bleeding out’ is seen as perhaps ‘dying’ yet a menstruating woman is, in spite of monthly bleeding, very much alive? I read somewhere once that when a person is dying, and blood is spewing out, ‘god is spilling over,’ and so, is that it? Bleeding yet alive? Do menstruating women cause some form of interference? Or where men simply uncomfortable with women bleeding (as if we choose for it to happen to us)
Menstruating women have been referred to as harmful, unclean, so much so that they were isolated and anyone who came in contact with menstruating women was to ‘purify’ themselves. In recognition of historical context of some of these religious texts, women didn’t exactly have tampons back then when they were on their periods which might count for the ‘unclean’ term however those adjectives have stigmatized menstruating women till this day.
Based on the Pope’s ideas of contraceptives, pharmaceutical companies designed birth control pills that pause to let women bleed once a month which according to recent studies has absolutely no benefit.
Till today I find it so disconcerting that men who have NO IDEA what women go through, no idea what it feels like to bleed every month or push babies out of their vaginas are the ones actively making decisions about women’s reproductive rights. No one can tell me that if men had the same biological experiences as women, things wouldn’t be different. If women don’t want to bleed every month, don’t force your idea of the essentiality of bleeding down their throats.
Allowing women agency is really the least the world can do for women, let women make decisions about their bodies, keep bio-politics (religious and governmental) away from the bodies of all women cis or trans.
In my attempt to see the brighter side, I read that the back then the cause for the break was because the technology involved in creating the pills included very high doses of hormones and women needed a break from the awful (still awful) side effects. But today medical science has advanced and created pills with better-regulated doses of pills for women, so the break isn’t necessary anymore. So yes, I am sorry for all the women who had to deal with PMS, dysmenorrhea and the general discomfort of periods but elated that now we can choose to skip periods all together if need be.
Frankly, what medical science needs to do is redirect the responsibility of birth control to men!