I saw a link today to this website
, where artist Vanessa Tiegs has made these incredible paintings with her blood – yes, menstrual blood – and was amazed by just how beautiful they are. I think the idea of painting with blood of any kind is fascinating, but most paintings of this type don't interest me, largely because they play into the problems I talk about below. These are easily the best of this type I have yet seen.
I agree with this post at Feministe
. Fear of menstrual blood all too often stems from gut-level fear of the devouring, blood-drooling cooch . . . often with a stiff dose of misogyny to back that fear up when logic fails to support it. I personally don't see anything particularly disgusting about menstrual blood. As our waste products go, this is about the only one I would be willing to interact with on a voluntary basis. I get annoyed with it when it gets all over me or when it messes up clothing I have to salvage* or replace, yeah, but the substance itself is just blood.
But there's only so much uterus-hugging fallopian free-love that I can bear, and I want to point out something that endlessly grinds on my nerves.
You want to love your uterus, your period, if the things that it does are meaningful to you on some greater level, I am completely in favor of that.
What annoys me to no end is the deep-rooted assumption that I, too, should love my period. Fuck that shit. My uterus has been trying to kill me or drive me mad since I was a teenager.*** Even the cradle of life metaphor fails on me. Even if I were sure I could have children, my potential fertility means nothing to me. Oh, sure, I could get all metaphorical about my nonexistent urge to create a human baby being channeled into other creative avenues, but my creative impulses just don't come from my pussy. Sorry.
For a lot of women, the process of coming to terms with or celebrating their periods is a revolutionary one that frees them from the hateful moral baggage our sick and twisted culture places on a simple biological process. I know that it was for me, for a very long time, but eventually I just got so sick of my uterus' antics that I stopped feeling good about it. It kept terrorizing me with its fits and starts and pains, its irregularity and humiliations. Embracing my period is not going to stop the cramps and bleeding. The cramps and bleeding are not a manifestation of my inner goddess and they don't make me more of a woman. My uterus is a wad of flesh, not the seat of my womanhood. I am not communing with the spirits of my foremothers when a sudden sneeze causes me to blow blood clots out of my snatch. That's not how that shit works.
I can't sit there with menstrual blood up to my elbows and say to myself, "Golly, Naamah, you sure are channeling the all-powerful goddess today!" No, I'm sitting there going, "I am bleeding for the sixty-seventh day in a row, I have no clean underwear, and the idiots who lived here before me carpeted the bathroom floor, which I have now bled on for the fifth time in three days. Who am I going to have to kill to make this stop?" Because even for someone with a blood kink? That shit gets old real fast.
It's fucking annoying to have the menstrual cycle lauded as this wonderful empowering thing when it is usually apparent from the language used that it's only the normal
menstural cycle that is meant. The percentage of women who have "normal" cycles is tiny, and if you have a difficult uterus, the whole moon-goddess lunar cycle thing sounds a lot less like inspiration and a lot more like all the popular, attractive, well-groomed uteruses sitting on the far side of the lunch room laughing at the broody goth uterus who just got her lunch dumped for the third time that week.
And furthermore, Jesus, there are a hell of a lot of women out there who don't even have
uteruses. The presence of absence of an organ, let alone the things it can do, does not define what a woman is
In fact, I want to kick the whole woman-as-goddess body-process-as-religious-experience mumbo jumbo idea in the ribs, and it doesn't end with menstruation. No, you have to count pregnancy, too. Now, if you personally relate to pregnancy in a sacred way, I can completely see that. But I find the cultural
exaltation of pregnancy morally troubling because it leaves women who can't have or don't want kids out in the cold, and it glorifies the biological method of achieving children above the others, which I think is wrong. Not to mention the political problems inherent in glorifying pregnancy in a culture where the choices to not have children or to terminate a pregnancy are viewed with distaste and horror.
I'm not real fond of how our culture only seems to value women's bodies if they are serving as sex objects or as a carpool for fetuses. The capacity and/or willingness of most of my gender to sexually satisfy men and bear their children has absolutely no effect on my own value, thank you very much.
This stuff that women do – like bleeding for a week without dying or, after a nine month drumroll, squeezing a live animal out of their vaginas – that stuff is amazing, but it is not wonderful and magical and uplifting for everyone
who does it, and perpetuating the myth that it is
or that it should be
does nobody any favors.
I personally think the baby/vagina hat trick is amazing, just so you know, but if someone says that going through all the mess and pain was not very spiritually elevating, I am sure not going to argue that they were just looking at it wrong – the same as I would not argue if someone said that the whole process was powerful and revelatory. And if I say that I do not feel goddess-like or magical or powerful in the slightest when I am scrubbing blood out from under my fingernails while my underwear soaks in the sink, I expect folks to take me at my word, not assume I'm some sort of repressed spiritual rube who just can't appreciate what has been given to her.
I would like to see women define their own feelings about their own bodily processes. If that means more menstrual blood paintings, fantastic. My goal is not to stifle joy. But I would also like to see an acknowledgement that it's not joyful for everyone, see some art that talks about that, so that people who have less than ideal experiences with their bodies have a place to work with those experiences.
Bodies are wonderful, but not everything that bodies do is wonderful or a secret source of mojo. Some of it downright sucks. And in trying to divorce our bodies from all this moral cargo and normalize the female experience, we sometimes forget that we can be inconvenienced or annoyed by what our female bodies do without hating ourselves for being female.
The antidote to the idea that women are animals is not putting them on a pedestal like goddesses, exalting even their effluvia. These things don't make us gross or scary or dirty, no. Those things can even be beautiful and meaningful. I think that's a really great lesson to learn, and it's one that we desperately need to keep teaching. But these things don't make us into superwomen, either.
These things make us human
. Isn't that the status we have been seeking? Isn't that what has been denied to us all this time?
I'm tired of these processes being used to "other" women, to set them either below or above "other people," i.e. men.We are people.
Not people "with a difference," but actual people.
Such a simple truth, and such a great shock and offense to so many. * Hydrogen peroxide and cold water, scrub out from the opposite side of the stain. They should print this on every pad and tampon box and wrapper.
** Plus other stuff, yes, but visually, olfactorily, texture- and flavor-wise it can sometimes be indistinguishable from blood.
*** Do not under any circumstances offer me medical advice, okay? I've heard it, tried it, researched it all. Period. Ha ha.