On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the fourth in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to menstrual-themed poetry.
His First Period – by David Linton
Returning to the cave,
Arm gashed by claw of tiger, back scared by spear of foe,
Noting first the scent, then, adjusting to the dark,
The small red spots across the rubble, the rivulets down her leg,
Dried in the hair of her calf, glistening maroon,
Reflecting dimly the light of the smoldering fire.
Clutching his club and bending to grasp a stone
His eyes dart and nostrils flare
To find the intruder that had caused this flow,
The foreign beast, standing or crawling, on two legs or four,
That had drawn life’s fluid from his cave mate’s groin.
No sound of scurrying feet or padded paw,
No smell of body or of musky pelt,
No furtive move or change of shadows’ shapes.
While she, fresh fluid flowing still, detecting his concern,
Bared her teeth and lowered eyes
In gestures of welcome and ease.
Hair still on end, nostrils twitching, breath coming short,
Club slowly lowered and rock dropped to the floor,
He neared her by the fire, knelt to sniff the odor,
Reached to touch the matted nest of hair.
Pulling back his red smeared fingers,
He held them to his nose,
Touched them to his tongue,
Stared at the thick crimson,
Familiar and yet strange.
It did not clot and close the wound
But seemed to make it pout with berry-colored ripeness,
Unlike his that oft turned yellow and seeped foul stench.
Nor did she seem to ache or fear a loss,
The kind of ebb that brought down antlered giant,
Snarling beast, or timid runner in the brush.
The kind of ebb that slowed the pace or brought to end
The holder of the spear, the builder of the fire,
The hunter of all prey.
In unaccustomed calm they huddled near the heat,
Their hairy shoulders touched,
Their gnarled fingers felt each other’s grasp,
Blood dried, but mysteries remained.
David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the SMCR Board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.
On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the first in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to some of the poetry performed that evening.
together we bleed – by Iris Verstappen
existence ain’t real
on moonless nights
on moon-full nights
and we celebrate the blood
that has been given to us
to give back
to our mother earth
the tender soil in which our ancestral roots
we are the bloodline
generations of women giving
we are living right now
we are the sisters
the guardians of the blood
the blood keepers
cherish the blood
honor the blood
Iris Josephina L. Verstappen is a menstrual awareness educator, doula & ashtanga yoga teacher from the Netherlands who is passionate about empowering people to make informed choices about their bodies on all levels.
“Widening the Cycle” Featured Artists & Panel Speakers: Alvarez, Boros, Goldbloom Bloch, Kyle & MadelineJune 3rd, 2015 by Jen Lewis
I believe my project fulfills the call for art because I use menstrual fluid as the primary source for the art and encouraged participants to confront their discomforts with menstruation. Empowerment was my main goal with the art, both for myself and for menstruators as a whole. The project was called “Cup of Flow” and involved my inviting a group of women over to my home to watch me interact with my menstrual blood and my menstrual cup. I interacted with the blood in a hands-on way that involved touching it, smelling it, wearing it as lipstick, and tasting it. My goal was to push the boundaries of what most of the attendees had probably experienced before. I also used a speculum to allow the attendees to watch me menstruate directly from the cervix, the source. I had accumulated some menstrual blood in a mason jar prior to the event that had coagulated and allowed for the guests to pass it around and examine it. The menstrual cup was an important element because we took the conversation into a broader spectrum of environmentalism. Everyone was allowed to take pictures and post to social media using the hashtag (#cupofflow). The images were flagged by Facebook users as “obscene,” but when threatened to have them removed we launched a formal complaint asking Facebook to reconsider by explaining that menstrual blood is natural and not trauma induced. The pictures ultimately remained posted to the website. In the revolution there will be blood!
Niddah: The topic of female victimaztion has been covered in the news with alarming frequency in the past year. This provoked me to turn to my own religious roots and learn about the Judaic tradition of Niddah, the14 day separation of women during and after menstruation. In traditional homes, women cannot have contact with their husbands nor participate in religious observation during Niddah. In this project, I project both the negativity that is inherent in the Talmudic view of women’s cycles as well as my own ambivalence to the bodily process.
Niddah: Seven Days: Over the course of seven panels an overprinted image emerges both reaching out and inaccessible. The last print shows a complete hand in black against a watery background, a visual reference to the tradition of ritual immersion that marks the completion of Niddah.
The Women Series: I reflect on how traditional women experience societal exclusion during their periods. The ghostlike images roughly flesh out each woman’s shape, their presence described by their absence. I gave these women a strong stance, unafraid and proud, yet their isolation is undeniable. Whether the isolation is societal or self-imposed it is unclear.
The Curses: These embroidered depictions show some of the physical manifestations of menstruants. The banners refer to a family coat of arms which displays negative sideffects with the pride that one hangs a family crest. At the bottom of every banner are bdikah cloths painted with abstractions. These are used by Jewish women to check for purity in the seven days following menses.
Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch
I love hardware stores. As a little girl, I would accompany my father on his errands and get lost in the aisles imagining all the things I could make from the bits and pieces I came across. Since that time, hardware stores have been the inspiration for many of the mixed-media sculptures I create. I see the beauty in common objects. Each bit and piece is a mini-sculpture to me. The shape of each singular object, the texture and the transformation of grouping small bits into a larger whole is what drives my art. By using everyday items and transforming them into something entirely different from their intended purpose, I try to draw the viewer in to take a closer look at materials and objects that ordinarily go unnoticed.
At the root of all my work is a fundamental belief in the power of image and an understanding of the body as the primary site of knowing the world. I see images and image making as a practice in magic as much as theory: I have found that by simply re-appropriating the female form through my work, I am able to simultaneously re-appropriate the female experience. I take back both personal cultural space through the making of alternative images of the abstract and literal female figure.
Menstrual musings on period cravings, talking about periods, contagious periods, communicating about periods, and what men know about periods will be presented in two concurrent sessions at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.
Examining Menstruation Friday, June 5th:
Priming Menstruation Schema Moderates Relationship between Menstrual Attitudes and Chocolate Craving
Joseph Wister & Margaret L. Stubbs, Chatham University
Women who had menstruation schemas primed had significant positive correlations between negative menstrual attitudes and measures of increased craving and eating, confirming existing stereotypes. For women in the no-prime condition, these correlations were not significant or were in a direction that opposed the stereotypes.
Perceptions of Women who Speak Openly about Menstruation
Jessica Barnack-Tavlaris, The College of New Jersey
The purpose is to examine people’s perceptions of a woman who speaks openly about menstruation. We will test whether a woman will be judged more negatively when she speaks openly about menstruation (e.g., less competent, less likeable, less attractive) than when she does not speak openly about menstruation.
Menstruation as contagion? Women’s subjective beliefs about menstrual synchrony
Breanne Fahs, Arizona State University
This paper utilized qualitative data from a diverse 2014 community sample of women to examine their beliefs about menstrual synchrony (women’s menstrual cycles syncing up). Results revealed an overwhelming endorsement of menstrual synchrony, belief in it as magical or “animal-like,” and targeted a wide range of potential women co-menstruators. (Image supplied by Breanne Fahs)
Examining Knowledge, Cognitive Involvement, and Behavioral Involvement with Menstrual Practices: Implications on Health Education and Communication Campaigns
Arpan Yagnik & Srinivas Melkote, Bowling Green State University
There is a scarcity of baseline research on menstruation and menstrual hygiene that can guide health communication intervention campaigns. The outcomes of this study on Indian women and men will provide practitioners, health communication managers and researchers scientifically accurate knowledge about understudied facets of menstruation (cognitive/behavioral involvement, and knowledge).
Men and Menstruation Saturday, June 6th:
Masculinity & Menstruation: An Exploration of a Complex Relationship
Kate Richmond, Muhlenberg College & Mindy Erchull, University of Mary Washington
This exploratory study aimed to learn more about men’s knowledge and attitudes about menstruation. Men completed measures assessing their endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology, their attitudes and knowledge related to menstruation, their general levels of comfort talking about menstruation, and their reports of how they learned about menstruation.
She Got Her Period: Men’s knowledge and perspectives on menstruation
Ishwari Rajak, Minnesota State University
Myths, taboos, and shame associated with menstruation limit conversations about it. It is important for men to engage in conversation to understand at a deeper level why society silences conversation about menstruation. This research aims to explore men’s knowledge and perspectives on menstruation.
Putting men back in the menstrual cycle: A qualitative analysis of men’s perceptions of menstruation
Kate Fishman, Southern Illinois University
This paper will explore qualitative findings of men’s perceptions of menstruation and the implications of negative attitudes, specifically as they relate to women’s bodily experiences and expressions of emotion. Participants’ creative artworks depicting their perceptions of menstruation will be presented, and future directions related to educational goals will be addressed.
My work takes a critical view of societal, political and cultural issues, focusing on identity, gender binary and the human mind. Reflecting the emotional dimensions of personal memories, collected histories, and cultural myths, I constantly search for new possibilities, thriving on chance outcomes and the connections (physical and virtual) that link nature and the overlooked realities of our lives. As an artist concerned with real life stories, I am affected by those with untold, sometimes overwhelming, hidden perspectives.
These themes are often combined into experimental installations, employing different techniques which include: video, sound, photography, installation and site specific art. I am a curious artist using diverse exploratory technics, all of which I self produce.
Inspired by repetitive dreams and underpinned by memories , driven by my understanding of the female conditions and the manifestation of injustice in patriarchy, the issues of woman’s social and sexual conditioning have all formed the foundation of my current work.
Surreal quality images, revealing glimpses of potential possibilities, what latently exists in nature, suggesting different views of our external world, inviting the viewer to move into a space of speculation.
If I have learned anything over the last two years of producing Beauty in Blood, it is that menstruation matters more than most people in society are willing to recognize; it is deeply embedded in our global body politics and is a major contributor to the vast gender inequity between men and women today. Institutionalized hierarchies maintain and support the outdated patriarchal belief that menstruation makes the female body inferior to the male body. Billions of dollars are spent annually trying to make women’s bodies conform to male “norms” by suppressing the natural menstrual cycle through hormonal birth control. The feminine “hygiene” industry perpetuates taboo thinking by suggesting the monthly cycle is dirty and socially impolite; it should be concealed in frilly pink wrappers like candy and only very loosely referenced with blue liquid in product commercials. In my experience, women and men are hungry for an authentic dialogue about menstruation and all that encompasses. It is clear the time is now to stand up and speak out on behalf of menstruation. It is a natural, messy but beautiful part of life. Just because it is not a shared experience doesn’t mean it needs to be a divisive topic that aids in gender inequity. Beauty in Blood asserts that menstruation needs to be seen to help normalize the female body and to acknowledge this part of the female experience by inviting the viewer to take a closer look and reflect on their personal gut reactions to the subject of “menstruation.”
Menstruarte – Showing the Abjection
As feminist I’m concerned primarily with woman as a theme, or the showing of the ways women are discriminated against in this patriarchal society. Menstruation is a stigmatic condition (Erving Goffman). Women are regarded as of lesser value, as the Other (Simone de Beauvoir). I’m concerned with showing this mechanism and at the same time with undermining it.
By using menstrual blood in my informel and monochrome work, I draw attention to the negative taboo and publicly show something that is usually kept secret – everything is done to make the time of menstruation as invisible as possible. Cleanliness and discretion are foremost. The leaking women were seen as unclean, and the unpure blood contrasted with the masculine, healing blood of Christ. So I called a serie of menstruation pictures „That’s the blood I’ve spilled for you”, the other simply “Menstruarte”. “Hidden Abject” shows blood through a small cut in the canvas. I try first through the completed abstract structure of the menstrual blood to make the viewer aware of the theme, and second, I use the aesthetic work to reverse the negative value. Menstrual blood is abject: “Not me. Not that. But not nothing, either” (Julia Kristeva).
I first began creating artworks incorporating menstrual fluid in 2005, pressing my menstrual vagina to watercolor paper each morning to make a series of monoprints. My purpose in producing and exhibiting these works was to confront the taboo associated with menstruation, demystify this natural function of the female body, and promote thought-provoking discussion among women & men, artists & non-artists alike.
After exhibiting these pieces, I curated a St. Louis based exhibition, entitled Life Blood Exhibit, which traveled throughout the city and to Cape Girardeau, MO from 2011 – 2012. I have also continued to explore female reproductive health, with artworks themed around celebrating women’s bodies to addressing health concerns (my own and others’) to the political and social arena (abortion, birth control, the confiscation of tampons at a July 2013 Texas legislative meeting…).