When I heard about The Satanic Temple’s drive “Menstruatin’ With Satan” to collect and distribute feminine hygiene products to disadvantaged women, I thought it was wonderful. While many people donate clothing and food to those in need, basic hygiene and feminine hygiene products are often overlooked. What they were doing was amazing, but they got blocked (albeit temporarily) by some religious person who took offense.
It’s not completely clear whether their objection was because they didn’t like menstruation, didn’t like Satanists, or didn’t like taking care of the disadvantaged. No matter how you look at it, the objection was appalling. Who goes out and starts trouble for a group trying to do a necessary good for less fortunate people? Apparently, Christians. So much for loving thy neighbor and being charitable.
This situation got me to thinking about the thoughts religious folks have about menstruation. I’ve heard some pretty horrific things over the years. I personally experienced religiously-motivated idiocy when I was a young woman. My family had given up religion, but were ex-Catholic, and never taught me about my body or physical womanhood. When my time came, I was forced to walk home from school, covered in blood, and had a bag of feminine pads thrown in my face, at which point I was told to “read the damn instructions.” That was the totality of my menstruation education. Religion seems to take a dim outlook on women at this time of the month, and it leads to unnecessary shame and confusion among young women.
In Christianity, menstruating women are considered unclean. In stricter sects, they’re put into isolation. In Orthodox beliefs, not only are women to be kept in isolation, they can’t receive communion while bleeding. In Islam, women aren’t allowed to touch a Quran or enter a mosque while on their cycle. In Judaism, women are considered unclean for their entire cycle and a week after, and are expected to take a ritual bath and offer a sacrifice afterward, to prove they’re once again clean. It’s also believed that sex during menstruation contaminates both parties and makes them impure.
In Buddhism, women are said to lose Qi (or chi, the spiritual life-force) when bleeding, and are susceptible to spiritual attack. They also believe that nearly all bodily functions are impure offenses experienced on the physical plane. In some forms of Buddhism women are banned from temple during this time. In Hinduism, women who are having their monthly aren’t allowed to use the kitchen, speak loudly, have sex, touch people, or oddly enough, bathe.
In Shintoism, women are seen as impure all the time because they menstruate. Rastafarians think that menstruating women shouldn’t cook, since they’ll transfer their “poison” to the food. Many tribal cultures ban menstruating women from group events and sequester them in menstrual huts or otherwise away from the rest of the “clean” people. A vast number of religions consider tampons and menstrual cups to be filthy and vulgar, and won’t allow their use, since only whores insert things into their vaginas. (I was actually told that one when I was a teen.)
As you can see, religion is pretty bad for menstruating women. It’s not uncommon for girls experiencing a religious upbringing to never know about menstruation until it happens. They’re often ill-informed or misinformed, and generally they’re taught that they’re dirty and inferior. It’s sick, in my opinion. It should be considered a form of child abuse to refuse to properly educate a child about their body. Women menstruate. It’s a natural process, and no one should ever feel bad about it. Every girl deserves proper education regarding her body and its natural transitions. These backward and harmful beliefs are just one more black mark against organized religion and the way it treats women. Interestingly, Satanism is one of very few religions that takes a positive view of menstruation and celebrates women, and as a result, takes their needs at this time seriously.