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Tag : periods

November 5, 2019 by

Required Reading

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 3.30.34 PMFlow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein, offers a history of Jewish views, and some new perspectives.

 It’s Only Blood: Shattering the Taboo of Menstruation, by Anna Dahlqvist and Alice Olsson. Every day 800,000,000 people menstruate; why and how people around the world are now fighting back against stigma.

 Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working For You, by Maisie Hill, bills itself as a guide for dealing with PMS, periods, and such.

 My Little Red Book, edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, is a collection of personal essays.

 New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, by Chris Bobel. An ethnographic exploration of cultural shifts surrounding periods.

Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, by Nadya Okamoto, presents a call to action to destigmatize menstruation.

Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, explores “menstrual justice” work.

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November 5, 2019 by

Period Positivity

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 2.35.34 PM

Before you turn the page and enter a world where menstruation is a subject of performance art and hormones are being touted as the drivers of all aspects of our lives, let’s acknowledge the whiplash of living through rapid shifts regarding our hormonal selves. There was a time—well into the 20th century, in fact—when women’s concerns, be they personal or political, were considered “hysterical,” originating in the womb. Periods, like pregnancies in the Victorian era, were to be concealed and were never discussed in public.

Not only was period talk taboo, but menstrual blood itself was actually considered dangerous. Citing a 1934 article, here’s what appeared in the pamphlet Jewish Family Life: The Duty of the Woman, published by Agudath Israel Youth Council of America in 1953 and provided to Lilith by Sheri Sandler, who found it among her late mother’s papers: “a toxic substance is present in the blood serum, blood corpuscles, saliva, sweat, milk, tears, urine and other secretions of women at the time of menstruation.”

Then, as women staked claims to some share of the power and the pie in the heyday of the women’s movement, from the late 1960s through much of the 1980s, no women with any feminist cred would have wanted her behavior labeled hormonal in origin. Granted, some iconoclastic artists dabbled in painting with menstrual blood, but mostly women wanted to think of themselves as just like men, capable of advancing in the universe as long as the costume included, for a certain stratum, power pantsuits. Children at home? Never mentioned at work. A migraine because of one’s period? Not at all—merely the result of a late night working on a report. Parody aside, keep these rigid standards in mind as you think about the current evolution of “period talk.”

Interestingly, at the same time as Jewish women were eager to advance in a “man’s world” by keeping hormonal matters out of sight, there were women creating new traditions around a typical distinguishing characteristic of female bodies— bleeding once a month from menarche to menopause. (Some of these rituals for a first period or for marking the cessation of periods spotlighted in Lilith.) Jewish law is pretty specific and matter-offact about women’s periods, what one cannot do while menstruating (have sex with one’s husband) and how to determine when a period has ceased (examine one’s vaginal canal with a clean piece of cloth; if in doubt, show the cloth to a rabbi).

The idea that we’re all embodied selves had to be stashed away so women could go to law school and rabbinical school and business school without being told (as many students were as recently as the mid-1960s) that their gender rendered them unfit to occupy the classroom seats they were so obviously seated in. Today, posts on social media will announce a person’s “phase of the moon” with the same forthright conviction used a few decades ago to discuss the implications of one’s astrological sign. And as you’ll see when you look at the titles of the new books on hormones and periods, we can now safely take our bodies out of the storage unit where, presumably, they’ve been renting space for quite a while.

Enter a new era of hormonal glory—the age of period positivity.

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The Lilith Blog

July 29, 2019 by

How I Got My Town to Offer Free Menstrual Products

This article was originally published on Jewish Women, Amplified, the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Last year when I was a senior at Brookline High School, I wrote an op-ed in the student-run newspaper about the stigma and cultural shame surrounding menstruation in our society. The article caught the attention of local legislator Rebecca Stone, who took action to combat some of the concerns I voiced in the piece. This past May, Brookline became the first municipality in the country to provide free menstrual products in every public restroom.

Ms. Stone’s response to my original article, as well as the public support for the (now passed) warrant, goes beyond anything I could have imagined. Among many things, this experience has renewed my faith in the power of storytelling.

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April 2, 2019 by

Period. End of Sentence. •

The taboos against even mentioning the word menstruation are profound in rural India, among young and old, male and female alike. These taboos and the introduction of a cottage industry to manufacture and sell sanitary pads are the subject of an Academy Award winning Netflix short documentary created by Rayka Zehtabchi. Many other cultures can learn from the destigmatizing. netflix.com. 

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The Lilith Blog

August 23, 2018 by

Bloody Waters at the Mikveh

The tablecloths in this palatial Newton synagogue are all Tiffany blue, as are the event programs and the lanyards for our nametags, which have High Holiday-style fundraiser cards on the back.  My nametag is as expected. My companion S’s, however, lists the name and title of a Baptist preacher, a woman who runs an abortion outreach group funded by Planned Parenthood. This woman had invited me to be her date to this shindig weeks before—presumably as she didn’t want to be the lone Christian clergyperson at a mikveh fundraising gala without a Jewish wingwoman—but had succumbed to a late-spring cold at the eleventh hour.  S., magnanimously, agreed to come with me instead. 

“Come on,” I’d said to my friend S, “It’s a mikveh gala with circus arts. It cannot possibly be boring.” 

“Alright,” she’d said, grimly, “but I am not changing and I am not putting on heels. It’s 6PM on Thursday; that’s a time for people with nannies.

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