Shedding Menstrual Shame
The first Sunday in November, I will be teaching the Shedding Menstrual Shame class. I taught it in October as well, and the participants were so interested in the content that they requested additional time for exploration.
You may be thinking, “What does menstrual shame have to do with anything?” when really, it is relevant to almost every aspect of American culture.
One of the more universal concepts we talked about in the class is the correlation between society’s attitudes about the earth, the divine feminine, and women’s rights.
I am using the terms women and men for the sake of brevity in this newsletter. It is not my intention to exclude the experience of other genders under patriarchy, I am simply focusing here on what happened to individuals who menstruate in general.
At the dawn of patriarchy, over 6,000 years ago, land and women's bodies were commodified at the same time. When men became the dominant landowning group, they needed to ensure the paternity of their offspring. To do this, they took ownership of women and the children that were birthed from them. A woman’s social status became tied to her father or husband’s wealth, which broke down previous communal structures of care among women.
We can see this shift in the religions of the time. Goddess-centered, nature based religions evolved into pantheons of gods and goddesses with increasingly human characteristics. As men continued their dominance in society, goddesses became associated with more masculine activities like war.
Intensely violent, large scale wars were waged to expand land ownership and build up vast empires. All of nature was conscripted into the service of war - animals, plants, stones, and metals.
Eventually, religion evolved into the patriarchal monotheism we know today with one masculine God. The serpent, which had been a symbol of the divine feminine, became associated with evil and temptation. The Triple Goddess of Mother, Maiden, Crone became the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Once femininity was severed from the Divine, restrictions on women’s rights intensified. Extraction of resources from the land has increased exponentially in the past two thousand years. Patriarchy gave rise to colonization, Christian Supremacy, white supremacy, and capitalism.
Before patriarchy, there was a way of life that existed in balance with the earth, in support of childbirth and childrearing. There is wisdom we can learn from our pre-Christian ancestors to deeply impact the choices we make as a culture moving forward.
Shedding menstrual shame is one component of cultivating a society in which all people can live within equitable communities of care and networks of mutual support. As long as we live in a society that is ashamed of the basic natural functions of our bodies, we will continue to abuse the earth. Until we can recognize that we ARE nature, not separate from it, efforts to care for the planet will be limited. Let’s love the nature that we are, so we can love the nature we live within.