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The Male Feminist Myth and Fact: Menstruation in the Role of Male Femininity

By Charles Moffat - December 7th 2001.

1st Part : The Male Feminist Myth and Fact, Menstruation in the Role of Male Femininity

There is a disastrous stereotype that any men who identify themselves as feminists are just trying to fit in with the feminist crowd because they think its cool or because they think they’ll get laid.

While this is probably true of some men, I would not generalize by saying all men.

For this reason we have to understand why men should be in favour of feminism, for their own sake:

#1. So that they can cry and express feelings of sorrow.

#2. So that they don’t repress their feelings.

#3. So they can express homoerotic thoughts and ideas without being rejected by both male and female members of society.

#4. So that they can learn to control their anger (a side effect of catharsis).

#5. So they can wear clothes that makes them feel comfortable without fear of rejection. (I really would like to wear a pink shirt today.)

#6. So they can enjoy jobs that are considered to be stereotypically feminine, such as nursing, without the barrage of insults towards their lifestyle.

#7. So they can bring up their children to become understanding individuals.

#8. So they can achieve a deeper spiritual satisfaction.

#9. So they can identify that racism is also effected by cross-racial sexism, and that sexism is another form of elitism that is tied to their sexual ego.

#10. So they can live happier, longer and more fulfilled lives. (Statistics show that men who embrace a non-gendered or androgynous lifestyle tend to live longer due to less stress and less health problems.)

The boundaries and the effects of a gendered society upon a person’s psyche are intrinsically damaging. It could take us centuries of cultural reform before we fully understand the implications and side effects that gender has had upon our society.

Back to the original stereotype, a number of feminists I have encountered have actually reacted in territorial manners saying things like “Men have no business talking about feminism.” and “You have no right to paint feminist issues. Go paint something else.”

To which I respond, what would you prefer I painted? Stereotypical bimbos with Britney Spears torpedoes beneath her collarbone? Or heaven forbid..... landscapes? You see, I’m a portrait painter. I hate landscapes. And there’s only two ways to do portraits and figures: sexist or non-sexist. Its a bit like caffeinated coffee and non-caffeinated coffee. Its either one or the other.

So I prefer the non-sexist variety, although some of my fetish-related pieces do appear to be quite sexist because of their subject matter.

Fortunately I haven’t had any hermaphrodites emailing me and telling me “You can’t do art about hermaphrodites unless you are one!” Perhaps this is because hermaphrodites and cross-gendered people have a more enlightened view of the way that gender works. They identify that in those 3 paintings I am deliberately poking at the gender stereotypes that we have about hair, body features and emotions.

One of these days I’m going to do a series of pictures of nude men, perhaps surrealistic ones with super-enlarged phalluses. Can you imagine? Large paintings with men showing off their phallus which is enlarged to the extent it reaches his chest hair? Or beyond? I’m sure some psychologists and shrinks that are into Freud would have fun psychoanalyzing those paintings. I must remember to do this, so please don’t steal my idea.

I recently did a series of 7 paintings called Day #1 of a Taboo Topic, Day #2 of a Taboo Topic, etc., all the way up to day 7. What was the Taboo Topic? Well it was menstruation. Why was it taboo? Well, because men aren’t supposed to talk about it. When they do talk about it they say stupid things like “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die” or “My girlfriend has her period, so I don’t want to piss her off”, or even “Thank god my girlfriend got her period. I was pretty worried there.”

(The Taboo paintings were actually very well received and I received a lot of positive feedback. It got people talking too, which was the most amazing part. There was one person however who did not like it, and decided to vandalize two of my paintings and leave a note behind. By the handwriting, it was same person who vandalized my flag piece a month earlier. This person felt that I should have done a more accurate depiction, saying "its not a splatter of blood". I responded by leaving my own note: "Well duh, everyone knows that. But how offended would you be if I actually did a realistic version?" To replace the flag and taboo pieces, I most recently installed a rendition of the Vetruvian Man. It['s phallus] has yet to be vandalized.)

They (men) say these things because they don’t understand menstruation. They don’t understand, they don’t know what its like, they don’t know how it works, and its a complete mystery to them. They blame a woman’s period every time they have a relationship problem, claiming its her mood swings. But maybe its not mood swings at all. Maybe its men having mood swings as the result of their insecurity? Maybe there is the male aversion to blood, whereas females are accustomed to blood and less worried about it, that plays a vital role in the stereotypes and myths that surround menstruation.

“Ew. Disgusting.”

“Its that time of the month again. Stay away from me.”

In some cultures, women are actually locked up during menstruation because of a fear that they are cursed and will spread the curse to the rest of the society.

In Judaism, blood is treated as if it is unholy and impure. Women are thought to be subhuman because of it.


2nd Part : The Male Feminist Myth and Fact, Menstruation in the Role of Male Femininity

The following list is of books on the topic of religion and its taboos towards menstruation.

Aboriginal (Australia)

Gross, Rita M.
"Menstruation and Childbirth as Ritual and Religious Experience among
Native Australians," pp. 277-292 in Nancy Auer Falk and Rita M. Gross
(eds.), Unspoken Worlds: Women's Religious Lives in Non-Western
Cultures. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Africa

van Beek, Walter E. A.
"Becoming Human in Dogon, Mali," pp. 46-70 in Göran Aijmer (ed.),
Coming Into Existence: Birth and Metaphors of Birth. Göteborg, Sweden:
IASSA, 1992.

La Fontaine, J. S.
"Ritualization in Women's Life-Crises in Bugisu," pp. 157-185 in J. S. La
Fontaine (ed.), The Interpretation of Ritual: Essays in Honour of A. I.
Richards. London: Tavistock, 1972.

Nabofa, M. Y.
"Blood Symbolism in African Religion," Religious Studies 21, pp. 389-405.

Odouyoye, M.
"Naming the Woman: the Words of the Akan and the Words of the Bible,"
Bulletin de Théologie Africaine 3,5: pp. 81-97.

Ancient Women

King, Helen
"Bound to Bleed: Artemis and Greek Women," pp. 109-127 in Averil
Cameron and Amélie Kuhrt (eds.), Images of Women in Antiquity. London:
Crook Helm, 1983.

Major primary texts:

Aristotle, The Generation of Animals (Book II, 3+4; Book IV, 1+2;
specifically 727b; 726b-731b; 775b-778a)

Pliny, The Natural History of Pliny (Book VII, XV; Book XXVIII, XXIII)
Josephus, The Jewish War (Book V, 222-22) and Jewish Antiquities (Book
III, 261-275)

Buddhism

Furth, Charlotte and Ch'en Shu-Yueh
"Chinese Medicine and the Anthropology of Menstruation in Contemporary
Taiwan," Medical Anthropology Quarterly 6, 1 (March 1992): pp. 27-48.

Momoko, Takemi
"Menstruation Sutra Belief in Japan," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
10, 2-3 (1983): pp. 229-245.

Reed, Barbara E.
"The Gender Symbolism of Kuan-yin Bodhisattva," (see section: "Symbol of
Liberation from Women's Suffering"), pp. 159-165 in José Ignacio Cabezón
(ed.), Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. New York: SUNY.

China

Ahern, Emily M.
"The Power and Pollution of Chinese Women," pp. 269-290 in Arthur P.
Wolf (ed.), Studies in Chinese Society. Stanford, California: Stanford
University Press, 1978.

Christianity

Amoah, Elizabeth
"On Being Near the Fire," The Witness 68, 12 (December): p.19.
Hartman, Louis F. (ed.)

"Menstruation," in Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1963.

Park, Sun Ai
"Religion and Menstruation," pp. 12-18 in Stella Faria et al. (eds.), The
Emerging Christian Woman: Church and Society Perspectives. Indore:
Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, 1984.

Phipps, William E.
"The Menstrual Taboo in the Judeo-Christian Tradition", Journal of
Religion and Health 19, 4 (Winter 1980): pp. 298-303.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford
"Women's Body and Blood: The Sacred and the Impure," pp. 7-21 in Alison
Joseph (ed.), Through the Devil's Gateway: Women, Religion and Taboo.
London: SPCK, 1990.

Selvidge, Marla J.
"Mark 5:25-34 and Leviticus 15:19-20: A Reaction to Restrictive Purity
Regulations," Journal of Biblical Literature 103 (December 1984): pp.
619-623.

Soskice, Janet Martin
"Blood and Defilement," European Theology, Heft 2, Tubingen 1994.



Suzanne MacNevin, Feminist Writer


Major primary texts:

Bible: Old Testament: ; New Testament: Mark 5:25

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Pt. III Q. 31 Art. 5; and Q.64 Art 3-4.
Suppl;

Hinduism 

Apffel-Marglin, Frederique
"The Sacred Groves," Manushi 82 (May/June 1994): pp. 22-32.

Chawla, Janet
"The Rig Vedic Slaying of Vrtra: Menstruation Taboos in Mythology,"
Manushi 68 (Jan.-Feb. 1992): pp. 29-34.

Ferro-Luzzi, G. Eichinger
"Food Avoidances at Puberty and Menstruation in Tamilnad: An
Anthropological Study," pp. 93-100 in J. R. K. Robson (ed.), Food, Ecology
and Culture: Readings in the Anthropology of Dietary Practices. New York:
Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1980.

Walker, Benjamin (ed.)
"Menstruation," pp. 61-63 in The Hindu World: An Encyclopedic Survey of
Hinduism. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968.

Major primary texts:

Law Book of Manu (see 4.41; 5.66).

Islam

Engineer, Asghar Ali (ed.)
pp. 38-41 in Status of Women in Islam. Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1987.

Fischer, Michael M.
pp. 204-206 of "Persian Women," in Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie (eds.),
Women in the Muslim World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Major primary texts:

Qur'an 2:222

von Schlegell, Barbara R.; and Kimball, M.
Muslim Women throughout the World. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner
Press, 1996.

Judaism

Abramov, Tehilla
The Secret of Jewish Femininity, Insights into the practice of Taharat
HaMishpachah [a reader called this "THE most widely read basic "how-to"
book on the subject in the Orthodox Jewish community.]

Antonelli, Judith S.
"Menstruation," pp. 276-287 in In the Image of God: A Feminist
Commentary on the Torah. London: Jason Aronson, 1995.

Archer, Léonie J.
"'In Thy Blood Live': Gender and Ritual in the Judeo-Christian Tradition,"
pp. 22-49 in Alison Joseph (ed.), Through the Devil's Gateway: Women,
Religion and Taboo. London: SPCK, 1990.

Archer, Léonie J.
"Bound by Blood: Circumcision and Menstrual Taboo in Post-Exilic
Judaism," pp. 38-61 in Janet Martin Soskice (ed.), After Eve: Women,
Theology and the Christian Tradition. London: Marhsall Pickering, 1990.

Baker, Adrienne
"The Marital Relationship and the Laws of Family Purity (Taharat Ha
Mischpachaah)," pp. 155-157 in The Jewish Woman in Contemporary
Society. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Bleich, J. David
"Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature," Tradition: A Journal of
Orthodox Thought 21, 4 (Fall 1985): pp. 56-72.

Cohen, Shaye J. D.
"Purity and Piety: The Separation of Menstruants from the Sancta," pp.
103-115 in Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut (eds.), Daughters of the King:
Women and the Synagogue. New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1992.

Delaney, Janice, Mary Jane Lupton, and Emily Toth
"Woman Unclean: Menstrual Taboos in Judaism and Christianity," pp.
33-39 in The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation. New York: E.P.
Dutton, 1976.

Englard-Schaffer, Naomi Y.
"Review Essay on Blu Greenberg's On Women and Judaism: A View from
Tradition", Tradition 21, 2 (Summer 1983): pp. 132-145.

Hinnells, John R. (ed.)
"Menstruation," p. 210 in The Facts on File Dictionary of Religions. New
York: Facts on File, 1984.

Jacobs, Louis (ed.)
"Menstruation," p. 342 in The Jewish Religion: A Companion. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1995.

Neusner, Jacob
"From Scripture to Mishnah: The Origins of Tractate Niddah," Journal of
Jewish Studies 29 (1978): pp. 135-148.

Wasserfall, Rahel
"Menstruation and Identity: The Meaning of Niddah for Moroccan Women
Immigrants to Israel," pp. 309-327 in Howard Eilberg-Schwartz (ed.), People
of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective. New York:
SUNY, 1992.

Women and Water: Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law, Brandeis
University Press, 1999.

Weissler, Chava
"Mizvot Built into the Body: Tkhines for Niddah, Pregnancy, and
Childbirth," pp. 101-115 in Howard Eilberg-Schwartz (ed.), People of the
Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective. New York: SUNY,
1992.

Wigoder, Geoffrey (ed.)
"Niddah," pp. 524-525 in The Encyclopedia of Judaism. New York:
Macmillan, 1989.

Major primary texts:

Torah: Leviticus 15:19; Leviticus 18:19

The Mishnah: Tractate Niddah

The Tosefta: Sixth Division, Tohorot: Niddah

Talmud of Babylonia: Bavli Tractate Niddah

Talmud of the Land of Israel: Niddah

Latin America

Beyene, Yewoubdar
From Menarche to Menopause: Reproductive Lives of Peasant Women in
Two Cultures. 1989.

Molina, Anatilde Idoyaga
"The Myth of Nesoge: Hermenuetic Analysis of a Pilaga Relation," Latin
American Indian Literatures Journal 1, 1(Spring 1985): pp. 1-12.
Melanesia

Camp, Cheryl
"A Female Initiation Rite in the Neigrie Area," pp. 68-83 in Norman C.
Habel (ed.), Powers, Plumes, and Piglets: Phenomena of Melanesian Religion.
Bedford Park, South Australia: Australian Association for the Study of
Religions, 1979.

Carsten, Janet
"The Process of Childbirth and Becoming Related among Malays in Pulau
Langkawi," pp. 20-46 in Göran Aijmer (ed.), Coming Into Existence: Birth
and Metaphors of Birth. Göteborg, Sweden: IASSA, 1992.

Kigasung, Wesley
"The Value of Bukawa Initiation," Point: Forum for Melanesian Affairs 7, 2
(1978): pp.128-139.

Lutkehaus, Nancy C.
"Gender Metaphors: Female Rituals as Cultural Models in Manam," pp.
182-204 in Nancy C. Lutkehaus and Paul B. Roscoe (eds.), Gender Rituals:
Female Initiation in Melanesia. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Roscoe, Paul B.
"The Narandauwa Rites," pp. 59-66 in Nancy C. Lutkehaus and Paul B.
Roscoe (eds.), Gender Rituals: Female Initiation in Melanesia. New York:
Routledge, 1995.

Native American

Powers, Marla N.
"Menstruation and Reproduction: An Oglala Case," Signs: Journal of
Women in Culture and Society 6, 1 (Autumn 1980): 54-65.

Scully, Virginia
"Women's Problems," pp. 287-288 in A Treasury of American Indian Herbs:
Their Lore and Their Use for Food, Drugs, and Medicine. New York: Crown
Publishers, 1970.

Major primary texts:

Black Elk, The Sacred Pipe, pp. 116-126, Joseph Epes Brown (ed.).

Shintoism

Smyers, Karen A.
"Women and Shinto: The Relation Between Purity and Pollution," Japanese
Religions 12, 4 (July 1983): 7-18.

Siberia

Balzer, Marjorie Mandelstam
"Rituals of Gender Identity: Markers of Siberian Khanty Ethnicity, Status,
and Belief," American Anthropologist 83, 4 (1981): pp. 850-867.
Sri Lanka

Winslow, Deborah
"Rituals of First Menstruation in Sri Lanka," Man: The Journal of the
Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (1980): 603-625.

Zoroastrianism

Culpepper, Emily E.
"Zoroastrian Menstruation Taboos: A Women's Studies Perspective," pp.
199-210 in Judith Plaskow and Joan Arnold Romero (eds.), Women and
Religion: Papers of the Working Group on Women and Religion 1972-73.
American Academy of Religion and Scholars Press, 1974.

General

Bonnerjea, Biren (ed.)
"Menstruation," p. 165 in A Dictionary of Superstitions and Mythology.
London: Folk Press, 1969.

Buckley, Thomas and Alma Gottlieb
Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1988.
Carlo, Wanda
"Riding a White Horse with a Red Saddle: Women's Folklore," Louisianna
Folklore Miscellany 6, 2 (1986-87): pp. 44-48.

Downing, Christine
"Come and Celebrate with Me," Anima: An Experimental Journal of
Celebration 9, 1 (Fall 1982): pp.11-27. (Personal reflections on menopause).

Ecker, Ronald
"," And 
Frazer, Sir James
The New Golden Bough. Theodor H. Gaster (ed.). New York: Criterion, 1959
ed. See section 489: "The Taboos Imposed on Girls at Puberty" (pp.
584-587); section 165-170: "Taboo and the Perils of the Soul" (pp. 166-175).

Grahn, Judy
Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston:
Beacon, 1993.

Kitahara, Michio
"Menstrual Taboos and the Importance of Hunting," American
Anthropologist 84, 4 (December 1982): pp. 901-903.

Knight, Chris
Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture. London: Yale
University Press, 1991.

Logan, Deana Dorman
"The Menarche Experience in Twenty-Three Foreign Countries,"
Adolescence 15, 57 (Spring 1980): pp. 247-256.

Montogomery, Rita E.
"A Cross-Cultural Study of Menstruation, Menstrual Taboos, and Related
Social Variables," Ethos 2, 1 (Spring 1974): pp. 137-170.

Moorey, Thresa
1997. The Goddess: A Beginner's Guide, Chapter 5. Hodder & Stoughton.
ISBN 0 340683902

Müller, Max F. (ed.)
"Woman", pp. 648-654 in The Sacred Books of the East. Clarendon, 1910;
Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1966.

Newman, Joan
"Preserving the Status Quo: The Folklore of Women," Australian Folklore:
A Yearly Journal 1 (March 1987): pp. 5-24.

O'Grady, Kathleen and Paula Wansbrough
Sweet Secrets: Stories of Menstruation. Toronto: Second Story Press, 1997.

O'Grady, Kathleen
"Menstruation" in Women and World Religions. Serinity Young et al. (eds.).
New York: Macmillan, (forthcoming) 1998-9.

O'Grady, Kathleen and Paula Wansbrough
"Menstruation" in A Reader's Guide to Women's Studies. Chicago:
Fitzroy-Dearborn, forthcoming 1998.

O'Grady, Kathleen
"Blood and Chestnuts," pp. 121-124 in Jo-Anne Elder and Colin O'Connell
(eds.), Voices and Echoes: Canadian Women's Spirituality. Waterloo,
Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997.

Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem
"Menstruating Woman," p. 247 in A Dictionary of Superstitions. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1989.

Paige, Karen Ericksen and Jeffery M. Paige
"Menstrual Restrictions and Sex Segregation Practices," pp. 208-254 in The
Politics of Reproductive Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press,
1981.

Peters, F. E.
"The Menstruant," pp. 731-734 in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: The
Classical Texts and Their Interpretation. Princeton: Princeton University
Press.

Sommer, Barbara
"Menstruation," pp. 231-234 in Helen Tierney (ed.), Women's Studies
Encyclopedia I. London: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Tuttle, Lisa (ed.)
"Menstruation," p. 203 in The Encyclopedia of Feminism. New York: Facts
on File Publications, 1986.

Walker, Barbara
"Menstruation" in The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. New
Jersey: Castle Books, 1983.

Wansbrough, Paula
"Sweet Secrets: Researching and Writing on the Internet" in Resources for
Feminist Research, forthcoming summer 1998.



Now why did I list all of those books, including page references?

Because menstruation is a major stepping block towards male understanding. On the road towards gender equality, men are going to have to learn about and understand menstruation. How else will they ever be able to cope with and remove societal taboos surrounding menstruation..?

If men can learn about menstruation, and if it isn't a taboo topic for them anymore to learn about it (many religions forbid men to have any detailed knowledge of it), then the slow process of removing the stereotypes from our society can begin.

This is something that will be good for both males and females. Men will not feel awkward about the topic of menstruation and women will not feel unjustly stereotyped (although many feel that their vaginal tracts are being put in the spotlight more often than they are comfortable with).

Men also deal with issue of their penis's being in the spotlight, which is something they are more used to because of society's fascination with erections. Intense conversations about wet dreams, vaginal fantasies (some men fantasize of having a vagina), penis angst and itchy rashes are still taboo however.

Have you ever seen an advertisement for male pubic hair itch powder? (It does get itchy down there!) Nope, but you've likely seen stuff for menstrual pads, genital wart creams, amongst other things.

Society is changing, one step at a time.

:)
Charles Moffat
December 7th, 2001

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"Feminism is the radical notion
that women are people."

Are you a person?
Changing Times, painting by Charles Alexander Moffat.