The Stigma of Being a Woman: The Story of a Menstruating Woman

Stigma- an identifying mark or characteristic; specifically: a diagnostic sign of a disease. [1]  Having a stigma often results in segregation and discrimination which can cause low self esteem. [2]

So what is this identifying mark of a woman? Is it her vagina? Is it her breasts?  The fact she bleeds once a month? Can grow a child? What is it that sets her apart?  Looking at the practices of segregation throughout the world one comes to the conclusion that it is everything.  In the next several blog posts, I will be discussing various aspects of the stigmatization of women through out the world— beginning today with the stigma of being a menstruating woman.

How did the medical community come up with the term “PMS”?
“Mad Cow Disease” was already taken.

What’s the difference between a menstruating woman and a terrorist?
You can negotiate with a terrorist.

These sexist jokes color the stigma against menstruating women. From the beginning, menstruating has been a mystery to men.  The woman bleeds for a week once every 28 days without being cut. The bleeding stops when she is pregnant or breastfeeding.  Leviticus declares the menstruating women unclean.  But what is more interesting then the uncleanliness, is the power assigned along with menstruation. In PESACHIM 111, an orthodox Jewish text, states that if a Nidah (which is a menstruating woman) should walk through two men, one would die. [3]  In many eastern cultures, the belief that the blood from a menstruating woman is connected to her internal power and is a threat to all manhood.  Thus the women in these types of cultures are stigmatized as being evil and dirty during their monthly cycles.   As a result these women are isolated.

“I wish nobody would be born as a daughter.” Said Laxmi Devi Bhul a twelve-year-old from Nepal.  This was said while she sat isolated in a small shed during her menstrual cycle.  Women in Nepal are placed in these sheds called, chaupadi, so they can appease the gods and ward off tragedy. The tragedy that would occur from their unleashed power. [4]

I wonder if subconsciously men were aware the power that women possess through their many natural talents and abilities.  Then they became afraid, made up some explanation of dangerous power through menstruating to make up for it, then isolated women for their dangerous nature—thus labeling them untouchable.

No matter the actual reason, these stigmas that come from culture are what keep women on the margins and away from real voice and power.  Creating stigma is simply a tactic to exploit the differences between men and women.  They diagnose a feminine quality (menstruating) as a disease and then separate women from the group physically and also socially because of this so called disease.

These types of stigmas are difficult to fight—especially where education and literacy are scarce.  This stigma of menstruating women caused a little girl of 12 to despise her sex and wish that nobody would be born a girl. Culture can be a blessing in many ways. But when culture causes a person to hate themselves for being born female, there is something terribly wrong.

[3] Feldman, Rabbi P. Outlines of Halachos From the Daf. 111.htm
[4] Yogi, Anju Gautam. “Menstruation Forces Rural Nepali Women into Isolation.” The Press institute. Sept. 16, 2010,
—by CK

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