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The Red Tent

A few years ago I read a book and it set me thinking about how culture and society has dealt with menstruation. (Yes, you heard me right :D)


The book was ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamant. It was a first-person story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph of the Old Testament. Dinah was a talented midwife and proto-feminist. The story revolves round the red tent, which refers to the tent in which women of Jacob’s tribe must take refuge while menstruating or giving birth, according to the ancient law.

The Red Tent seems like punishment and expulsion from home, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, the women in the tent rested, talked, found mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters and aunts. This was their “space”; their “me time”.

Now a culture closer home… The Indian Hindu culture. Growing up I saw and heard of women being ostracised when they were menstruating. There weren’t allowed in the prayer room or kitchen; they ate out of plates kept separately from them. They almost became untouchables. But, this wasn’t the initial intention; the intention was for women to rest and not do any hard labour.

A culture even closer – Islam. Muslim women are not allowed to pray or read the Koran during menstruation. They are considered impure and even unclean during this period.

If you look back at any culture, it’s clear that society then understood that women are at their weakest during menstruation; that they are losing blood; some are in pain and almost all are in discomfort. How can any of this be unclean or impure? To me a woman is at her purest when she’s menstruating, it is one of the surest signs of her having a productive womb.

Why am I saying all this, no idea. Actually it was just an idea I felt like sharing and ranting about. So what do you think of some of our cultures? What’s your experience?

Photo Credit: TwitterviewTuesday!

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  • Mamtha Sunil Kumar

    I totally agree with you and just because woman is at this stage of mensus she clears all her dead cells and gets ready for the next cycle how can this maintenance of the body considered as impure ?? when we clear all the dirt at home for a pooja at home it is called purifying but when biologically we clear our reproductive dirt is it impure ????? NO not at all this is the purest form of every woman.

  • Rvey01 – Julian

    I am a catholic..friend of chentil………..i was really confused why religion says women is impure and now i got the answer ……women is not impure it allows women to take rest on that day…..thank you very much for the wonderful explanation…sure it will by Eye Open..who curse women in name of religion….