I hear other Pagan women talking about their Moontides. It sounds sort of romantic and appealing. I guess if you spend a few days with a minimal flow, then the bloody part of the month is no big deal, and may be a time for reflection, magic and a sense of wonder at your connection to the cycles of the moon and the realities of nature. If you have that and can reclaim it, and love it then go you. I may be a tad envious, but I will champion your right to a happy, peaceful, meaningful moontide on your own terms.
Mine are not like that. Or, if we’re talking ‘tide’ we’re talking the sort that sweeps over beaches and drowns people every now and then. There is no attaching a gentle, romantic language to what happens to my body every month. My description of preference is; I bleed like a stuck pig. I bleed a lot, it falls out of my body in quantities that are hard to manage. It depletes and exhausts me and usually it hurts a great deal. It messes with my emotions, and it can last anything up to a week. That’s a quarter of my time, can I just mention. A quarter of my life lived in significant discomfort, courting anaemia and not daring to wear anything pale.
The impact of bleeding has been used as a justification for not letting women do stuff. It underpins a lot of unfair and sexist thinking. The alleged emotional instability of women, the needing time off for it and so forth. There are a lot of women for whom that just isn’t true. Then there are the women like me, who are rendered dysfunctional. I can’t tell you whether we’re a tiny minority, about as numerous as the light bleeders or the majority even. I do not know because it’s not ok to talk about this. It is a big taboo.
In saying that when I bleed I hurt too much to be reliably useful, I feel like I’m letting the side down. My sisters who can get on with things and do not need to stop, do not want to be compromised by the return of the bad old ideas about how bleeding makes women useless. We’ve all seen the adverts with the white trousers and the roller skates, we all know it’s supposed to be like that. Crying in a duvet does not fit the modern picture of your sanitised blue rinse bleed.
For me, feminism is not about having one story about what it means to be female. To shoehorn us all into the same shape as the glorious maiden huntresses who can indeed wear the white trousers and run with dogs, is not fair. We don’t all belong in that archetype. To disempower all because some of us need to crawl into a dark cave and scream, isn’t fair either.
We’ll know that we’ve got all this gender stuff figured out, when it is ok to be honest about what happens to your body when you bleed, and ok to ask for what you need. We’ll have it sorted when no one assumes anything, and individuals are free to deal with what they’ve got. We’re all different.
In the meantime, those of us who suffer chronically every month are mostly hiding it, taking the pain killers, hoping for no awkward leaks, and putting on the best poker face we can find. Sometimes the pain is bad enough that the tears become an involuntary reaction and I cannot control it. I have been like this for more than twenty years now. Even the contraceptive pill did not render my bleeding tame and easily managed. This is the body I have. I’d like to be able to own it, however gross and inconvenient it strikes other people as being. I’d like the right to bleed the way I bleed without being called lazy or being told I’m just feeling sorry for myself and that it’s not a proper illness. I’d like not to be told that I’m making a fuss. I’m wondering if I should take photographs of what comes out of my body and show them to anyone who suggests I’m using it to freeload.
At least at home I get compassion and support, but out there in the wider world, I have learned to be silent, and to hide the blood stains.