In the city I live in, there is currently a shortage of free menstrual items for women and young girls who are homeless, low-income, or living in poverty. It has been so problematic that a woman and her friends took the initiative to start a donation campaign exclusively to collect pads and tampons.
Over a year ago I had asked a local church if we could do a women’s hygiene donation drive, the response of one of the women’s ministry leaders was that it had to be at one of the women’s events. This caught me off guard. Why did this important need have to be regulated to women’s ministry? What would happen if this need was advertised in the Sunday bulletin. Would it really make both men and women uncomfortable? Are periods only a woman’s issue?
I sometimes feel that that Church is only comfortable with blood if it is associated with Jesus being tortured on a cross. Not many seem to object to images of a bloody Jesus hanging from the cross despite the fact that he is no longer on the cross. Jesus defeated the cross, he is resurrected in heaven, free from the blood and gore caused by the Roman torture devise. Yet we can’t let go of that bloody image. In fact, we are so attached to the blood of Christ that we celebrate it and pretend to drink it during the Eucharist. I’m not saying we should not remember how gruesome the crucifixion was; that would be minimizing the amazingness of Christ’s sacrifice; what I’m getting at is our acceptance of a bloody Jesus and the rejection of a bloody woman.
Niddah is a Hebrew word used to describe a woman who is menstruating or a woman who hasn’t completed her ritual bath requirement. The literal word niddah means “removed” and is also used to mean “cast out”.
“When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. Whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening; whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.” Leviticus 15:19-24
“If she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count seven days, and after that she shall be clean. On the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf before the Lord for her unclean discharge.” Leviticus 15:28-30
How nice of the priest to make an atonement for the SIN of a woman having a period. Something that she has no control over, something that is a healthy part of being a woman.
Christianity doesn’t have any purity laws, but when it comes to menstruation, we certainly act as if it is impure by not allowing it to be a topic that is openly discussed among both men and woman. We treat women and their periods as impure when we glorify the bloody stories of war, murder, and genocide found in the bible, but then shame anything that has to do with women who bleed.
If there are food banks, domestic violence safe houses, or shelters in your area; consider finding out if they need any menstrual products and donate proudly without shame or embarrassment. Let’s change the discourse about women and their periods from one of sin to that of being a gift from God. Sometimes periods don’t feel like a gift from God, but they are. Consider that without a proper menstrual cycle some women wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Similar to the beauty of the cross, is the beauty of menstruation.