“If a woman has this flow and looks into a mirror during this time, the mirror becomes like a bloody cloud.”
— De Secretis Mulierum (On the Secrets of Women) – circa 1300
It wasn’t bad enough that men could not stand to look at bloody bitches; they made sure women would not want to look at themselves.
This, it turns out, is not so medieval.
A 1927 Johnson & Johnson “silent purchase coupon” for a box of Modess sanitary napkins promised, “This item may be obtained in a crowded store without embarrassment or discussion.”
Though constant childbirth and breastfeeding meant that medieval women did not menstruate often, when they did, they were shunned. Who would want to be in the orbit of a bleeding woman who could, with a glance, “poison the eyes of children lying in their cradles?”
Beliefs about menstruation undoubtedly contributed to the framing of women as inferior to men. This is evident in medieval philosophy and medicine, wherein renown men of knowledge from around the ancient world created a warped, man-centric view of menstruating women.
Aristotle’s writings described the female sex as merely a defective mutation of the male sex. He saw menstrual blood as an inferior form of sperm.
His reasoning was that woman could not produce male offspring without powerful sperm playing a role in every aspect, including menstruation.
Yeah. Okay, Aristotle. We believe you.
Maybe that explains this video: the ‘egg’ is really a glob of sperm!
Avicenna compared a woman’s uterus to a toilet that, “stands in the middle of town and to which people go to defecate, just as all residues of the blood from all over the woman’s body go to the uterus and are cleansed there.”
Makes perfect sense.
To a man.
German philosopher Albertus Magnus wrote, “Children conceived by menstruating women “tend to have epilepsy and leprosy because menstrual matter is extremely venomous.”
See, that’s where we differ, Albie.
I think ancient philosophers were extremely venomous.
Though misogyny ruled medieval views of menstruation, there did exist an up-side to bloody bitches. Fittingly, these ‘pros’ came from the same ancient philosophical male bozo who put forth the horrors of menstruation: Pliny the Elder.
According to Pliny, bloody bitches could be put to good use.
Menstruating women should “go round the cornfield naked,” he wrote. This, it seems, would provide industrial-strength “insecticide” against all manner of parasites and vermin.
He doesn’t say whether this actually worked to protect the crops. We are left to assume that all parasites and vermin within whiff of bloody bitch menstrual blood perished in the poisonous fumes.
Another ‘pro’ of bloody bitches was breast milk. Apparently, it was “formed from menstrual blood heated in the breasts.”
I’ve had just about enough of your bloody ‘pros!’
And so you trod, bare-assed, through the cornfield.
Blood streams down your thighs, leaving a crimson trail in your wake. The cornstalks shudder. Insects and vermin drop dead. Philosophers and medical men of the highest order gather round to record their learned observations…
Aristotle: Ah, there! See the dying sperm in the pools of blood?
Avicenna: Lo! See how the sunlight exposes the toilet-shape of her uterus? And there! The defecatory blood is confusing the crop; it does not know whether it is being fertilized or poisoned.
Pliny the Elder: Behold, good man! It is the vermin she has bled upon which is dying – not the crop. The crop shall sally forth, no longer oppressed by parasitic intrusion. This bloody bitch is a plague upon vermin!
Albertus Mangus: Methinks she ought squirt a bit of bloody breast milk upon the corn. Mayhaps, upon our stalks as well! Ho!
[Misogynistic laughter all around]
You repress the urge to smear them with menstrual blood and watch them shriek like hairy little girls…
Read Sylver’s Medieval Monday Bloody Bitches series!