The Beauty in Blood: The Magic of Menstruation
Who doesn’t like to have lengthy discussions about periods? I mean, I look at mine and I always wonder if there is anyone else who is impressed by the amazingness that is a period!
Luckily, I know I am not alone. My cousin, however many times removed, Jen Lewis was energetic about talking with me about feminism and her project on menstruation. She is not only a feminist, but an activist with a lot to say about menstruation.
“I feel like there is a lot of assigned social baggage to menstrual blood and we’re at a point where it’s time to step back and really take a detached look at it,” she wrote me.
Jen’s art project not only started to spark my curiosity but soon it transported me to another world. The deep reds, scarlets and burgundies filled my vision. Was I really looking at blood? The beautiful patterns it was making in the art, was simply gorgeous and mesmerizing. This really was blood- blood could do that?
Once I tore my eyes from the countless pictures I was seeing, I had to write her back and fast! I had too many questions and could not wait to hear what her explanation was. How did you discover this? How did it work? What is the response from the feminist community? I all but yelled into the computer screen, tell me, tell me, TELL ME! Soon enough I had my answers.
Jen told me about how she came to start using menstrual cups, like the diva cup, instead of tampons. I, too, use such a cup and recommend it to anyone that is on the fence about pads or tampons. Trust me your vagina and period will thank you- it really is more comfortable and way more environmentally friendly.
“Using the menstrual cup is a much more “hands-on” approach to period care. Unlike a tampon or pad, the blood isn’t being absorbed into anything. It’s liquid, it’s slippery, and sometimes it’s going to get on your fingers or be “messy”. The latter never felt gross or messy to me though; it was always just a little blood. You wipe your fingers, wash your hands, and no big deal. Used pads and tampons on the other hand completely grossed me out and always seem a little unsanitary. One day when I had a little blood on my fingers, the difference in how I regarded my blood in comparison to the messages in mainstream media dawned on me. Socially we consume and celebrate blood shed for entertainment in our sports, television/film, and video games. However, if anyone so much as mentions menstruation everyone is completely grossed out. I couldn’t help but wonder, what made menstrual blood somehow different, grosser, more offensive than blood shed in violence or for sport?” Jen wrote.
How did she get the idea to create art out of menstrual blood? “My job wasn’t super engaging and I found myself spending more and more time in the bathroom ‘drawing/painting’ with the blood in the toilet. While avoiding work and playing with my blood, I started to wonder if there was any way to capture the cool patterns I was seeing. I was genuinely taken by the beautiful colors and designs, but was there anyway to convey that to other people? Eventually I asked my hubby, a lifelong artist and photographer, what he thought. Well, that sparked his interest and he started to research the best ways to capture fluid on film. We started in November 2012 and have been taking photos and video ever since.”
If I was so amazed and impressed by her work, surely there were others who appreciated what she was doing? “By sharing something that is usually private, people are encouraged to open up and share something personal of their own. I have yet to meet a woman who does not have a menstruation-related story she is dying to share.”
So women were open and almost excited to share their stories, but what about the men? “Men finally feel like they have a glimpse into the mysterious menstrual cycle and ask questions they normally avoid,” she wrote back to me. “The men I’ve encountered face to face have been incredibly supportive and interested. Sure they may make an audible gulp as the word “menstrual” pierces the air and they may be squeamish or sheepish at first. Typically there is an initial icebreaker joke or two, but eventually the guys are totally drawn into the image and engage in very thoughtful, respectful dialogues.” There is hope after all that men won’t blush or faint at the mere mention of “menstruation.”
For more information about Jen’s work, please visit www.beautyinbood.com. She is also an active member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, contributing to the blog as a monthly “Menstrual Pin-Up” (no these aren’t gorgeous pin-up models with blood trickling down their legs, but rather one of our bloody close-ups). You can also follow her on Twitter @BeautyinBloodUS and our beloved Tumblr!
If you are also interested Ms. Lewis is looking for menstrual donors for her 2015 project (contact her for more details!).