I want a red tent. I want a special place to retreat to every month that is a space full of sisterhood, music, art, dance, rest, wine and rituals surrounding the sacred place that we as womyn hold in this world. I want a place that I can go for four days and nights and not have to clean, cook, take care of the house, the kids or anything else except myself. I want a place where I don't hear a phone, see a t.v. or computer, and can actually be alone in my thoughts or share them if I choose to do so. I want a place where those who also enter understand why I can bitch, cry, smile and laugh all within a moment. I want a place where I can sleep all day or sing and eat and dance; a place where I choose what I spend my time doing. I want to be with other womyn who follow the moon and understand that we have the power to regulate our cycles with the lunar cycles which are also 28 days. I want a place that upholds the feminine and that all who enter are there for one reason.
So call me crazy... call me mad...but this is what I want. I am curious where the sacredness of new blood and new life was lost among womyn? When was it that we decided to let men tell us that we are dirty because we bleed; that we are less than them because we bleed. When did we start believing all of this? Maybe we always have, I am not sure. What I am sure of is that when most young womyn get their first period it is not something that is celebrated, instead it is something that brings shame. I know for me I was terrified and embarrassed. I was one of the first in my group of friends; I was eleven. The family was on vacation staying with friends in Florida. I was so scared to tell my mom that I got my period I stole maxi-pads from the bathroom closet for almost five straight days. I told her when I absolutely had to, which was on the car ride home to Michigan. I received no congratulations. I received nothing to mark this entrance to womunhood except a look of pity. A look that set the tone for how I have viewed womunhood for most of my life.
Now don't get me wrong I am not excited to be menstruating every month. I don't look forward to my monthly "visitor" even though I count the days until it appears. I do so because I have always had horrible cycles that are extremely painful and full of pill popping or chugging red wine to get me through. It is just not painful cramps for me each month when the "curse of Eve" arrives, but also puking until I have dry heaves, migraines, hot and cold flashes, passing out and the such. And so I count the days down to prepare myself and my family for that dreaded first day of my cycle. And in doing so every month I fantasize over having this time in my life to myself to rest, to enjoy female fellowship and to just...be.
In college I had the opportunity to see an amazing young author talk about such topics. It was a moment that changed my life. Her name is Inga Muscio and the name of her book is Cunt. Yes that is what I said...Cunt. Now, I know for many people this word is very offensive and I can understand why you think so. But did you know that cunt is just one of many words such as bitch, hag and whore that were all titles of respect at one point in history? Just like at one point in history midwives were revered, goddesses were worshipped and the initiation of womunhood was celebrated. Due to numerous events in history, one being the Inquisition, many of these words took on new meaning and respect for goddess worship and women-centered rituals were lost and forbidden. So if this offends you, you have two choices you can make at this point of my entry: go do some research on the evolution of language pertaining to these words or stop reading right now and find something else to read, because this entry is not for you!
On with the book...
Cunt happens to be one of my favorite books for many reasons, one being that the name of the book. Any book that can make such a bold statement with the title has me hooked, even if I don't necessarily agree with everything that is between the covers. Since my early days in college when I found women studies and feminism I have been impassioned for reclaiming everything that has been stolen from womyn; language in particular. I believe that language has crippled many of us throughout our lives from reaching our potential. Negative language has been used as a means to keep us down or "put us in our place" not only by men but we as womyn can be just as harmful with the language we use towards each other. If we as womyn take ownership of these words and restore them to their original meanings, these words could take on a whole new power, a new energy that could uplift and transform womyn. One that could change how we are viewed in this world by each other as well as by men. Unfortunately, I think we are light years away from this being possible. Once womyn can openly talk about their cunts, vaginas, and sex and stop the negative acrimony that exists between us then we can start this journey.
Anyway, one of the many cunt related issues Muscio discusses is self-love; really loving your cunt, your whole body and appreciating your cycle and the power it holds. After reading this book I began to wonder if some of the pain that I suffered was self-induced because of all of the years that I felt so dirty, messy, and full of embarrassment and shame because I was a woman. I began to do my own experiments like Inga had done to see if it made any difference. I set up rituals to follow every day during my cycle. I bought a lunar calendar and followed the moon every night to regulate myself with it. I started keeping a special journal that was only for that time of month and I used a red ink pen. I began to see it as a time for purging and cleansing. I bought a Keeper and began using that along with luna pads. I made these four days every month a time for rest and did a lot of sleeping and reading of my favorite feminist and womyn-centered literature. And over time it worked. My periods were easier to deal with, I didn't puke or pass out and I felt much more in tune with my body and with the earth.
Those were the good ol' days. Now I have two children under 4 and many other things that fill my days and nights with much to do. I cannot take the time that I use to devote to these rituals nor do I have the money to be able to devote to helping my uterus feel better during every cycle of every month and this makes me sad and sometimes even a little angry. I hate feeling that dreaded feeling of the approach of the period and the countdown to cramps every month. I hate that I hate it. I have found that a lot of other womyn around me feel the same way about this issue. They despise and dread it because they also don't have the time or money to be able to focus on themselves for four straight days. They want to have time for such rituals in their lives, time for themselves to actually rest, restore themselves and reflect on being a womyn. Every womyn I know craves this and most of us need this break right around the same date every month. Which I find amazing that womyn who spend a lot of time together (live together, talk often, play on teams together...) all also bleed together. That our bodies regulate to each others as well as the moon. Hence, my yearning for the red tent. How wonderful it would be to have a place for all of us righteous bleeding babes to hang out together for four days a month?
Just a thought. But if you happen to see some make-shift red tent sitting in the middle of my yard...please feel free to come and join me.
By the way if you want some wonderful womyn-centered literature to read on such issues:
Cunt: Inga Muscio
The Red Tent: Ann Diamant
The Vagina Monologues: Eve Ensler