"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," (Donald Trump).
Having written a book about menstruation, I've been asked, countless times, if things have gotten better for women when it comes to their periods and perceptions in society.
Usually the answer I give is both yes and no. Today though, my opinion is decidedly in the negative column after hearing Donald Trump's verbal, blood-filled smack down of Megyn Kelly. It was a blatant reminder that all women -- even smart, successful, effective women doing their jobs -- can all too easily be invalidated by referencing menstrual blood and tapping into the age-old mindset that periods render women incompetent or bat shit crazy. Kelly's pointed and factual listing of Trump's referring to women as "fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals," led to his off-hand slight that a period was responsible for her incompetency in her career.
This is the leader of the current Republican batch of candidates. A misogynist who drew laughs at the Republican debate when singling out Rosie O'Donnell as the recipient of his insulting barbs, while never denying he used those words to describe other women as well. A xenophobe who wants to build a wall around this country to keep immigrants out. A draft avoider who trash talked prisoners of war. A father who finds breastfeeding disgusting. A sexist who tweeted inappropriate comments about the marriage of the former Secretary of State. A bully who dodges conversation about actual politics by saying he's not actually a politician. He uses that as his excuse to insult, to bash, to belittle everyone in his way. And now he's dredging up age-old superstitions that women are incapable because they bleed.
While on the one hand, things now are better for women -- we are no longer sent into a hut for a week out of every month, sequestered so they don't contaminate crops or scare off the hunt; we are now allowed in churches and temples (although women still do have to sit separately than men in some as their menstruation blood deems them dirty according to the Bible and the Koran, amongst other religious texts); we now have the right to vote, in spite of lobbying that their periods would render them unable to make thoughtful decisions; even the New York Times, in 1912, opined:
No doctor can ever lose sight of the fact that the mind of a woman is always threatened with danger from the reverberations of her physiological emergencies (i.e. menstruation). It is with such thoughts that the doctor lets his eyes rest upon the militant suffragist. He cannot shut them to the fact that there is mixed up in the woman's movement such mental disorder, and he cannot conceal from himself the physiological emergencies which lie behind.
But an off-hand comment like the Donald's is a smack back to reality, a reality in which women are seen as less than equal because of their bodies. As the most popular candidate in his party at the moment, one has to wonder how many of Trump's supporters feel the same way.
Perhaps periods will have their day and this will be the topic to derail Trump and his particular brand of derision and hate. Sadly, I'm not thinking so. There are far too many people in this country who think like him, as his current success continually points out. But, perhaps his using menstruation as a weapon against women will keep the conversation going, and through that help people accept that it is nothing more than a normal, biological fact of life.