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Dissertation Title:

Resacralizing Female Blood: Overcoming “the Myth of Menstrual Danger”

Candidate:

Anna Derr

Date, Time & Place:

October 25, 2021 at 10:00 am
Virtual


Abstract

This dissertation identifies “the myth of menstrual danger” and its development in Western thought, and how this myth continues to contribute to internalized menstrual shame. In the West, female bodies, and particularly their menstrual bleeding, have long been sites of fearful patriarchal fantasies. Evidence suggests, however, that menstrual blood was revered as part of a Great Goddess tradition in Neolithic Old Europe. Yet in the West religious paradigms tabooed menstrual blood, constructing it as an existential threat to cosmic order and human civilization. At the same time, medical paradigms have and continue to pathologize menstruation. Even today, medical paradigms often present menstruation as a symbolic and sometimes literal threat to human, animal, and plant life, and purport that it may even be harmful for women’s or other menstruators’ health. Even more problematic, however, are modern menstrual discourses that convey to women and other menstruators that no longer menstruating is a liberation from their own body. Thus, the dehumanizing depictions of “the myth of menstrual danger” have been used to control women’s bodies, devalue women’s place in society, and contribute to women’s menstrual shame through a process termed “internalized sexism.” This dissertation concludes with a remythologization of the Mesopotamian story, “The Descent of Inanna,” and offers a new menstrual myth that more holistically embraces embodied experiences of menstruation and that allows us to celebrate our menstruating bodies.

Details
  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, E, 2014
  • Chair: Dr. Christine Downing
  • Reader: Dr. Lori Pye
  • External Reader: Dr. Jane Caputi
  • Keywords: Menstruation, The Menstrual Cycle, Internalized Sexism, Women’s Spirituality, Women’s Studies, Inanna