THE CURSE: A Cultural History of Menstruation by

THE CURSE: A Cultural History of Menstruation

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This fascinating, appalling, and entertaining survey of the facts, myths, customs, and feelings surrounding menstruation through the ages is the rare book that makes one glad to live in the 20th century. For two reasons. First, while the authors show how biology and psychoanalysis have been used right up to the present to rationalize the most ancient male superstitions about menstruation (it spoils food, blasts crops, threatens the penis, weakens the woman, and makes her crazy), ultimately it is the plain facts provided by modern science that are liberating us from fear, barbarity, and secrecy. The authors' accounts of ""primitive"" superstitions and precautions which have survived into this century--such as seclusion and clitoridectomy--and their recap of the absurd and sexist theories of reproduction that lasted almost as long, will arouse the modern reader to outrage and hilarity. Second, one must be glad to live in a time when women (and men) are beginning to celebrate the demystified mysteries of nature with joyful rituals (such as the authors describe in their last chapter) and affirmative investigations like this book. From the authors' discussions of menopause and ""premenstrual syndrome,"" it is clear that ambivalent biological realities are filtered through cultural assumptions that can make women experience them as either pain or power. This book is lighter in tone and more various than Paula Weidegger's Menstruation and Menopause (Knopf, 1976). Covering tribal female puberty rites (and envious male imitations); archetypes of women's creative/destructive power in fairy tale, myth, and literature; ""red humor""; historical anecdotes from Queen Elizabeth I to Lizzie Borden; the sanitary products industry, and more, it breezily abolishes taboo and provides a colorful, informative compendium peppered with surprises.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Dutton