Red Tents and Red Flags
Since 2014, International Menstrual Hygiene Day — observed on May 28, as the average menstrual cycle is every 28 days for five days — has been raising awareness of the injustices associated with menstruation worldwide.
Menstruation has long been construed as a shameful time in which people were to isolate in what were called red tents. This not only proliferated the stigma, but also worsened the inequities in educational and civic involvement for those whose cultures or sanitation challenges kept them from full participation in the community. Although some cultures believed women to be more creative during this time — and honoring them by separation from the community — many felt that removing them was necessary because of the unpleasantness of this function.
“When I hear a slang term for menstruation being uttered, I see a red flag of disempowerment and shame waving, perpetuated by patriarchal values that have trained people who menstruate to keep their very real needs under cover. “Sherry Warren
Whether you call it the monthly bill, a visit from Aunt Flo, or surfing the red wave (I could go on with SO many slang terms for menstruation from around the world), menstruation is a normal bodily function that has been used in societies to devalue women, keeping them not only from being invited to the metaphorical table, but also deciding what would be on the menu. (While I use the term “women,” I do realize that non-binary people and trans men may also menstruate.)
When I hear a slang term for menstruation being uttered, I see a red flag of disempowerment, perpetuated by patriarchal values that have trained people who menstruate to keep their very real needs under cover.
Activists and social change workers, though, are organizing globally to eliminate barriers associated with menstruation. The goals of the menstrual advocacy movement are to achieve a world where:
- Everyone can access and afford the menstrual product of their choice.
- Period stigma is a thing of the past.
- Everyone has basic information about menstruation.
- Everyone can access period-friendly water and hygiene facilities.
So that you can be part of the effort to remove the stigma about menstruation, I’ve included links to resources that will help you actively address menstrual justice. Additionally, the UCC partners with Church World Service to fund and assemble period packs for use in situations where sanitation is a challenge. This ranges from homelessness experienced temporarily around the world to displacement from one’s home due to political, economic and natural disaster-related turmoil.
Please drop by our period pack project at General Synod on Sunday, July 2, 4:30-7:30 p.m. to assist in assembling period packs. Together we can normalize menstruation and assure no one is held back because of not having access to menstrual hygiene supplies.
Dr. Sherry Warren, Minister for Women’s and Gender Justice, lives in Akron, Ohio and joined the UCC as national staff in mid-2022. She is available to work with congregations, associations and conferences on advocacy and programming that addresses the needs of women and girls as well as anyone who experiences injustice because of their gender. Sherry is part of Justice and Local Church Ministries. Check out her newsletter for UCC women, girls, and their allies at Talitha Koum.