The Red Death: Menstruation as a Symbol of Renewal- Part 5.

Pharmaceuticals and women’s bodies is not a new issue, from the Thalidomide tragedy, to HPV, questions around the impact of pharmaceutical drugs on the female reproductive system have risen at various times over the past several decades.
With current concerns about the health implications of the vaccination for covid-19 on the reproductive health of women, part 5 of The Red Death, written in 2017 before the pandemic explores another issue related to reproductive health of women and pharmaceuticals- the vaccination against HPV.
In a documentary released in September 2017 entitled “Sacrificial Virgins”, film maker Joan Shenton traces a thread from the HPV vaccinations currently administered to young girls, back to the 1960s “Thalidomide tragedy” when a drug prescribed to pregnant women resulting in thousands of babies being born with deformities. Shenton travels back further on the cultural timeline to draw parallels with sacrificed virgins from ancient cultures where pre-sexual girls were “chosen” to give their life and autonomy to the king or other important men. Shenton says she chose the title Sacrificial Virgins “because the vaccine is often given to girls before they are sexually active”. (SanVax,Inc.,2017).

Gnostic Woman

Mother of GodProtection of the Mother God-Orthodox Image found on google images

What may loosely be termed as a ‘menstrual revival movement’, beginning in the 1970s and taking hold in the 1980s continues today as many women seek to honour menstruation and even utilise it as a method of empowerment for women. Fedele says: “By the end of the 1980’s, a movement to affirm the power and importance of menstruation had developed” (Fedele 2013.p. 151). Chris Knight credits a significant contribution to Shuttle and Redgrove and claims that

“It was above all The Wise Wound that presented a new generation of emancipated women in the 1980’s with what seemed to be at first a daring and paradoxical message: Menstruation can be an empowering and indeed magical experience” (Knight, 1991, p.378).

While much negativity, past and present, has undoubtedly played a part in our current menstrual rejection, it is clear that the empowering…

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