Health & Fitness

10 bullsh*t period myths women were told throughout history

This is what happens when only men research periods.

By: Hannah Smothers

Here's an unsurprising and completely not-fun fact: For most of history, the people who researched and made big declarations about periods were men who weren't having periods themselves.

If you're familiar with the concept of "sexism," you can probably guess how bad and dumb this was. The result was women hearing a lot of information that we know recognise as bogus and idiotic.

How bogus and idiotic, you ask? Extremely. But you can judge for yourself. Here are 10 bullsh*t myths women were told (mostly by men) throughout history.

1. Periods are an "abnormal occurrence" that only happen because women are meant to be pregnant.

As Sharra L. Vostral writes in her book, Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology, in 1875 a male obstetrician named Dr. A. F. A. King thought periods were "a departure from nature," because the only reasonable, natural state for a woman was pregnancy. Or in other words, people really used to think that if you weren't pregnant, you were doing something wrong. King wrote that "menstruation is the result of an interference with nature" and could be prevented if women simply followed the rules of nature and stayed constantly pregnant. LMAO. Sure.

2. Periods are when women are fertile.

In the mid-1800s, Vostral writes, a bunch of scientists thought periods were the same as when a female animal is "in heat," and therefore thought a period signified the time a woman was most fertile. We now obviously know this is completely untrue, and a period is when you're probably the least likely to be able to get pregnant.

3. Period sex causes deformed babies.

Ok, even if you aren't that into period sex, this is taking it too far. According to The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation, the French long believed babies born from period sex would be "puny, languid, and moribund," and would be "foul and stinking." Poor little babies.

4. Women are incapable of doing anything when they're on their period.

A real fun dude named Dr. Horatio Storer (a big anti-abortion activist and widely considered the father of American gynecology, LOL) said female physicians shouldn't be allowed to work while menstruating because none of their patients would be "as safe as at other times." In his 1868 book Criminal Abortion: Its Nature, Its Evidence, and Its Law, Storer expressed concern that female midwives would be able to perform illegal abortions and then blame it on their periods. Which may be the most creative and stupid anti-abortion tactic ever, so congrats to this guy.

5. Periods kill crops and turns wine sour.

Guys, I don't know. People thought a lot of crazy things. A Roman naturalist named Pliny The Elder had some especially ludicrous ideas about periods. He wrote that "contact with menstruation turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees fall off, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled, hives of bees die, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison." So basically this guy thought periods wreak havoc on everything they come near. Cool.

6. Women probably shouldn't be at school or work on their periods.

Ok, I know this sounds truly IDEAL, because cramps are terrible and I would personally love a few paid days off every month. But this was actually a bad thing in the late 1800s. In a super popular book from 1873 called Sex in Education, Edward Clarke argued that a woman's body couldn't function properly while going through the big process of menstruating. His solution was to institute a mandatory rest week for when a woman was on her period — which very nicely reflected a lot of stress Americans were feeling at the time about letting women go to school with men, and join the work force. Clarke died before he could defend himself against these allegations (how convenient).

7. Working too hard on your period causes insanity.

In the 1883 book Perils of American Women (LOL), Dr. George Austin took Clarke's BS beliefs a step further and argued that working too hard while a woman was on her period would result in a special kind of insanity that Austin called "erotomania." The only insane thing about this is the theory itself.

8. Menstruating women drive the men around them crazy.

Listen, men were doing a whole lot to try and keep women out of classrooms and careers. As Vostral writes, Dr. William Capp joined Clarke and Austin in their wild theories about periods causing distress. But Capp took it even further, and said that not only is menstruation hard on women, but it's damaging to those around her — particularly men. Capp thought that if men noticed women leaving the classroom one month a week for their periods, they would immediately become distracted by the idea of sex. Seems like a problem for men, not women, but whatever.

9. Period blood cures leprosy.

Ok this one actually comes from a woman named Hildegard von Bingen, who was a nurse that published poetry and medical writing. One of her medical musings asserted that period blood could cure leprosy. Which is a little gross and a lot wrong.

10. You can't drink wine on your period.

This is just getting CRUEL. But in 1919 (less than 100 years ago, y'all), one scientist argued that period blood contains "menotoxin," or a poison that would turn wine into vinegar.

(Psst! To help us take down the Tampon Tax this year, and support equality for Australian women, sign the petition below to say NO to the gender selective tax.)

Via: Cosmopolitan US