Did you know that SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) funds cannot be used to purchase feminine hygiene products? Can you imagine what it would be like to be a girl or woman living in deep poverty and unable to take care of such a basic bodily need?
“Around the globe, managing menstruation can be a debilitating, even deadly, problem – fueled by a combination of poverty, misinformation, stigma and superstition. One in ten girls in Africa misses school for the duration of her period each month. In Bangladesh, infections caused from filthy, contaminated rags are rampant. Menstrual hygiene has been linked to high rates of cervical cancer in India.”
A friend sent me the link to the article containing that quote, and asks, “Does the Bible like women?” Good question.
Does the Bible Like Women?
It is fairly obvious that a fair number of current politicians don’t like women. Some are threatening to shut the government down if funding to Planned Parenthood does not stop. In other words, these politicians want to make sure poor women get pregnant by removing access to affordable birth control and then will also ensure that there will be no substantive help in rearing their children. See “Why I Support Planned Parenthood” here.
I’m sure most of those men who want to rule over women’s bodies that way feel sure they have God on their side. Their stances are hardly uncommon in the religious world.
Menstruating women have been labeled “unclean” from the earliest words in our Bible. Many highly religious women today are still kept in deep ignorance about how their bodies work. A quote from this article about a therapist who works with Orthodox Jewish women reads:
Marcus, who is 53, is stringently observant. At her synagogue, at the northern tip of the Bronx, the men sit separate from the women, partitioned by a wooden screen. She keeps her legs concealed past the knees, her arms past the elbows. Until menopause, she obeyed the laws that surround menstruation. During the time of her period and for seven days thereafter — for 12 or more days each month, until she was permitted to visit a mikvah and purge herself in the special waters there — she slept apart from her husband and didn’t touch him in any way at any hour. In her tainted state, she didn’t so much as pass a dish of food directly to him, no matter if she took care that their hands made no contact. To touch the same platter at the same moment was forbidden.
When a woman has a discharge of blood that is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. Everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening. Whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and be unclean until the evening; whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. If any man lies with her, and her impurity falls on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.
Seems pretty prejudicial for a normal, human process that also indicates that a woman is fertile and able to participate in the reproduction of the human race.
Nonetheless, these words are in the Bible. They form part of the problematic world of biblical interpretation for today. I admit it just makes me want to scream when I hear or read something like, “If you’d only just believe what the Bible says, you would . . . [pick one: have slaves, put women in subjection, deny any man with a physical impairment from being a religious leader, or whatever your particular hobbyhorse happens to be].”
Jesus Changed the Rules of the Game
It is clear that Jesus did not honor the Levitical restrictions against touching women. Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48 all relate the story of Jesus healing an unclean woman who touched him–and who thereby made him ritually unclean. Instead of condemning her, he welcomes her and calls her “daughter,” bringing her into his household.
So Yes, God likes women. God chose a woman to be the life-giver to the Son, and gave women the privilege of being the last ones to see Jesus at his death and the first to witness the resurrection. It is through the body and blood of women that the world goes on. Our value is beyond worth.
So, in honor of that body–and that blood and in solidarity with all women living in poverty everywhere, it is time for a Tampon Drive. I am asking all who read this post to purchase a box or two of tampons or sanitary pads and donate them to a place that works with homeless or poverty-striken women.
If you live in the Denton area, Our Daily Bread, a ministry out of Denton that provides a hot meal for the homeless Monday-Friday each week, will happily distribute feminine hygiene products to any who need them. I’m sure there are places all over the US that will do the same.
Let us do this as a way of to honor the reproductive capacities of women, not shame them. Without such capacities, the world would disappear in a generation.
Even so, female biology does cause significant inconvenience particularly for the poor and the outcast. This one little thing can make their lives so much easier.