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Gross Sanitary Products Used by Women in the Past

Did you know wood, sand, old rags, wool, papyrus fibres are some of the things used by women to deal with the menstrual flow?

Menstruation problems are infinite. Women over the years have seen more blood and pain than the opposite sex. Quite literally!

Now I am not against men, but if someone says things like, “oh, you don’t have the balls, do ya? All I want to say is – Well, did you ever thought of having a vagina though?

That being said, we today live in a much more cozy world where we can easily find basic sanitary products such as napkins, tampons, thinx and menstruation cups. Hell, we can even openly advertise various feminine care products unashamedly which was not the case back then. Ladies, it’s time we stop worrying about those hot white pants and feel privileged because at least we are not shunned during ‘that time of the month’.

If only Eve had not eaten the forbidden fruit…..if only!

cursed eve

Also, one crisp chat with your mum or your grandma can give you an idea of the horrid situation they went through back then.

We all know about the taboo and the discreet measures in India when it comes to dealing with the ‘Aunt Flow’. But the conditions were no better in other parts of the world as well. In fact, there were some gruesome acts and beliefs, some of which are listed below.

Women bleeding were given names on regular basis, some tolerable while some beyond imagination. Menstruating women back then were referred as someone who is involved in sorcery, considered as a curse, impure, a polluting agent and even a non-existent element in the society. Some religions went on by calling them unholy and used terms like haram, to name a few.

Today, we can find engraved scriptures of almost everything from various Gods with unusual forms and postures (If you know what I mean! *wink* *wink*) to spaceship and aliens. From lame fantasy stuff to the eccentric depiction of living creatures.  But what about the monthly cycle that every single woman goes through. There are merely any depictions that explain this process of a woman’s body preparing itself for a possible pregnancy every month.

So the point of concern is, even in those days menstruation was seen as some sort of taboo or maybe they didn’t find it worth mentioning on the carved stone.

Here’s a positive take, well not really positive, but positively weird things Egyptian and the Greek indulged in i.e. considering menstrual blood as magical and medicinal.

Ancient Egypt men used to drink the menstrual blood for its ‘supposedly’ medicinal content (Eww! – I know right). Greek had their own recipe i.e. mixing the blood with wine and splashing over the field for two main reasons a) Due to the belief that the insects and pests will be wiped off b) For better fertility of the soil.

Well, I can make a peace with that I guess…Justttt Kiddingggggg!

Fun Fact: Monkeys such as Macaques menstruate. So does the whale, bats and elephant shews.

Similar to Hindu tradition, Islam and Jewish culture also consider menstruation as something impure and restrict women from entering the premises unless they emerge from the 3-7 days of what they call ‘unholy’.

Jews relate it to some sort of spiritual cooties instance and it is basically a Haram to offer prayers or hold fast during menstruating as apparently, the godly service during periods doesn’t count. No visiting temple, no visiting workplace, no touching men not even their husbands, in a nutshell, no nothing!

Issues associated with menstruation were, are and will be many unless there is a revival in the whole reproduction process. Which of course is against nature and something that one could only dream about. Now the question is how did women deal with the monthly cycle other than patriarchy and suppression.

History Of Menstruation Products

It all started with natural products such as papyrus, cotton, wool, wood, sand and even moss. Gross right! Some women also tried to restrict the flow by wrapping wood pieces with lint and insert into their vagina. Hygiene was the least concern since public embarrassment ruled over it.

There were various experiments going on in the early 1800s to make this process a bit easier for women.

Papyrus was originally used for writing and later to combat menstrual flow. Rags and cloth were stuffed with moss, sand, wool, grass and animal fur. Later in the 1800s, women were encouraged to bleed in their chemises, use maxi pads and sanitary belts where cotton or wool cloth can be attached. It was not really a pleasant experience but somehow manageable though.

sanitary belt

1800 – 1920: Although the first ever disposable menstrual pads were launched by Johnson and Johnson, those didn’t stick around for long. Other than that Hoosier sanitary belt and Lister’s towel also existed but there was a major downfall. Women in those days hated to even acknowledge the fact that they bleed, let alone speak about it. Also, affordability was a challenge as well.

This sustained until WW1 when women from France observed how the bandages which were used to treat the wounded soldiers absorbed blood easily. They tried their luck and tad dah! they found a cheap and comfortable alternative to fight back. These bandages once used were washed and boiled so that they could be reused again.

One cannot deny the fact that anything that France adopted was thoroughly followed and admired by the world and this pattern didn’t spare the women sanitation as well. Thus, a foundation was laid for a safe, easy-to-use and affordable feminine care products so much that today we can opt for anything that goes with our preferences.

No doubt our ancestors pretty much dealt with this condition like a Bawse! (#superwomanreferenece)

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2 thoughts on “Gross Sanitary Products Used by Women in the Past”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Egyptian men drank menstrual blood as medicine? I thought drinking cough syrup was yucky.

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