Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: menstruation

  • Polluting puberty, monstrous menstruation, and fatal femininity

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “[If] men could menstruate…menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event.”1– Gloria Steinem, journalist and political activist Ancient history has shown us that men sometimes looked upon women’s menstrual periods with perplexity, wonder, and fear.2 While it has been suggested that some men have “vagina envy” and “womb envy,” and feel left…

  • Menstrual health in early Indian medical tradition

    Benjamin DarkwaEdmonton, Canada Introduction As one of the oldest medical traditions, Ayurveda has existed for about two thousand years.1 Caraka and Susruta are the most famous medical compendiums of Ayurveda. These classical texts associate diseases with the imbalance of three dosas (humors): vata (wind), kapha (phlegm), and pitta (bile). The three dosa theory, illustrated in…

  • A brief history of menstruation

    Fangzhou LuoPortland, Oregon, United States After a few failed attempts to redirect a flirtatious student to “higher pleasures” like music, the Ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Hypatia resorted to revealing where she was in her menstrual cycle to deter him. The philosopher who recorded this—Damascius—does not specify if this student was Orestes,1 who remained a…

  • Tracing wisps of hair

    Miriam Rosen Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States   Child’s Play by Miriam Rosen  My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was fourteen. For the next nine years, she lived her life with elegance and seemed to do it with ease. She continued her psychiatry practice, only gradually reducing the number of patients she saw. She…

  • Bloodletting and the treatment of menstrual disorders in early modern England

    Rhianna ElliottCambridgeshire, United Kingdom Bloodletting, also known as “phlebotomy,” was a common preventive and therapeutic medical practice in early modern England. Its theoretical foundation was in humorism, the ancient medical system where bodily health depended on the balance between four fluid humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile). Yet even amongst lay people with…

  • Bloody women

    M.K.K. Hague-YearlMontréal, Québec, Canada Sitting with little fanfare inside a twentieth-century red hardcover binding is a single leaf whose bibliographic record contains brackets of uncertainty: “[Calendar for Austria, 1496.] [Kaspar Hochfeder, Nürnberg? 1495.]” The catalogue offers only a basic description: “The woodcut occupying the whole lower portion depicts a zodiac man, two bloodletting scenes, a…

  • A history of blood: hysteria, taboos, and evil

    Danielle DalechekNorfolk, Virginia, United States “Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?”— Carl Jung Historically, the opposite of purity was often viewed and represented as evil. This was especially true if you happened to be a woman. Even the most chaste and abiding women…

  • Bloody beginnings of hematology

    Sherin Jose ChockattuBengaluru, India His pole, with pewter basins hung,Black, rotten teeth in order strung,Rang’d cups that in the window stood,Lin’d with red rags, to look like blood,Did well his threefold trade explain,Who shav’d, drew teeth, and breathd a vein – John Gay (The Goat Without a Beard, 1727) For over three millennia, self-taught physicians…

  • “Blood made White”: The relationship between blood and breastmilk in early modern England

    Jennifer EvansSara ReadUnited Kingdom The early modern body was thought to be composed of and ordered by an intricate balance of fluids, the most important of which was blood. Blood was universally understood to have two origins: the heart and the liver. Together with the brain, these organs formed what Galen called “the noble organs.”…

  • The curse of the blessing

    Medha Pande Nainital, India   Photo by Pradeep Pande For the wedding of a second cousin, I visited my ancestral village for the first time at the age of twenty-five. The tiny hamlet is in a quaint, expansive valley in the middle Himalayas of Uttarakhand, India. The once prosperous region is struggling under the pressure…