The Most Ridiculous Myths About Periods

If you're thinking about getting your period, you may want to think again. There's a possibility that you'll kill people with your stare, or heal people with your sanitary pad. You might start murdering plants and animals, or be followed by creatures who will attack you. The world of period myths is big and bizarre, with plenty of room for totally contradictory beliefs about what actually happens during menstruation.
Different cultures all over the world have both feared and revered periods, with many women coming up with ingenious ways to deal with their time of the month. Unfortunately, until fairly recently, menstruation has been extremely misunderstood, which has, in turn, led to some truly weird, and definitely not wonderful, ideas. We've collected the strangest myths surrounding menstruation we could find, all of which have been proved to be totally untrue.
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Click through to read the most ridiculous myths about menstruation. Period.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstrual cramps are women rejecting their femininity

Serious cramps can make it hard to get through the day, but having serious cramps and being told it's all in your head would definitely have us needing a duvet day. In the 20th century, women with dysmenorrhea (uterine pain during menstruation) were reportedly sent to psychiatrists.

There was a genuine belief that women were making up menstrual pain, either for attention or – wait for it – because they were rejecting being a woman. One Twitter user recently tried to bring this myth back, which unsurprisingly did not go well for him. The struggle of menstrual cramps is real; as is the power of a Twitter clapback.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women attract bears

As with many myths, this has a tragic beginning. In 1967, two parties of campers in Glacier National Park were attacked by grizzly bears and two women were killed. This was the first attack of its kind in the park's history and officials desperately tried to find a reason for it. They landed, of course, on the fact that one of the victims was menstruating. This was just...not true. The other woman killed had not been on her period, and the bear had attacked other male campers who managed to escape before attacking the woman who was menstruating.

Despite this, the National Park Service blamed the "odour" of menstruation on attracting bears and printed guides, including one in 1981, that advised menstruating women to "stay out of bear country". This bizarre act of victim blaming was completely debunked in 1990, when a study failed to find any link between menstruation and bear attacks and showed that food debris was likely to be the cause, but the damage was done. Today the National Park Service still has a warning on their website that though there is "no evidence that grizzly and black bears are overly attracted to menstrual odours more than any other odour", menstruating women should still take special precautions. We're not sure why, either...
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women can cure the plague

Before you get too excited about a positive myth around your period, this has quite a lot of caveats. According to medieval belief, the first period of a virgin, if collected on a napkin, could cure the plague if you wrapped it around the victim. Actually, don't get excited at all because it was completely made-up.

The plague was unbelievably awful; we can't imagine that being wrapped in dirty sanitary pads would have made it better.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women could poison you with a look

Just in case you were still willing to give medieval medicine a go, here's another bizarre belief that should have you running to your time machine. The logic went that since periods were evil (obviously), if you had a lot of periods in your lifetime you were extra evil.

Old women who had too many periods were thought to build up poison inside of them and have a gaze that was "especially venomous" and could kill children. Whoever came up with this, watch out, because we're looking at you.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women cause food to go bad

If anything in your cupboard starts to smell funny, it might seem obvious to blame it on your flatmate's complete disregard for best-by dates or that banana you have a horrible feeling has been in there for the past two months. In some parts of south Asia, though, it would seem that it's your menstrual cycle's fault, as the impurity of women on their period can cause food to spoil.

This myth has some pretty powerful cultural origins and in a 2011 study, some Indian women reported that during their period they still believed "the body emits some specific smell or ray, which turns preserved food bad" and are barred from touching certain foods or even entering the kitchen. We never thought we would say this but get those women back in the kitchen where they belong!
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women give off a poison called "menotoxin"

In 1920, Austrian doctor Bela Schick reportedly noticed that the roses his maid was arranging were slightly wilting, and later found out that this maid was on her period. For reasons no one totally understands, Dr. Schick conducted a series of experiments which (apparently) proved his theory that women on their period caused flowers to wilt and dough not to rise. He concluded that women on their period must emit some kind of poison, which he named "menotoxin".

Since women (menstruating or not) had been gardening, baking bread and generally not poisoning anyone for millennia, you might have hoped that "menotoxin" would be quickly forgotten. Sadly, other doctors, who apparently had nothing better to do, took up the search for "menotoxin", with papers appearing in medical journal The Lancet as late as the '70s.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women can kill crops, bees and dry up seeds

Ancient Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder no doubt meant well when he wrote the very first encyclopedia, Natural History. We think he may have got confused on the entry for menstruation, though.

Pliny wrote that touching menstrual blood could cause crops to dry up, fruit to fall off trees and bees to die. Dogs got off slightly better – they only went crazy and became poisonous if exposed to period blood. But still, if he was right, a used tampon would be pretty powerful.
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Photographed by Daantje Bons.
Menstruating women control the weather

If you needed further evidence that Pliny the Elder really needed a fact-checker, Natural History also claims that storms and "all other kinds of tempestuous weather" could be stopped by contact with menstrual blood.

We would love to believe this (if only to ensure a dry festival season next year) but Pliny the Elder said you could get the same result with a non-menstruating woman if she was naked. So there's a strong possibility Pliny the Elder may have just been trying to see some nude Roman ladies and pretending it was a weather forecast.
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