Misogyny, Menstruation, The Devil and Donald Trump
There’s a phobic glitch deep inside Donald Trump that I don’t think has ever been given enough attention. He’s obsessed with Feminine Blood, Polluted Signifiers, Sex-Hate Triggers, and Menstruation.
In the early morning hours of June 29th, 2017, the Madman-in-Chief Tweeted this: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me,” Trump tweeted. “She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” (Eliza Relman, “One photo throws cold water on Trump’s claim that Mika Brzezinski was ‘bleeding’ at Mar-a-Lago from a face-lift,” June 30, 2017.)
While many, on both sides of the aisle, have condemned the sexism and foully personal nature of the Tweet, and pointed out how the Idiot has impugned his own and the presidential character, what none of the coverage on Trump’s heinous Tweet about Mika Brzezinski’s ‘badly bleeding face’ is grappling with is its subtext of blatant, abject, accusatory menstrual imagery as the typical grounds for Trump’s personal shaming of women he dislikes or is afraid of. There are additional examples, some of which we know of, as in the case of his weird comments about Megyn Kelly, when he objected to the tough questions she lobbed at him during the FOX-sponsored campaign debate she was moderating. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump said during an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon after the fact, “…Blood coming out of her… wherever.”
‘He even said he’s gotten the better of his attacks on Kelly, which stemmed from her question about Trump using words like “pigs” to describe women during Thursday night’s debate. “I have nothing against Megyn Kelly. I think her question was extremely unfair to me — her whole question was unfair to me. … On social media, I’m the one that’s beloved,” Trump said.’ (Eric Bradner, CNN, “Donald Trump: No apology on ‘blood’ remark amid GOP backlash.” August 10, 2015.)
But less well known are the menstrual imagery comments he’s made about women in private session, albeit to over 20 Congresspersons, while lobbying them over the Affordable Care Act Repeal Bill recently — also aimed at Brzezinski. One may marvel at how on earth raving about a cable news show host and ‘the blood coming out of her eyes and her ears’ could possibly be found appropriate within a purpose-specific address to the House on urgent work within their immediate remit, and the degree of disordered passion the topic had aroused in the president making the address.
The Congressmen and Congresswomen were alarmed by the heat of the president’s condemnation of the female journalist, and noted how the president’s tone turned vicious and his face turned a beet-red when he deviated from his presidential task and got onto the topic of Brzezinski and all the blood coming out of her orifices. One Congressman was sufficiently moved to make a private phone call to the Morning Joe hosts, warning them about the president’s unbalanced behaviour at the Meeting of the House, that HE had called, and seemed to now find something other than the official agenda of critical importance. The Congressman told Joe that the president’s out-of-control rant ‘scared him,’ and that he was “afraid” for the pair.
Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelley the day after the debate, where she tackled him on his misogynistic public characterizations of women as “pigs,” and “disgusting,” etc., when he said of Kelley, “blood was coming out of her… wherever,” was definitely menstrual ‘pollution’ imagery, and clearly taken as such by everyone who saw or heard it. It’s a function of using abject menstrual ‘pollution’ imagery to stigmatize and shame strong women.
His weird comments during the FOX News-sponsored debate, after the break, where Clinton had taken a bathroom break, also seemed affected by purity/pollution fetish/taboo abject fascination. His choice of words seem strange and atypical for most men — for anyone who is not in fact a medieval monk abjectly prating on about ‘female pollution,’ witchcraft, and the Devil. Apparently, Trump is (some strange combination of) sexually aroused and horrified/disgusted by all bathroom behaviours, i.e., golden showers. It’s as if his emotional development halted during toilet training. Aroused, fascinated, frightened, and horrified is the textbook meaning of abjection, and such feelings deliver the emotional supply, or high, of fetish/taboo behaviours.
(Hans Baldung Grien. Witch’s Sabbath, c. 1514. Louvre, Paris.)
At the debate, after the break, he addressed the audience directly before Clinton had returned to the podium, “I know where she went, folks, and it’s DISGUSTING — IT’S DISGUSTING!” — followed by a convivial and complicit chortle shared with the audience, as if he assumes they all share the same juvenile bathroom humour and disgust at feminine toilette matters. In the event, there actually was a wave of titters from his supporters in the audience, so perhaps they all do.
I’m not sure that the ‘pollution’ of menstruation is ever fully separate from the idea of essential femininity in the minds of misogynists or misogynist systems. How could it be? It still occupies a significant placement among the Mosaic purity laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and gets ample treatment in the Koran. It was a staple of the Christian banning of women from the priesthood after the Council of Nicea, and their barring from touching the altar or its regalia (women’s menstrual “polluted touch”). It is why, until recently women’s voices were not to be heard in Christian sacred spaces, including the Vatican, not even Mother Theresa’s.
Avoiding feminine ‘pollution’ provided the logic for the institution of boys’ choirs for the soprano sections of sacred music and chant and the creation of castrati to work as contra-tenors for Church music. Menstrual feminine pollution is the reason why women are still not permitted in the main halls of Orthodox synagogues or Mosques, and why in orthodox Christian churches women were ‘churched’ after childbirth as a prophylactic against their pollution via ‘lochia,’ or birth blood. Women were actually Churched for two weeks longer in the event of a female infant having been born, due to the greater spiritual pollution inherent in a female birth, and were required to perform additional ‘purification’ rituals, penances, and Acts of Contrition.
It is why female churchgoers had to wear hats or head coverings in church. Medieval medicine thought women’s hair was made out of menstrual blood and could turn into snakes, and also there were Pauline strictures against women’s ‘menstrual’ hair and the spiritual pollution sexually enflaming feminine hair might confer to angels watching over the virtuous men during worship. Women were compelled to wear gloves in church (to confine the ‘polluted touch’). It is also why there would often be a veil on the typical church hat so as to confine the ‘polluted’ feminine gaze. Female eyes were thought in Church theology, based on Aristotelian-Galenic medical models and Natural Philosophy, to have a direct hotline to the womb. Conceptions of the womb and of the feminine mind were the root of women’s and adolescent girls’ magical ability to manifest physical forms from sights entering into or out of their eyes as ‘vapours,’ a theory called ‘extramission.’
It’s the reason cited since the earliest suppression of women after the first warfaring city states arose, with their institutions of gender discrimination, male-dominant hierarchies, authoritarian elite structures and slavery as the cultural and ideological by-products of the culture and spirituality or cultus, of war. It is the original grounds of suppression and oppression of a subject population of this magnitude. And it is the grounds cited in the first male-dominant organized religions for the subjugation of women, from Zoroastrianism and its three bastard children, the Three Main Orthodoxies of the Judeo-Christian Abrahamic stem, of which Islam is merely the latest.
In the Zend-Avesta, the recorded survivals of the oral tradition of Zoroaster, the original Absolute Evil, Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, the model for the Judeo-Christian Devil or Saturn/Satan, was awakened in the form of a dragon from his 3,000 year long sleep and prompted to work evil against mankind (and I do mean ‘man’-kind). ‘For it is told that Angra Mainyu [the Devil], Lord of Evil and antagonist of the good Lord Ahura Mazda [God], having slept three thousand years was awakened by a female friend, Jahi (‘Menstruation’), who shouted at him,” saying, “Arise, O father of us all! For I shall now cause in the world that contention from which the misery and injury of Ahura Mazda and his Archangels are to proceed. I shall empoison the righteous man, the labouring ox, the water, plants, fire, and all creation.’ Whereupon Angra Mainyu, starting up, kissed her on the forehead, and the pollution called menstruation appeared upon the demoness….’ (Lederer, W., M.D., ‘The Fear of Women.’ New York and London, 1968.)
The actual text in the Zend Avesta, from Müller, F. M., ed. The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. V.: The Pahlavi Texts, The Bunahis and Bahman Yast, trans. E. W. West. Oxford, 1880: ‘Rise up, thou father of us! For in that righteous conflict I will shed thus much vexation on the righteous man and the labouring ox that, through my deeds, life will not be wanted, and I will destroy their living souls (nismo); I will empoison the water, I will empoison the plants, I will empoison the fire of Ahura Mazda, I will make the whole of creation empoisoned. And so she recounted those Evil deeds a second time, that the evil spirit was delighted and started up from that confusion; and he kissed Jahi on the head; and the pollution which they call menstruation became apparent in Jahi. He shouted to Jahi thus: ‘What is thy wish? So that I may give it thee.’ And jahi shouted to the evil spirit thus: ‘A man is the wish, so give it to me.’ The form of the evil spirit was a log-like lizard’s (vazak) body, and he appeared a young man of fifteen years to Jahi, and that brought the thoughts of Jahi to him.’ I think that the historic demonic contract described in this passage, or the elements of it that migrated into Judeo-Christianity, are what came to bear in the Witch Hunt, and is what Baldung is illustrating, through inference and cathexis, in the ‘Witch and Dragon’ drawing above.
Menstrual tropes were active during the Inquisition in condemning women to be ‘cleansed by the flame’ as ‘witches. Feminine blood conferred The Curse of Eve, could coerce by means of sexual temptation, and could not even be looked on by Inquisitors torturing or executing women condemned as menstrual ‘witches.’ Feminine blood, from “her eyes, from her ears…” from “her…wherever,” must not be glimpsed, even when issuing from female martyrs and saints.
As Pope Innocent III famously averred in his seminal work in the contemptus mundi tradition, ‘The Misery of the Human Condition’ (De miseria…), female blood was “filthy to speak of, filthier to hear of, filthiest to see….Hear now on what food the child is fed in the womb; actually on menstrual blood, which ceases in the female after conception so that the child in her womb will be nourished by it. And this blood is reckoned so detestable and impure that on contact with it fruits will fail to sprout, orchards go dry, herbs wither, the very trees let go their fruit; if a dog eat of it, he goes mad. When a child is conceived, he contracts the defect of the seed, so that lepers and monsters are born of this corruption. Wherefore according to Mosaic law a woman during her monthly period is considered unclean, and if anyone approach a menstruous woman it is commanded that he be put to death. Because of this uncleanness it is further commanded that a woman keep away from the entrance to the temple for forty days if she bear a male child but for eighty days if she bear a female.” (Innocent III/Lothario dei Segni. De miseria condicionis humane, ed. R. E. Lewis. Athens, 1978.)
In all fairness, Innocent III was getting his stuff from Pliny the Elder (c.50 AD), who was regurgitating Aristotle, much like St. Augustine, St. Paul (called ‘the Philosopher Saint’), St. Jerome, Isidore of Seville, and St. Thomas Aquinas, among other ‘Fathers of the Church.’ But his example serves to exemplify the enduring discourse around the Aristotelian theory of ‘feminine defect’ (the visible evidence of which was menstruation) and ‘polluted’ feminine blood. Theological and secular discourses like these not openly fuelled the Witch Hunt and other historic gynocidal events, but they underwrite contemporary male violence toward women and girls as the currently leading Human Rights abuse on Earth. They supply the context in which a thriving subtext of misogyny plays out in available Health Care for women and mothers, or the lack of: “The US was one of only 13 countries, including North Korea and Zimbabwe, that saw its maternal death rate increase since 1990. We are going in opposite direction of the whole worldwide trend,” according to University of Maryland researcher Marian MacDorman, who co-authored the best available national study of US maternal mortality in 2016.
When unconsciously misogynist scientific researchers of the 1970s and 80s, following the still extant Aristotelian medical model, discovered that fetuses persistently thrived and fared better when they were properly being nourished by their natural matrix of uterine blood in real wombs rather than test tubes or disembodied, artificial ‘sterile’ see-through plastic wombs, they were ‘surprised’ and seemingly couldn’t figure it out. Their unconscious biases were preventing them from seeing the obvious. More recent (and more enlightened) research and approaches have recognized uterine blood and menstrual fluid as ‘the perfect food’ — clean, rich in nutrients, minerals, amino acids, immune boosters, and nurturant qualities, and that it is a rich source of sound and healthy stem cells for use in life-saving transplants.
Polluted feminine blood tropes are why Donald Trump’s ‘dog whistles’ to his base, denigrating women with abject menstrual imagery, land so hard. It is why Trump ‘feminine blood’ comments and Tweets enflame systemic, institutionalized misogyny so successfully. There is still a widely dispersed, deeply embedded distrust of femininity and of feminine blood, instilled over centuries of indoctrination and fear-mongering.