Blood, Bread, and Roses

(Annotated by Sarah Lawrance)

Though this book is intended as an alternative creation myth with an emphasis on menstruation as the historical root of all social and cultural life, I am touched by its relevance to some contemporary articulations of feminist pedagogy. Grahn understands menstruation as playing a pedagogical function as it teaches of birth, death, and everything in between. Early menstrual rites and rituals also served as pedagogical tools — what Grahn calls metaforms — and were used by women of prelinguistic eras to remember and communicate their newfound consciousness as taught by menstruation. Grahn describes metaforms as physical embodiments of metaphors, or “an act or form of instruction that makes a connection between menstruation and a mental principle” (p. 20). According to Grahn, contemporary pedagogies embodied in the visual and performing arts can thus be traced back hundreds of thousands of years and are deeply rooted in the menstrual consciousness of pre-linguistic humans. This perspective provides interesting insights into the pedagogical potential of such contemporary art forms as popular music, street theatre, tattooing and piercing, and other forms of expression. It also suggests that adornment as commonplace as makeup, clothing, and haircare products and accessories can be similarly meaningful. Elsewhere I have written of “tactics of resistance” used by women as “processes of negotiating between competing truth discourses” (Lawrance 2007: p. 1). If we understand the conflicting North American standards of health and beauty that are imposed on women at this specific cultural and historical moment as examples of such truth discourses, then perhaps contemporary women’s engagements with the afore-mentioned aspects of material culture can be understood as tactics of resistance, since, while not appearing transgressive on the surface, these processes nonetheless produce new spaces within which women are continuously (re)positioning themselves. These tactics of resistance, then, can also be understood as potentially radical pedagogical tools for subverting the strategic elements of what Grahn describes as the (relatively) recently imposed patriarchal culture.


Grahn, Judy. 1994. Blood, bread, and roses: How menstruation created the world. Boston: Beacon Press.

Lawrance, Sarah. 2007. Seeing red: Meaning-making and resistance in menstrual
Lignes de fuite: La revue élétronique du cinéma. Available


~ by artpoped on September 30, 2008.

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