Many cultures have contamination beliefs about menstruation. Most notably in the Orthodox Jewish tradition of niddah, menstruating women must remain separated from their husband during their period and take a ritual cleansing bath at the end. Women may test whether menstruation has ceased; this ritual is known as the hefsek tahara. The woman takes a bath or shower near sunset, wraps a special cloth around her finger, and swipes the vaginal circumference. If the cloth shows only discharges that are white, yellow, or clear, then menstruation is considered to have ceased. If discharge is bright red, it indicates that menstruation continues. If it is any other color, it is subject to further inquiry, often involving consultation with a rabbi.
All a bit much really and TMI for this blogger. Anyway, it turns out that not only menstruating women but also pregnant women have been banned from attending a Maori exhibit at the National Museum in Wellington, New Zealand. Jane Keig, a spokeswoman for the museum, said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs and was agreed to as part of one collection included in the tour. Apparently it is a common concern in Maori culture, with women forbidden to go into the garden or on to the beach when they are menstruating. Okay, so how exactly are they going to ensure that menstruating women are not let into the exhibition? I guess they may have to take the finger test and consult a rabbi.
10 responses to “It’s the Wrong Time of the Month for Maoris”
Gah! I blogged about something even more silly a little while back, in relation to Australian Aboriginal ‘beliefs’.
I’m all for respecting people’s cultural beliefs, but sometimes the earnestness of some folks to do so has them bending so far over backwards that their head goes straight up their ass.
What about if you’re bleeding vaginally but it’s not due to menstruation? What if you’re menstruating but using a cup or a sponge (no string like a tampon)? What if you’re pregnant but don’t know it yet? So many questions! Probably best to just ban women completely; much easier that way.
The Museum should not have agreed to those conditions.
What if the condition had been that no gay people could be admitted? Or no Chinese? (Don’t ask me how the Maori would have an anti-Chinese tradition… just sayin’) What if you could attend if you were gay, but not if you’d had gay sex within the past 7 days?
If it were only menstruation, I could almost see an argument for “agreeing” to the conditions with a nod and a wink. But it still sends the wrong message, and is dishonest to boot.
If I were a woman living in New Zealand, I would organize a protest. Get as many pregnant and menstruating women together as possible, and all swarm the museum on the same day. Let security try to throw them out, and the lovely PR that will generate.
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Woah, talk about being blown out of proportion! And talk about not reading the source article.
One: this is not about the exhibition! This was for a small, select group on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the other pieces the museum has. The general exhibition also does not ban menstruating or pregnant women, as is said in the article.
Two: Also, from the same article Bruce linked: “Te Papa Tuesday insisted the request was not an outright ban.
“If there are pregnant women who want to go on the tour we don’t stop them. But we do prefer they respect the belief,” Keig told stuff.co.nz.” What it will now mean, is that the owners of these pieces, the Maori, will think twice about having their historical artefacts borrowed by a museum in the future. Which is a damned shame.
I did not say that it applied to the general public and my blog is accurate on this point. Nevertheless, the museum did agree that the behind-the-scenes tour should exclude certain women and I think that is what is at stake here – the principle. As already discussed, the ban would be impossible to enforce without violating all other manner of personal liberties.
When I was in India a few years ago we went to look inside some Jain temples, and the same applied; no pregnant or menstruating women were allowed inside.
I think that it is a strange rule, but I can imagine in the case of the Maori (is it Maori or Moari, the title of the blog confuses me) exhibition that the organization wants to be respectful towards the Maori traditions, considering they care enough about these traditions to put up an exhibition about it.
There again, I don’t expect there to be a gynaecologist checking every woman that wants to see the exhibition, so one can enter either way, although eight months into pregnancy will probably not be so hard to detect…
I looked at your blog and it seems to me that you don’t respect anyone’s belief if they aren’t atheist.
There are still aboriginees who don’t live in our western culture and who do still follow the “old” ways. To them a didgeridoo is sacred, who cares if stupid westerners play them in pop songs?
My last comment was for anaglyph. I’m new to wordpress, sorry.
You may have looked at my blog, but you plainly didn’t actually read it. I respect anybody’s right to believe anything they like. What I don’t respect is people who expect everyone else to believe what they believe. From where I stand, you make a decision to accept one irrational belief, and logically you must be prepared to accept all irrational beliefs. Otherwise, how do you decide which belief is more ‘believable’ than another. In my opinion, the only yardstick is rationality.
I don’t really care if aboriginal people want to hold the didgeridoo sacred. It’s entirely their business. But I object when a white person tells me that I must do the same. A didgeridoo means absolutely nothing to me other than as a musical instrument. That doesn’t stop me from understanding, nor respecting, an aboriginal person’s relationship to that item. The article that I was talking about in my post has nothing at all to do with that situation.
If you wish to discuss this further, let’s not bother Bruce – post your replies directly to my blog and we’ll take it from there.