Saturday, January 15, 2011

People are weird about blood

(So i’m back from Pittsburgh, and fully settled back in. Good trip, though intensely sleep-depriving. But enough of that—on to content.)

Something i’ve been thinking about a good bit lately: In at least some temples, girls who go to do baptisms for the dead are asked beforehand if they’re on their periods, and those who are aren’t allowed to participate.* Why is this done?**

In fact, one woman i know very well*** had her ward’s youth temple trips coincide with her period often enough in her early teen years that she simply stopped going on them. This highlights an unintended and rather serious consequence of this tradition (i’m assuming it’s not a formal policy)—teenaged girls are being excluded from participating in the highest level of religious rites that they can at that age, due simply to factors they have no control over. Yeah, that’s useful priming for these girls’ future activity in the church.

* I come by this knowledge via conversations with several women over the years. Yes, i have a history of having had lots of conversations with women i’ve known about menstruation-related issues. No, i don’t see this as in any way strange.

** And when giving your answer, please remember that public pools seem to have no problem with menstruating women being in the water.

*** Who i doubt would mind being identified by name, but she’s not here right now to ask for permission.****

**** Gratuitous footnote, just so there’s one more.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

Um.... use a tampon? Seriously. They didn't ask us if we were on our periods. Instead they reminded up to use a tampon if we wanted to do baptisms. They didn't need us to tell them the state of our uteruses* and vaginas**. It was just a reminder (that I'm not sure was necessary actually... I mean we knew about swimming and tampons and all that). That's reasonable. Pads don't work in water (well they do, but they swell up all huge and weird) and not using any feminine protection could (would) be very messy. Those girls who didn't want to wear tampons sat out. I was having my period once when we did baptisms. I wore a tampon (like usual) and all was good. I didn't even tell my YW leaders. It was none of their business. I do have a friend who started wondering if God was trying to tell her something because baptism trips, without fail, coincided with her period. She didn't want to use tampons (personal choice), so she never got to do baptisms. Once it started *on the way* to the temple even.

*Chrome is flagging uteruses as misspelled (uteri is okay, though both are considered correct pluralization). It suggests "underused" instead.

**Vaginas is also flagged as misspelled. I guess those just can't be referred to in a collective.

Michelle said...

I remember being told a couple of times during YW classes on Sundays that we could not participate in baptisms if it was during our period. We could go to the temple with the group, but would have to sit and watch - yeah, that's a great way for a teenage girl to feel less self-conscious and embarrassed about what her body is doing at that moment. It made me so petrified that I was afraid to sign up to go on a baptism trip even before I ever got my period. I was too afraid that it would start before the trip and I would have to (oh, the horror) tell someone why I couldn't go.

Now as an adult, though, no one has ever asked me about it, so I do baptisms whenever I feel like it.

Maybe all those older ladies at the temple think that using a tampon is a little too, ahem, intimate for a teenage girl. But that's a whole other discussion.

David B said...

Actually, Heather, the specific woman i mention in my post tried using tampons as a way of being allowed to do baptisms, and she still wasn’t allowed in the water.

But what we’ve got in the comments here is that it was apparently an issue (at the Kensington, Maryland* temple) when Michelle was a teen, but not when Heather was, and that’s a difference of about four years. Maybe the difference is that there was a temple president (and therefore, perhaps crucially for this one, temple matron) change in the meantime?

(Leads me to think about what i’ve lately been calling the “oral tradition” in Mormonism. I think i’ll post about that later this week.)

But yes, from what i’ve been hearing it’s still an issue some girls get to face, at least in some places, unfortunately. Like Michelle says, great way to help girls feel good about themselves.

* It’s not in Washington DC, so why call it the Washington temple?

Heather the Mama Duk said...

If we said Kensington Temple people would be like HUH? Quite a lot of the non-UT temples are named for the nearest large city but aren't actually within that city.

I think there was a temple president change between the time Michelle was a teenager and I was 13*. Or maybe it was that the YW leaders I had didn't have sticks up their butts like the previous ones** and so didn't even think about baptisms at the temple and wearing tampons being an issue. At any rate, from what I understand the "policy" (for lack of a better word) is the same now as it was when I was a YW. As it should be.

*Near 14, actually. Prior to that point I do not remember if they asked or not because I simply had no reason to care. By that time Michelle was a senior in high school and went away to college not many months later. Possibly (probably) with no ward temple trips in between.

**This is quite likely. I mean, the YW President in the ward when I was a Beehive (and Michelle was a Laurel) had an issue with suspenders (they were in then) because they drew attention to a certain no-no area so of course only loose girls would wear them. Being 12, I wasn't sure exactly what a "loose girl" was. That and telling us not to go necking and petting (both of which I'm STILL not 100% sure what they are). I was scarred for life by that talk.

kimberlee said...

I am the same age as Michelle. We attended the Salt Lake Temple. No baptisms during our period.

I asked my 13 year old daughter what they are doing now. There is not even a discussion on it. She attends the Bountiful Temple.