Period Pieces: A Slap in the Face

Welcome to Period Pieces, our journey through the bizarre and beautiful cultural history of menstruation. Inspired by #throwbackthursday, we serve up our favorite ads, images, and factoids about periods throughout the ages.

Imagine you’re twelve years old, and you’ve just discovered a stain in your underwear. It’s your first period. You don’t totally understand what’s happening, so you pull up your pants and run downstairs to tell your mother. You expect a hug, a calming caress, a kiss on the forehead. Instead, she slaps you across the face when you tell her.

cartoon faces

If you were a young Ashkenazic Jewish girl 50 years ago, this may have happened to you. While it’s by no means a common custom these days, some mothers may still give a firm tap upon learning of her daughter’s menarche. The purpose and origin of the “menstrual slap” is unclear. Some traditions say that it’s to bring a quick rush of blood to the face, pulling it away from the lower abdomen and relieving a potentially heavy flows. Others see it as a harsh awakening: the transition from girlhood to womanhood made punctuated with a physical action. Either way, it’s a fascinating example of the strange and unique customs throughout history to “celebrate” a girl’s menarche.

Learn more about the tradition of the “menstrual slap” at the Museum of Menstruation.

About the author of this post:

tracypuhl is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. When she’s not in the office, you might find her attempting to run a faster 10k, traveling, practicing yoga, or pointing out how cute her cats are being right now.