What Does Five Years Of Menstrual Blood Look Like?

Chilean artist Carina Ubeda has been collecting her own menstrual blood on scraps of cloth for five years. Why? So she could eventually create “Paños” (English translation: “Cloths”), an art project in which she put the pieces of bloodied cloth on display.

Placed in embroidery hoops, 90 pieces of the soiled cloths hang next to dangling apples, which are meant to represent ovulation.

Carina Ubeda, from Chile, then stitched the words ‘Production’, ‘Discard’, and ‘Destroyed’ below each of the stains.

Ubeda says she cannot wear normal pads because she has allergies, so these cloths are what work for her. For the display, she sprayed each with disinfectant spray to eliminate odors and maintain hygiene. Oddly enough, patrons still attempt to smell the scraps, according to gallery manager Fritz Demuth, but “the smell just does not exist, [the cloths] are not filthy.”

Though I am absolutely one of those “I don’t get it” people with regard to most art, I find this piece really fascinating and wonderful.

For a long time, I was ashamed of my period. In part, this was because it lasts for-f’ing-ever (10 – 14 days nearly every time), it’s stressfully heavy and it makes me violently ill, but there was also this deep-rooted fear of strangers or acquaintances or people I was romantically interested in realizing I was on my period — that I even had a period. I didn’t mind if my friends knew, but something about it made me feel so incredibly unattractive to those around me. Honestly, even at 23, I am still a bit apologetic about for reasons I cannot quite pinpoint; I sometimes wonder if this is because people do make menstruation seem “filthy” and taboo.

As a result, events like these and that menstrual poetry slam from a few weeks ago are inspirational to me. I am not brave enough to try and break down that barrier on my own, so I strongly appreciate and applaud those who do. Even if you are not fans of being anywhere near somebody else’s menstrual blood — a preference that I find quite understandable — it is great to at least give a little salute to the people who do, as they’re helping to destigmatize one of the most natural, necessary bodily functions in the world.

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    • peopleareoffendedsoeasily

      that’s disgusting

    • Eileen

      I’m all for not being ashamed something as perfectly normal and natural as menstruation…but I also think this is kind of icky. Bodily fluids belong either in the body or cleaned away.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        I’m conflicted because on the one hand, I totally agree with you — even natural, normal things can still require tossing into the garbage. I think with menstruation, though, the bleeding itself — the most natural, normal part — has been stigmatized for such a long time that it requires a bit of presenting to normalize people to it. But I definitely do see what you mean.

    • anna

      I told a man upfront on a date (I’ve been seeing him for a few months) that I really didn’t see us having sex that night because I had killer cramps and was on my period. He looked shocked, if not offended.
      I guess I should have just said i had a headache? I mean, if I’m going to date someone, they have be comfortable with the fact that I am a woman and therefore will bleed. Every month. Like clockwork, the last Saturday of every month. It’s not taboo to me, it’s just an annoyance. If they can’t handle that, then I guess I should know from the start

      • Eileen

        Wow, that sucks. My girlfriends and I like to complain about our exes not wanting to have sex on our periods (and yet, they see no problem with getting their stuff all over us…), but I will give my most recent credit for treating my period as normal and a reminder that I am not pregnant, if also something of a nuisance. Which is pretty much how I think of it.

        I’m a little bummed now because ever since I was nineteen and ran into a guy friend while walking back from CVS (he casually asked what I’d bought – tampons, toilet paper, and dental floss – and just smiled and said, “The necessities”) I’ve thought that men also accepted the whole menstruating thing as unremarkable, and women were just paranoid. Guess not.