Postcards from Indonesia:
The man at the taxi desk looked at us sternly when we booked a trip to a temple, and said ‘Women can’t go in if they’re menstruating. It’s very important. It’s a holy site. You can’t enter if you’re menstruating. At all.’ And I said ‘Well, we’re not. So that’s not an issue.’
But I wish that I was. I wouldn’t go bleeding all over the floor or anything. I’d wear a tampon. And I’d just stand there, quietly defying all the men all over the world whose personal squeamishness made them put words in the mouth of their gods, calling women unclean, calling women unholy, calling women shameful and hateful and wrong.
At the front of the line to get into St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the guard told me that I couldn’t enter because my shoulders weren’t covered. I stood in my singlet top outside the huge golden buildings vomited up by the greedy wealth of the church, and looked at the guard, and breathed in, and he let me in, because he could see the rage in me and felt it wasn’t worth the trouble. Because he decided that just letting it go was easier than having to deal with a woman standing there bellowing ‘Do you honestly think that of all the problems in this sick, blighted world, of all the terror and death and disease and shocking, incomprehensible horror on this planet, that your god honestly cares about my bare shoulders? How dare you let some sex-starved bishops six hundred years ago who couldn’t keep their erections down demand that I should not be able to walk under this roof? How dare you think that your almighty God gives a fuck about the tops of my arms?’ He let me in, and it was beautiful, and I hated to think that the same men who could build a vast palace of glory like that could be so small and mean as to tell their wives and mothers and sisters that their bodies were unworthy.
Perhaps there is a temple somewhere where the holiest time to visit is when you are bleeding. Where mothers come to birth their children in the centre of a floor patterned with tightening spirals, and congregations flock to give thanks for the shit and piss and afterbirth, and where the air rings with cheers when the child gives its first cry. Where women come to laugh and cry and scream and dance, and where they are told that they are whole and grand and mystic, and where men are welcomed with open arms, because nobody deserves to be told that they cannot stand before god, ever.