Red Tent: Sisterhood During Menstruation & Birth

Dear woman, if you’ve found yourself feeling isolated in the four corners of your home, wishing someone were beside you to cook, clean, or even parent your little ones… you’re not alone.

In fact, humans are some of the most social creatures on the planet, next to monkeys. And yet it seems modern culture has removed us from the knowledge of how to be in community.

But it wasn’t always this way. 

In fact, in most cultures, humans not only stuck together in a village sense, but also in strong groups of their own sex. Think the hunters and gatherers. These traditional roles weren't written in stone, there were women hunters as well, however they did largely exist and within them, were subcultures.

Subcultures like THE RED TENT.

The red tent was a place specifically for women: Bleeding women. Birthing women. Introspective women. Sisterhood. Women seeking refuge!

Metaphorically it was a sanctuary, but physically it was literally a beautiful crafted tent of red fabrics and wooden poles, often times made to move with the nomadic people, that symbolized the dire importance of women gathering.

Because in all history, across many cultures, women have gathered. In song, in ceremony, in circle… Women have absolutely depended on each other’s camaraderie for something far deeper and richer than survival. They gathered for their well-being; for the well-being of their hearts, wombs, and spirits!

Behind the tapestries, mysterious to the men outside, were stories shared, babies birthed, wisdom handed down, songs sang, laughter had, hands held, tears shed, blood caught and more. This was a place of friendship and celebration.

In modern day life, the “rent tent” is sadly often only experienced once for a woman. During her birth, when a friend, family member, or paid stranger doulas her, welcoming the squeeze of her hand and fierce roars of her birth song.

Together they find each other eyes and a silent message of understanding. An unspoken cradle of “I know your pain and I’ll be here the whole way.”

Yet despite the undeniable strength of a woman with a sister beside her and ten more behind her, many women live alone, never to be doula’d again. Perhaps one week postpartum, cooking herself dinner after her partner has gone back to work, wondering why she's suffering the “baby blues” and pelvic prolapse to go with it. If it’s not a new mother lost in isolation, perhaps she’s a bleeding maiden, craving touch and a space to process. Perhaps she’s a beautiful crone, a women nearing the afterlife, feeling a profound loneliness in her older years. 

But in the red tent, every woman is a doula, and even a midwife in her own way. A sage, a priestess, a mother, a medicine woman. The archetypes of woman come to life as needed, unlike the title of “worker” or mother that seem to imprison women today. In the red tent, every woman is a sister, with her own unique strength. 

It’s 2023, and we’re more separated than ever. So my dear, if you find yourself needing your girlfriends, feeling alone in your journey of womanhood, wondering why your partner doesn’t understand you… you’re not alone. Your suffering does not belong in the silence of your home, but in the vast ritual of sisterhood.

Perhaps it is even more important to remember the ways of women, as we enter another era of separation and rites taken. Just recently, my favorite “modern” red tent, a naked lady spa where women gather nude to cleanse, began fighting in the Supreme Court to remain a female only spa.

This is not the first time and surely not the last time women will fight for their right to be together, away from men. So if you have a sister in your life, hold her close, lean on her, share with her. If you are longing for one, find her! Journey beside women and allow your love and support to ignite her strength, and watch it dance in reciprocity.

It is often your vulnerability that fertilizes the soil for a sisterhood more precious than any relationship had yet. 

Written by Megan Bloom
Instagram @bloomingwombs