did you imagine what’s in the photograph?
i wanted to know what you thought, i’ll be curious


i can show you this photo
and tell you the secret, the trap
but only if you want, of course
no one is obligated to see
but if you want
It’s down here


You have been caught in a trap.
The kaleidoscope you played with was made from the photograph in this envelope. In the photograph you can see all the toilet paper I used during my menstrual period glued to a cardboard. I told you you weren’t obligated to see it. No one is. I know that, that’s what my mother taught me, what all my friends’ mothers taught them. Where I come from, our plumbing is pretty bad and we throw our used toilet paper in bins. In these Latin lands of ours, one of the first things we are taught when menarche arrives is to fold the paper tightly so that no one accidentally sees our blood – no one is obliged to see it.
This photo and the kaleidoscopic trap you were placed in are part of my ongoing doctoral research. I am rummaging through the folds of garbage, collecting whispers: my research object is menstruation experiences that anthropologists have had during fieldwork in indigenous lands. As you can imagine, many of these experiences were and are suppressed from the formal productions of these researchers (dissertations, theses, articles…), being restricted, at best, to conversations in corridors. The desire to research this topic came when, a few years ago, I heard from an indigenous anthropologist that “the university does not respect the blood of indigenous women”. And then she told how every month she had to be off work for a week to fulfill ritual duties, and this automatically put her in a less productive place. And she said she didn’t want the academy to accept it that way, as less productive, but she wanted the academy to completely rethink the idea of ​​productivity.
Donna Haraway told us about the ideal body that makes science, an unmarked body. This body does not bleed. But we bleed – in many ways – and here we are. Many of the anthropologists I’ve interviewed tell me how the silence about menstruation during their training has taught them to hide what cannot be hidden. This is because many indigenous peoples have (bio)technologies that make menstruation a public matter, such as the ability to smell menstrual blood from a considerable distance. Furthermore, through research I have come into contact with profound and transforming dimensions of menstruation: from the mythical connection of the origin of menstruation with the prohibition of incest (which disturbs classical theories of anthropology made by men), as well as the discovery of a series of techniques that indigenous women cultivate to be with their blood, such as the ability of not leak, that is, control the blood with their vaginal muscles.
I decided to do the experiment that generated the photograph you have in your hands during the quarantine, when many of us saw their fields fall apart – it was no different for me. Alone, at home, I had an idea: try to hold my menstrual blood myself, and thus stay with the problem. And I did. And like a body that bleeds, I know I couldn’t show you that image without putting you in the trap first. It couldn’t hurt your established feelings.
This is a feminist trap, along the lines of the traps proposed by philosophers of science like Isabelle Stenger. I would like to close this letter with her words: “not to collide with established sentiments, so as to try to open them to what their established identity led them to refuse, combat, misunderstand”.

If you want, you can find out more by reading my thesis, “Staining: (what) to do (with) menstruation. Strategies and experiments to leak feminist issues through technosciences”. Below, you can download the PDF file or access the thesis in a digital and hyperlinked version.

You can also find me here if you want to talk.

A warm embrace,