When I started building an official Red Tent community here in West Michigan, and began promoting; I heard this a lot, in various forms. I did meet quite a few women who know exactly what Red Tent is and that was encouraging, however the fact that many women have no idea says to me that we have some work to do.
Here in West Michigan we have a dynamic that is typically pretty conservative, and often times closed off. We barely get sex education in schools as though there is still this stigma surrounding our genitalia; like if we talk about sex somehow our kids will become promiscuous or something. The irony is of course, the less sex education we have, the more ignorant people are of their bodies, and the more teen pregnancies and STDs and STIs we have. Knowledge is power, and empowerment generally means healthier choices.
Teaching with love has a better result, than teaching with fear. And on that note, how many of you out there just got more curious the more secrecy there was? I knew girls from very strict prudent upbringings who were, explorative with their sexuality, in secret of course. Also, having open dialogues about sex, sexuality, and our bodies makes it very difficult for a child sexual predator to keep a child silent. Children talk, they love to share, they even over share often. If sex, and their bodies, and genitalia weren’t such a taboo subject of discussion how many kids would be either spared or saved from their nightmares? It’s the phrase “Hush, we don’t talk about such things.” That causes problems. My twelve year old asked me the other day, “Mom, what is a blowjob?” while we were in the grocery store, with people around. You should have seen the looks I got. I told him, “It’s one way that people have sex.” Then I asked him why he asked. He told me that something about blowjobs was written on the inside of a slide, and he has been wondering what it meant; simple and innocent. If I had reacted negatively he would found another way to answer that question.
Discussion of sex, sexuality, genitalia, menstruation, and our bodies is only a part of what a Red Tent community is. A Red Tent community is a concept, and a physical location. Red Tent is a place of worship, if that is what you are looking for. It’s a place of healing, rest, rejuvenation, creation, and celebration. It’s a sisterhood, a tribe, a collective of women, who are in various stages of their lives; who by just being together create a song with the harmony of energies. The song that could move mountains.
Red Tent or moonlodge, historically and culturally, have had different contexts, with a similar theme. In many Native American tribes for example the feminine was sacred and they were matrilineal. The leaders were male, but his council was almost always a female elder. The moonlodge was a sacred space full of magic that was honored and revered, where women went during their menses for a break from the earthly responsibilities, so they could focus on the spirit world, sing their songs, tell their stories, and rest. When a woman was on her moontime she was seen as potent and powerful, and was seen with high esteem. It was said that if you wanted to destroy an entire tribe all you had to do was destroy the moonlodge.
In other traditions or cultures the menses was, and sometimes still, seen as a curse that could bring plague, and women were shunned to horribly constructed huts with very little water or food, as anyone seen caring for a mensing woman was seen as unclean, and then would be shunned themselves. This practice still happens in Nepal, and women in the Islamic and Hindu traditions are sometimes faced with this shaming as well. The Christian Bible has passages that support this kind of behavior. Let it be said here and now, Red Tent is the antithesis of this form of discrimination, and indoctrination.
There is also the personal Red Tent, where a woman decides if even for one day a month to seclude herself from her family and focus on her needs. Women are so busy, it seems that today we have super woman complex. We have the dynamic of the lonely secluded housewife of our Mothers, Grandmothers, and Great Grandmothers, and Sisters; and the dynamic of the strong empowered Feminist that fought/fighting for womens rights, and chose/choose a high powered career instead of a family. And some of us try to cover all the bases. Either way we need a day, hell I need a fucking month sometimes, to just get away from it all and reconnect with me. If you can’t or don’t want to do a monthly gathering with a group of other women, if that just isn’t your thing; try to find a day a month for you. One day of no cooking, cleaning, chasing, working, carpooling, networking, counseling, ass kissing, or nose wiping. One day of rejuvenation and self-love in whatever form that works for you.
Have you heard the saying, if the plane goes down put on your own oxygen mask first? If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be the strong, dynamic, full potential you. If you get burned out who can take over everything for whatever amount of time it takes for to get it back together, if you ever do? Honestly, taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of everyone, and everything else. I had to learn this the hard way. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to set boundaries. It’s ok to love you and care for you. Loving yourself is the most selfless thing you will ever do.
I love myself, and I dream in red.
Check out these resources for Red Tent: