Doris Lessing Archive
Fiction illustrating menstruation clearly emphasizes the shame, myths and confusion surrounding it. But perhaps more, it illuminates, in a way that is uncommon for literature, the fear felt by the menstruating woman about her body, as well as a societal fear that the menstruating woman is a threat.
Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest begins, marvelously, with one of the best depictions of adolescent malaise I’ve ever read: the fifteen-year-old title character languishing on her porch in silent, miserable judgment (in “spasms of resentment”) while her mother knits, and gossips vacuously with a neighbor.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and remains a staple of early feminist fiction. In 1983, Doris Lessing responded to Perkins Gilman’s classic story with “To Room Nineteen,” in part to point out how little had changed in the lives of women.