Tag Archives: slap

A slap for menstruation

BACKGROUND: My informant, PP, is a student from the US. Her mom is Jewish American while her father is an immigrant from Spain. This piece is something that she learned from her mom’s side, something found in Jewish culture.  

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss a tradition in Jewish culture.

PP: There’s this thing in Jewish culture that my mom told me about when I first got my period that the mother has to lightly slap the daughters face on the day she first gets it and I was so distraught about getting it as a little 11-year old that I was just crying in the car and my mom felt terrible but she was like I’m so sorry but I have to do this and just lightly hit my cheek. I don’t know where this comes from but yeah I guess it’s a thing.

THOUGHTS: I think in many cultures a girl’s first period is seen as a marker of her ascent into womanhood. That being said, I also wonder why during an occasion while a girl is already feeling pain, it would be customary to inflict more pain. That thought soon reminded me of the Western tradition of slapping a baby on the butt as soon as it’s born. Perhaps a slap marks a prominent shift in one’s life. While the pain only lasts a brief moment, both individuals are soon welcomed into a new community.

The Jewish Slap

“It’s a Jewish tradition for mothers to slap their daughters after their first period. I don’t actually know the source of this tradition. Maybe it’s to warn the daughter of the pain of womanhood. I also heard from someone that the slap is supposed to bring blood to the daughter’s cheek, but I don’t know what that means. I never slapped my daughter, and my friend yelled at me because I didn’t. She slapped both of her daughters when they got their periods.”

Context: The informant is a Jewish woman with one daughter. Both of her parents are Jewish. She was raised in a Conservative Jewish household and raised her children in a Reform Jewish household.

Interpretation: The most reasonable conclusion seems to be that the slap is a symbol of the pains of womanhood. It could also be used to shame young girls out of sexual activity by immediately punishing them for being capable of reproduction. It also connects Jewish females both to their mothers through the slap and to other Jewish women through the shared experience.