Tag Archives: womanhood

Bloody Mary in the School Bathroom


When she was in elementary school, T recalls going into the girl’s restroom with a group of female classmates. She remembers it being an eerily cold and cloudy day, so she and her friends believed it was the perfect opportunity to put the Legend of Bloody Mary to the test. Before they had to line up to return to the classroom, T stood in a huddle with her friends before the only mirror in the girl’s restroom. After chanting the name three times, each girl began to scream and sprint from the restroom in fear. Afterwards, each claimed to have seen an older woman, but each girl described the woman quite differently. T recalls seeing a ghostly phantom with bloody and dejected features, and says that, after that day, she and her friends never used that bathroom ever again.


The Legend of Bloody Mary claims that if you chant “Bloody Mary” at a mirror three times, a woman– believed to be the historical and genocidal British queen, Bloody Mary— appears before you.


The trend of challenging the Legend of Bloody Mary is extremely common among young, pre-pubescent children, especially girls. At this age in life, young girls look forward to the daunting prospect of adulthood, or womanhood. The Bloody Mary challenge can actually be viewed as a metaphor for how the uncertainty of puberty and receiving one’s first menstrual cycle can be a terrifying experience. Like in T’s story, young girls confront a mirror, which in return projects back an image of themselves. Once completing the challenge and chanting Bloody Mary, the girls are faced with another image: the image of an older, often bloodier woman. This can be taken as a literal reflection of puberty, menstruation and other foreign aspects of womanhood through the eyes of young girls.

Filipino Debuts

“My experience with the debut was centered around presenting me to the world as a woman.  I know there’s stuff from before about, like… presenting women to the men of the community as of age or ready to be, like, married off.  But when Filipina girls turn 18, the community typically throws them a huge party called a debut (day-boo) and it’s just like the big birthday where everyone now considers them an adult.  For mine, my parents picked 9 aunts and 9 uncles to be my godparents for the party… well some of them were my actual godparents from baptism, but the others were people I’ve gotten close to as I’ve grown up.  Everyone gave me a speech, and the men danced with me.  I think at my mom’s debut though, they actually had her dance with, like… dudes her age as like a courtship thing.  That would be really weird and creepy now and, ugh, there’s no way I would ever do that.  But I guess that’s what was normal then.  And I mean, that’s also what the debut was for in its origins, where it was the sign that men could finally begin courting the woman for marriage.”

Background: The informant is a 20 year-old who had her own debut in 2019.  She was born and raised in the United States and is the daughter of Filipino immigrants.  She has never been to the Philippines, but was raised with her parents’ values.

Context: The piece was shared to me over Facebook Messenger video chat.

It is interesting how customs change in different countries and timelines.  Debuts in the Philippines in earlier decades served a more practical purpose, to present women to the bachelors of the community and to officially dub her as available.  This party also represents the liminal space between being a child and a woman with adult responsibilities, as this party also occurs around the same time where the celebrant goes to college.  Many Filipino-Americans also tend to leave home around this time, while those who have been raised in the Philippines tend to stay in their parents’ homes until they are married and have a new family to preside over.  Such customs around marriage do not exist as prevalently for those who were raised in the United States, as we place less of an emphasis around only leaving our parents’ household to raise one of our own.

I Dentoni

Main piece:

L.S.: It was something I was told when I was 15, 16 years old. My mum used to tell me not to put my legs and feet inside the water when I had my periods or, otherwise, my teeth would get super long. I remember I told this also to a friend of mine, who was a bit older than me and [smiles] she laughed at me.

V.S.: But was this considered ‘common knowledge’?

L.S.: I think so. I do not exactly know the origin, but my mother always told me this and…well, I guess my mother was told the same thing when she was my age. 

Background: (why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does if mean to them? Etc.)

My informant was born in the Tosco-Emilian Apennines (Italy) in 1931. While she spent the majority of her childhood there, she moved to Bologna, Italy, when she was about 13, and she has been living there ever since. This belief remembers her of her mother, and she told me of having said it to her daughter and grand-daughter as well, despite her lack of belief in the truthfulness of it.

Context: (the context of the performance)

The informant recounted me this while having a tea in her living room.


I believe this folk-belief to be really interesting as it directly concerns two fundamental aspects of womanhood. Firstly, until not many years ago, it was common understanding that going for a swim or dive into a pool of water would be unhealthy for women during their menstruations. Many were the presumptions concerning this hypothesis and many were the plausible reasons given, for the majority related to the fact that it would cause some sort of deficiency or simply be bad for their health. The true reason why women were advised against bathing -at least publicly- during their periods, is, instead, attributable to the possible embarrassment this would provoke towards other people in the surrounding area, who would witness the natural leakage of blood the immersion would commonly provoke. 

Secondly, this belief brings to light a second and more interesting aspect related to women’s menstruations, which is the one of transformation and fear of change. As a matter of fact, the appearance of this monstrous dental extension (Dentoni, which in Italian means high teeth) in the case of contact with water represents one of the many forms of fear both towards growth and also towards the social expectations that from it derive -just like Bloody Mary does. 
The conventional pattern of transformation can also be interpreted as a rite of passage from the society of children to the society of adults. 

Red in Indian Weddings

Collection:  Indian wedding – significance of red

A: “What is the significance of red in Indian weddings?”

B: “ Well red symbolizes a married woman, so the groom spreads red tika called Sindoor on the bride’s hairline…Oh! And the bride wear red.”

A: “A red dress?”

B: “It can be a saree, salwar suit, or whatever she wants.”

Context/Interpretation: While different colors take on different meanings and degrees of significance around the world, red is almost universally used in the development of womanhood. Marriage is a defining moment of adulthood, specifically womanhood, in many cultures. Therefore, the red in Indian weddings stays consistent with the red symbolism.

Annotated Bibliography:

SmarterTravel. “So THAT’S Why You Shouldn’t Wear A Green Hat In China.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Jan. 2017.

According to the article, “Red is the most powerful of all colors in Indian culture and holds many important meanings.” In fact, red can convey fear, power, fertility, love, beauty, and more. More significantly, red is known to symbolize an Indian woman’s marriage through red henna, red sindoor, and her outfit.



I interviewed my informant, a young lady of Mexican descent, in the study lounge of the band office. Because of her upbringing in Mexican culture, she was able and eager to share a lot of folklore and folk traditions. At the top of her list was her experience with the tradition of Quinceaneras, which she learned from her family members. She watched her older cousins performing the event when she was younger, and she had one herself when she turned fifteen. The following is the information she shared with me during the interview:


According to my informant, a Quinceanera is a celebration of a young girl’s fifteenth birthday.


In the past, they were to show the village/town that this person is now ready to be wed/ now ready to meet suiters. Now it’s more of a celebration of coming into womanhood, and presenting her as such to family and friends


Girls wear bridal-like dresses. In modern Quinceaneras, girls wear colors that match the theme color of their party. My informant informed me that she wore a white dress because that was the main color of her party.


Quinceaneras also have a Court. The court is made up of seven couple with one main escort to dance with the Quinceanera [here the word is being used to describe the girl herself rather than the entire celebration].


At her party, when she enters the room, a waltz is performed with her court. And then she dances with the father/male figures in her family. Her father performs changing of the shoe, which is usually changing a ballet flat to a heal.


This is followed by the presentation of the doll. There is a doll that looks like the Quinceanera. She has to present it to a younger female figure (a cousin, or sister). My informant gave her doll to her younger sister at her Quinceanera.


My informant also told me that a more recent Quinceanera tradition is the surprise dance. The girl being celebrated will choreograph a modern dance of some sort to entertain guests.


It is also expected that the Quinceanera greet every guest and thank them for coming to their party.


My information added that Quinceaneras are traditionally for catholic people. There is usually a mass beforehand where they honor the Virgin Mary because she’s the pinnacle of womanhood.


I asked my informant for the context of a Quinceanera. She admitted that most of what she shared is based on the American tradition. In the Mexican culture, the whole town would be invited, not just family and friends. The party is usually held anywhere people fit: a ranch, in a dance hall, etc. The entire party also functions as a display of wealth for the family.



I have ever experienced a Quinceanera party, but I have a great idea of what it’s like based on my informants description. She obviously is well informed about the complexities of the tradition, and was able to explain it to me in a way that was easy to document. I feel that if I ever go to a Quinceanera in the future, I will be knowledgeable of what is happening and why it’s significant.


For more information on Quinceaneras (including who celebrates it, and rituals that are part of it), go to https://www.quinceanera-boutique.com/quinceaneratradition.htm