Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Powerful Red

October 10th, 2013 by Heather Dillaway

Photo Courtesy of Heather Dillaway

Red is my favorite color by far. Autumn is my favorite season. Autumn brings out the true essence of red. As I watch the leaves start to turn it’s hard not to think about the true power of the color.


It symbolizes transitions and cycles, regardless of whether we are talking about seasons or menstruation or anything else. It is a marker of change in that way.

It is warm and inviting but also dangerous sometimes.

It incites action (as in making bulls charge).

It can make people stop (as in red lights and stop signs).

It can instill caution (as in, “Caution, HOT!” or “Please use this product as directed” or “Do Not Enter”).

It can mark mistakes (as in grading incorrect responses) or stand in for punishment (as in the Scarlett Letter).

It can be representative of leaks (as in menstrual accidents) and first sexual activity (as in spotting because of the breaking of a hymen).

It is emotion (as in anger, embarrassment).

It is exertion (as in flushed, sweaty skin after a workout).

It is representative of symptoms (as in rashes or infected spots).

It signifies ideal feminine beauty (as in red lipstick or red nail polish), even sexiness and/or sexual desire (as in red high heels).

It symbolizes fertility (as in the Handmaid’s tale).

It can mean exclusion and celebration simultaneously (as in the red tent).

It symbolizes vulnerability (as in Red Riding Hood).

It can mean death (as in bloodshed).

It can represent life (as there is nothing more vital than blood itself).

It can mean fun (as in the Red Hat Society).

It stands in for love (as in hearts and roses for Valentine’s Day).

It can mean something is ripe or mature (as in a red apple or red strawberry).

It can stand in for communism or particular countries (as in China, for example).

It can mean drug prevention (as in the Red Ribbon campaign).

The list could go on and on….what am I missing?

As I live in my favorite season with my favorite color all around me, it is hard to miss the true power of red.

8 responses to “Powerful Red”

  1. Laura Wershler says:

    Red is powerful to be sure. Apparently red is a hot fashion colour this season. I heard once that magazine covers that feature women dressed in red outsell all other covers.

    In Canada red is the colour of The Liberal Party.

    I love the red chairs in my living room. And I have red sheets on my bed and red towels in the downstairs bathroom.

  2. HeatherD says:

    Thanks, Laura, for sharing. Didn’t know that about magazine covers but that makes sense! Red bed sheets sound awesome.
    And is that why the Canadian maple leaf is red?

  3. Justina says:

    This is a beautiful prose, thanks!

    Red used to symbolize the feeling of scary to me, but little did I realize then that my relationship with my menstruating self was unhealthy and that is probably why I did not feel safe with the color red. Sadly, I was raised without appreciation for the function and spirituality of my moon times! My pursuit of using Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for natural birth control led me on a journey to healing that broken relationship with my natural self. Today I enjoy connecting other women to a new perspective too through teaching Fertility Awareness Method.

    Now red symbolizes new amazing things for me when I associate it with my moon-time bleeding and here are a couple of examples:

    1. Red means healthy juicy fertility-because true menstruation happens 10-16 days after ovulation has occurred.

    2. Red means freedom in being myself

    3. Red means a chance to slow down in life, retreat, and take the opportunity to attune to the extra in depth wisdom and insight that can present itself to a woman at the end of her moon-time.

  4. HeatherD says:

    So, for you, it seems that red now means some personal power that you once did not hold. That aligns with the idea that red ultimately has transient or changeable properties but all are quite powerful in the end. Thanks for sharing! I like that now red can mean both freedom and a chance to slow down for you.

  5. Anissa says:

    The red ribbon is for AIDS/HIV awareness (likely another blood reference)

  6. HeatherD says:

    You’re right, I forgot the red ribbon also represents that effort. Thanks!

  7. Lisa Leger says:

    I recall some remarks Laura Wershler made at our “Wandering Menstruals” event on Vancouver Island a few years back about the color pink being a washed out, weakened and diluted red. She talked about the power of red, of angry women “seeing red” about breast cancer and injustice. She said that “pinkifying” any women’s issue serves only to make it more mild, pretty, and unthreatening. She called upon us to choose blood red over pink whenever possible to keep our messages strong. I still think about her comments when getting dressed! This month, revisit Laura on “thinking pink” for October from 2011, here:

  8. HeatherD says:

    What an excellent link back to Laura’s post! Thanks, Lisa! Here’s to the strength of RED over pink!

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