The Last Taboo: Menstruation and Body Literacy

Psychology Today

The Me in We

How group emotions and issues of collective identity change the world.
Can I talk to you about my period?
Published on August 3, 2010
This post is a response to Why Anti-Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary, Evil, and Incredibly Unsexy by Regina Barreca, Ph.D.
Many moons ago, Gloria Steinem wrote and article “If Men Could Menstruate,” which I excerpt here:”So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event… Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (‘men-struation’) as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat (“You have to give blood to take blood”), occupy high political office (“Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?”)… Street guys would invent slang (“He’s a three-pad man”) and “give fives” on the corner with some exchange like, “Man you lookin’ good!” “Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”… Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.”

Gloria, you got to love her! She knows how to transform people and perspectives. Switching gender roles shows us how we create fictions around the subject of a bleeding uterus. What we take as objective or value-free (menstruation- shh, just clean it up!) is really man-made meaning. The riff above gives us a glimpse into how sexual difference is socially constructed. In other words, it shows the show.

I’ve enjoyed reading Regina Barreca’s lively rejoinder to Satoshi Kanazawa’s “Why modern feminism is illogical, unnecessary, and evil.” Yet clearly the evil among us is menstruation. Or rather, how we think about it.

Contrary to what Kanazawa says, feminism (a multi-vocal movement) does not claim “men and women are on the whole identical.” Feminism does, however, strive to illuminate how social and historical conditions make men and women seem more different than they are. For instance, Third Wave feminists of today detach menstruation from the gendered body.  They reach out to transsexed people (Male-Females do menstruate) and acknowledge that not all women have a period (post-menopausal females do not). Of late, these plucky feminists have also been toying with the notion of menstrual taboos.



Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.