McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
bodily awareness, female embodiment, gynecology, life blood, market economy, menstrual taboo, PMS
The present research explores the negation and affirmation of menstrual life as found in culture, theory, and the concrete experiences of individual women. A phenomenological and hermeneutical thematic analysis is used throughout. In this study, the aspects of culture analyzed include language, humor, art, television, film, literature, print and television advertising, menstrual education, medicine, and some of the historical influences in the perception of women. Additionally, the formal psychological literature is examined as part of the cultural data, as is the researcher's own observations and cultural experiences.
Overall, this research reveals that the experience of menstrual bleeding has been culturally ignored and negated since the beginning of history. Those who menstruate are ignored and silenced, afforded less consideration as human beings, and are understood as necessarily secondary and inferior to men. Advertisements for menstrual products, for example, sell improved products to women but still push the same old messages of shame. However, the research also repeatedly reveals a very small minority vision in history, culture, and theories, where a more appreciative and validating view of menstrual bleeding and women is expressed.
Additionally, the research explores the experiential meanings of menstruation through protocol analyses of a sample of women. The findings demonstrate that women unfold personalized, menstrual meanings through relationships with others while being simultaneously influenced by the powerful bombardment of the silencing, tabooing, negating, and inferiority provoking aspects of the cultural tradition. Despite this (generally unnoticed or taken for granted) bombardment from the culture, in some way, each woman comes to terms with her own bleeding, changing, predictably unpredictable body and finds her own sense of self within the culture and within her particular life. The women develop over time a certain felt sense of identity with their menstrual self, which becomes for some a kind of "friend," a familiar ritual, which is something like a sweet, interior secret, or, at least, as all say "a part of me -- part of who I am."
DeForest, C. (2007). The Bloody Truth: A Psychological and Cultural Study of Menstruation as Lived and Experienced by Women (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/472