Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Does PMS Cause Chocolate Cravings?

July 20th, 2009 by Elizabeth Kissling

Chocolate BarsA new study published in the journal, Appetite, suggests there is not a hormonal reason for premenstrual women to crave chocolate. The research was based on the premise that if the craving for chocolate was in fact related to a premenstrual surge in hormones, postmenopausal women would display diminished cravings for chocolate. Although the researchers did find a small drop in chocolate cravings after menopause in their small sample of women, the drop was not as great as expected, if the cravings were related to premenstrual hormones. This suggests that women crave chocolate for some other reason. Perhaps the concept of PMS cravings is a social construct. Or maybe some women just like chocolate – as the researchers state, we’re only talking about one-quarter of U.S. women: “[A]bout half of American women crave chocolate, and approximately half of the cravers crave it specifically around the onset of menstruation.”

Here’s another possible conclusion: Maybe women aren’t a monolithic group one can make facile generalizations about.

Mikvah in Montana

July 15th, 2009 by Elizabeth Kissling

The Hasidic movement Chabad Lubavitch has opened the first mikvah, a ritual bath for spiritual purification, in Montana. Estimates are that there are fewer than 1000 Jews residing in Montana, but Chabad says this is the only contemporary mikvah in a vast area that includes Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota.

From the Associated Press article:

Jewish law requires married women to immerse in the mikvah for ritual purity after menstruation and a period of abstaining from sex. Brides are expected to immerse before their weddings. The bath can also be used as purification as part of converting to Judaism.

Outside of the small Orthodox Jewish community, many American Jews had stopped using the mikvah, partly out of objections to its perspective on women. However, in recent years, more Jews have been rediscovering traditional practices, and the ritual bath has had a renaissance.

As a shiksa, I don’t care to open the debate about the mikvah’s perspectives on women, but simply to note the significance of this increased availability of means for women to practice menstrual ritual of their faith. (Those who are interested in the question of whether the mikvah is sexist may wish to read this article by Jancie Lochansky, which puts that question to Rivkah Slonim, author of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology.)

The Blood They Cannot Show

July 2nd, 2009 by Elizabeth Kissling

As I’ve written elsewhere, entertainment media in the U.S. aren’t squeamish about showing us blood: gunshot wounds, horrific vehicle accidents, and surgical procedures can be seen in fictional narratives as well as nightly news. It’s only menstrual blood that must remain hidden.

Another reminder of this phenomenon can be seen in the brief internet buzz last month, when teen actress Dakota Fanning was photographed on a movie set with blood running down her bare legs. I read about this at Broadsheet, Salon.com’s blog about ladybusiness. Broadsheet’s take was uncertainty over whether the photos are real or from the film, and disgust with the
reactions from internet commenters at Livejournal:

Is the blood part of the movie’s plotline — in which Fanning plays rock chick Cherie Currie — or just a run-of-the-mill monthly mishap?

Probably the latter. But that hasn’t prevented the Internet from erupting in an astonished, OMG! WTF? reaction, summed up best by the Livejournal poster who offered a pithy “Ew. Blood.”

Dakota Fanning holds still while an assistant cleans up her menstrual blood.Actor Dakota Fanning waits while an assistant cleans her legs.

[Click on photos to embiggen]

Of even greater interest is the comments at Broadsheet. Although I read Broadsheet every day, I usually skip the comments. (To borrow a term from Kate Harding, I find I can rarely spare the Sanity Watchers points). The overwhelming consensus of Broadsheet commenters was that OF COURSE it’s fake blood from the movie being filmed, because if it were a real period, no one would stand there looking so blasé while someone else cleaned her up. Apparently, if it were REAL blood, young Ms. Fanning would have run from the set to the nearest ladies room to plug it up, and not stood still for so many photographs, much less allow someone else to handle WetWipes duty.

Telling, no? It’s only OK for us to see this menstrual blood because it’s FAKE.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.