Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Mainstreaming Menstruation: A Scholar’s Journey to Advocacy and Education

August 24th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

#SMCR2015 Plenary Session Video Presentation

Mainstreaming the Flow: (Still) Selling My Soul to Start the Conversation

Keynote Address by Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD, to the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, Friday, June 5th, 2015, Boston, MA

“I want to bring menstruation out of the closet.”

In this presentation Tomi-Ann Roberts, a professor of psychology at Colorado College, talks about her efforts at “mainstreaming the flow” and presents some of the many challenges and satisfactions of moving from scholar to advocate and educator for non-academic audiences on the connections between objectification, sexualization, and menstrual wellness. Hear how she addressed the “thigh gap” controversy in a blog post for teenage girls in her role as a U by Kotex advocate, while at the same time worrying that she is giving girls ideas for self-objectification. Learn how she is contributing to a class action legal case on behalf of incarcerated women that is arguing for menstrual privacy as a civil right, yet concerned that she might be reifying negative attitudes and emotions about menstruation. Robert’s journey from scholar to advocate to educator demonstrates the power of a “shared voice” to demystify and destigmatize menstruation.

Videography provided courtesy of Robert Lewis.

Award-winning menstrual cycle advocacy and research

August 17th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

#SMCR2015 Plenary Session Video Presentation

Making Menstruation Matter Award, Student Awards and the Mary Anna Friederich Service Award

Presented at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, held June 4-6, 2015, at Suffolk University in Boston, MA.

Awards Coordinator Mindy Erchull hosted the 2015 SMCR awards ceremony on Saturday, June 6th, 2015.

Student awards are given to either undergraduate or graduate students who present high quality research at the conference. Amy Dryden received the Linda McKeever Award and Saniya Ghanoui the Esther Rome Award.

Two long-time SMCR members–Joan Chrisler and Elizabeth Kissling–were honored with the Mary Anna Friederich Service Award for their outstanding and unusual service contributions to the Society.

Veteran women’s health advocate Judy Norsigian accepted the Making Menstruation Matter Award on behalf of the Boston-based organization  Our Bodies Ourselves. A non-profit, public interest organization most recently based in Cambridge, MA, USA, OBOS develops and promotes evidence-based information on girls’ and women’s reproductive health and sexuality. Their landmark publication, Our Bodies Ourselves, has sold millions of copies around the world and has been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Working in collaboration with U.S. and global organizations, in more than 30 countries, OBOS vigorously advocates for women’s health by challenging institutions and systems that devalue women and prevent them from having full control over their bodies and their health.

The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research honors this group for these efforts and, in particular, their pioneering historic work around improving femcare product safety and menstrual health and awareness more generally.

Videography courtesy of Rob Lewis.

Respect for Menstruation is a Human Right

August 13th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

#SMCR2015 Plenary Session Video Presentation

Keynote by Loretta J. Ross, Reproductive Justice Pioneer

Presented at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, held June 4-6, 2015, at Suffolk University in Boston, MA.

“I tend to think of reproductive justice as a promiscuous concept that will have sex with any idea that looks like it’s going to protect women’s human rights.”

Speaking at the SMCR conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice on June 5th , 2015, Loretta J. Ross addresses how women and girls can celebrate their bodies, especially their menses, instead of being shamed and hidden as in most cultures. Building on the experiences learned at the Black Women’s Health Imperative and using the human rights framework, Ross talks about how activists are changing the conversation about menstruation and womanhood.

Loretta J. Ross is an expert on women’s issues, hate groups, racism and intolerance, human rights, and violence against women. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice issues an dhow this affects social change and service delivery in all movements. She was a co-founder and the national coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective from 2005-2012, a network founded in 1997 by women of color and allied organizations that organize women of color in the reproductive justice movement. She was also a national co-director of the April 25, 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants, and the founder and executive director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Videography provided courtesy of Robert Lewis.

Menstrual Hygiene Management: A Global Panel Discussion

August 6th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

#SMCR 2015 Plenary Session Video Presentation:

“Menstrual health is like the rhino for ecology, it’s the thing that if we get wrong the whole ecosystem fails. And if we get menstrual health wrong the social ecosystem fails.”  

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is critically neglected in development programs leading to negative cascading effects, particularly for girls, in health, education, safety and productivity. This plenary session was presented at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research on June 4th, 2015, in Boston, MA. A global first, the panel brought together activists, practitioners, funders and academics to share their unique work and discuss barriers and opportunities to form a global, lasting movement to mainstream menstruation management.

Moderator:
Megan White Mukuria  (ZanaAfrica)

Panelists:
Leeat Weinstock (Grand Challenges Canada),
Sinu Joseph (Myrthi),
Murat Sahin (WASH in Schools, UNICEF),
Archana Patkar (Water Supply and Sanitation Coordinating Council),
Beverly Mademba (WASH United)

 

Call for abstracts for the upcoming virtual MHM conference on October 22, 2015:

Flibanserin is NOT “female Viagra” and here’s why

July 30th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

If you’ve been hearing about the “female Viagra” drug Flibanserin in the media over the past couple of months and wonder what it’s all about, Dr. Aaron Carroll at Healthcare Triage sets the record straight and tells you everything you need to know about Flibanserin in this seven-minute video.

To quote Dr. Carroll, “The two drugs aren’t even close to the same thing.” He asks the media and others to stop calling Flibanserin the “female Viagra.” He says, “It makes pharmacology nerds very, very unhappy when you do that.”

#noboozewithflib

For one, Viagra is taken on an as needed basis and does not work if the man is not already sexually aroused. Flibanserin is intended for daily use by premenopausal women and affects the brain, supposedly, to increase feelings of sexual desire. Side effects include, says Dr Carroll, “marked sedation, somnolence and fatigue,” and are made worse in those who consume alcohol.

The video provides need-to-know information because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is leaning towards approving Flibanserin this summer. Though twice rejected by the FDA, an aggressive public relations campaign spearheaded by drug owner Sprout Pharmaceuticals has resulted in a recommendation to the FDA to approve the drug with risk management options. A letter to the FDA signed by Leonore Tiefer, PhD, of the New View Campaign and over 100 other concerned health experts, sex researchers and clinicians urging them to reject approval of flibanserin explains the many problems with the drug. Here’s what the letter says about Flibanserin and alcohol:

We will leave the topic of flibanserin’s safety to others, except for mentioning the truly absurd situation of approving a daily drug to boost the sex lives of women in their 30s and 40s that must not be taken with alcohol. As sexologists we can say with confidence that this advice is both preposterous and doomed.

The New View Campaign also wrote a song advocating that women and the FDA Throw That Pink Pill Away:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research added its voice to those opposing FDA approval of Flibanserin by passing the following resolution in June at its 2015 Biennial conference in Boston, MA:

The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research regrets the recommendation by the Bone, Reproductive, and Urologic Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee on June 4, 2015 that Flibanserin be approved with risk management options. The discussion after the vote was recorded made it clear that even those in favor had serious reservations about the efficacy and safety of the drug. We believe that women want safe and effective options, not unsafe and ineffective medications. Therefore, we urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to override the Advisory Committees’ decision and reject this drug.

NOTE: This post was updated on July 30, 2015 at 12:55 p.m. EST with the addition of the song.

Ovulation is a hot topic, but….

July 23rd, 2015 by Laura Wershler

This graphic, courtesy of Justisse Healthworks for Women, shows the ebb and flow of estrogen and progesterone during an ovulatory menstrual cycle. Neither ovulation nor this cyclic hormonal activity occurs while using hormonal contraception.

Everybody seems to be talking about ovulation these days in one context or another.

ScienceDaily reported that women’s faces get redder when they ovulate, but it is imperceptible to the human eye.

The Pharmaceutical Journal reported on a small study that showed the use of  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDs) may prevent as many as 75% of fertile women from ovulating.

And over at Bustle we can read about 6 Strange Ways Ovulation Affects Women in an article that does what so many articles about ovulation do, imply that all women ovulate by failing to mention that women using hormonal contraception–i.e. the pill, patch, ring, implant or shot–DO NOT OVULATE.

Why does it matter? Because many women do not know that they DO NOT OVULATE while using hormonal birth control.

So, kudos to Jody Smith who wrote 10 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Ovulation for EmpowHer. Fact No. 9 states: Contraceptive pills stop the process of ovulation.

Calling all writers and editors, if you write or publish a story about ovulation in any context, please include this proviso: Women who use hormonal contraception of any kind DO NOT OVULATE. 

Menstrual Prose Poem from #SMCR2015: “My feet flow through each cycle.”

July 20th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the last in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to some of the poetry performed that evening.

 

Flow – by Rosie Sheb’a

Sustainable Cycles cyclists Rachel, Olive and Rosie in Atlanta, Georgia, en route to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference held in Boston, June 4-6, 2015.

Flow. My feet flow through each cycle. Every revolution takes me further into the cycle. Life cycle. Bicycle. Upcycle. Recycle.

My small wheels move along the road, a mirror to the larger wheel of which I am a tiny, insignificant, and yet pivotal part. My essence is essential to the whole. The microcosm of my womb reflects the entire universe!

I look at my legs powering my bicycle across state after state. I watch as I bleed and listen to my body as my ovulation is reflected by the road. My menstrual cycle is a perfect replica of the seasons, of the stages from egg to caterpillar, to pupa, to butterfly. The Earth rotates around the sun, just as my pedals rotate around my crank shaft, and foot by foot, mile by mile, I move forward. We move forward. Propelled by our destiny as cyclists. Life Cyclists.

We cycle, and millennia of oppression melts away. We are part of something immense. Individually, we are just a tiny cog in the giant clock of evolution, but together, we can say menstruation. Period. I bleed. You bleed. We were, are and will be bleeders. Without our blood, life as we know it would not be. Cycling, together, we conquer fear. We surmount shame.

Sustainable cycles? It’s a pun about bikes and periods, but it’s so much more than that. Our message is clear. Love your cycle. Love the cycle. Take care of yourself, and you take care of the planet. Learn about your body, and you will be empowered.

I watch a teenage girl ride her bike through the streets of Philadelphia. Will she have knowledge of her cycle?

I see an old woman on a park bench in New Orleans. Who is learning her life lessons?

A middle aged dame in Texas tells me she doesn’t like “that word” and I wonder. Does her daughter know her – Period?

A transgender man tells of his forgotten tablets and using soft leaves to soak up his accidental summer-camp flow.

So many perspectives from so many places and we’ve only just scratched the surface. So many lessons to learn from our neighbours. Collectively, we have a purpose.

Learn to love. Love to grow as our cycle continues. I watch a playground of children. What world can we envision for them?

A world where we know our bodies? Where we can be ourselves without fear?

A world void of hatred?

Who knows. I am but a tiny wheel on the cycle of life.

Yet one small action can trigger a revolution.

One cycle. One. Cycle. We are in it.

Where do you want to go?

Rosie Sheba is the owner/director of Sustainable Menstruation Australia and rode from Austin to Boston with Sustainable Cycles to present at #SMCR2015. She has a background in evolutionary biology and ecology. Rosie sees positive relationships and experiences of the menstrual cycle as the keystone for the evolutionary survival and success of humanity.

Menstrual Poetry from #SMCR2015: “Blood dried, but mysteries remained.”

July 16th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the fourth in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to menstrual-themed poetry.  

 

His First Period – by David Linton


Returning to the cave,
Arm gashed by claw of tiger, back scared by spear of foe,
Noting first the scent, then, adjusting to the dark,
The small red spots across the rubble, the rivulets down her leg,
Dried in the hair of her calf, glistening maroon,
Reflecting dimly the light of the smoldering fire.

Blood! Blood!!

Clutching his club and bending to grasp a stone
His eyes dart and nostrils flare
To find the intruder that had caused this flow,
The foreign beast, standing or crawling, on two legs or four,
That had drawn life’s fluid from his cave mate’s groin.

No sound of scurrying feet or padded paw,
No smell of body or of musky pelt,
No furtive move or change of shadows’ shapes.
While she, fresh fluid flowing still, detecting his concern,
Bared her teeth and lowered eyes
In gestures of welcome and ease.
Hair still on end, nostrils twitching, breath coming short,
Club slowly lowered and rock dropped to the floor,
He neared her by the fire, knelt to sniff the odor,
Reached to touch the matted nest of hair.
Pulling back his red smeared fingers,
He held them to his nose,
Touched them to his tongue,
Stared at the thick crimson,
Familiar and yet strange.

It did not clot and close the wound
But seemed to make it pout with berry-colored ripeness,
Unlike his that oft turned yellow and seeped foul stench.
Nor did she seem to ache or fear a loss,
The kind of ebb that brought down antlered giant,
Snarling beast, or timid runner in the brush.
The kind of ebb that slowed the pace or brought to end
The holder of the spear, the builder of the fire,
The hunter of all prey.

In unaccustomed calm they huddled near the heat,
Their hairy shoulders touched,
Their gnarled fingers felt each other’s grasp,
Blood dried, but mysteries remained.

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the SMCR Board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

Menstrual Poetry from #SMCR2015: “I looked up menstruation in the dictionary.”

July 13th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the third in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to some of the poetry performed that evening. 

 

You Menstrual Me – excerpted from the June 6, 2015 performance by Emily Graves

 

Balloons 1I told you I got my period,
And you said I could tell you once every 28 days.
But no more.

I traced the word menstruation
In the air, to see if anyone would give me a dirty look.
And they didn’t! Mostly.

I traced the word menstruation
On the computer screen.
Just to test it out.

I traced the word menstruation
For a whole hour
And I only got to the letter “r.”

I told you I had my period
And you asked
If I could get off the intercom.

I looked up menstruation in the dictionary.
I turned to the right page and made my way down,
but I couldn’t look.

I looked up menstruation in the dictionary.
But I panicked at the last minute,
And I looked up men instead.

Today I looked up the words
Gold, sky, and bliss in the dictionary
And they all said, “See also: Menstruation.”

I told you I had my period,
And you dug a hole
In our kitchen.

The class was ticking circles
But my little hand
Tucked into my underwear.

Without a tell
I bluffed. I sat over the
tattle trail.

The class did not hear
my underwear’s
alarm.

With a tiny tattle,
My jeans
Tell all.

I told you I had my period
And you asked
If there was any new business.

I searched for the word menstruation
on the bathroom wall.
But it wasn’t there.

I searched for the word menstruation
On my computer
But every file was called that.

I searched for the word menstruation
in my friend’s new updo.
It was written all over.

I searched for the word menstruation
on the midterm.
I think it was all of the above.

I searched for the word menstruation
In aisle 3.
But it was with the pickles.

I searched for the word menstruation
at the bakery.
But they had puns instead.

I told you about my period,
And you said,
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

I’ve wondered
if you menstruate too.
Can I ask?

 

Emily Graves is an Instructor at Louisiana State University in the Communication Studies department where she teaches speech and performance.  She is interested in historiography, and in the performances of objects and language. Emily uses performance art as way to address the embodied and the discursive elements of menstruation.

Menstrual-Related Weekend Links: By the Numbers

July 11th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

1.   Naturopathic Doctor Lara Briden explains 4 Causes of Androgen Excess in Women on her Healthy Hormone Blog this week. If you are experiencing hair loss, facial hair (hirsutism) or acne, or have been diagnosed with PCOS, you’ll want to check this out for a better understanding the hows and whys of too much androgen.

2.   Over at Forbes.com Emma Johnson, who writes about women and money, discusses 7 Businesses Revolutionizing the Way We Think About Women’s Periods with this lead in:

Business, art and technology are addressing the biological event happening every single month (to) half the world’s population of child-bearing age. Cool things are happening. Social change is afoot.

Several menstrual cup companies get a mention, as does SCMR member and menstrual designer Jen Lewis as an art and media reference.

3.   In 9 Fascinating Facts About InfidelityAlterNet writer Kali Holloway admits, “We’re not championing infidelity, but we are saying it’s a reality, and aspects of it are fascinating.” Fact No. 1? Women are most likely to cheat when they’re ovulating. Also, apparently, women are cheating more than ever and are better at not getting caught than men.

 

Image by Beauty in Blood

Ms. December: Landscape, Cycle: January 2013, Cycle 2, Menstrual Designer: Jen Lewis, Photographer: Rob Lewis

Menstrual Poetry from #SMCR2015: “She who dreams the world awake”

July 9th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the second in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to some of the poetry performed that evening.

 

Who is Witch? – by Giuliana Serena

Red Witch by Giuliana Serena

Witch.

She who sweeps the space, lights the candle, calls the circle, stokes the fire, fans the feathers, stirs the cauldron.

She who straddles the hedge, the edge, of culture and the wild, bridging the divide.

She who holds holy the mysteries of existence, practicing reverence.

She who brings forth the transformation of consciousness at will, as medicine for the people.

She who soothes, and comforts, and holds those in need.

She who chants and drums, and dances the spiral dance, raising the power, and giving it back.

She who keeps the old ways, and manifests new ones.

She who says yes, and no, with discernment.

She who knows all and nothing.

She who seeks knowledge, sitting at the feet of death, and of birth, as teachers.

She who dreams the world awake, drinking deeply of the divine.

She who journeys, and conjures, and sings over bones.

She who navigates the depths of the river beneath the river.

She who celebrates, feasts, and makes love with abandon.

She who walks the wisdom path, who carries the vast fertile ocean within, who cycles, who flows, who bleeds on the earth, then holds her wise blood inside.

She who draws down the moon, and the light of a thousand, thousand suns.

She who embodies the magical nature of the cosmos, the transcendent feminine force.

Witch.

She who is Woman; Maiden, and Empress, and Maga, and Crone.

She who is rooted and grounded, present, aware.

She who is her authentic self, without apology.

She who is.

 

Giuliana Serena is a ceremonialist, Rites-of-Passage facilitator, menstrual cycle educator, and founder of Moontime Rising

 

Menstrual Poetry from #SMCR2015: “Existence ain’t real without blood”

July 7th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

On June 6th, 2015, at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights in Boston, conference participants celebrated with an Open Mic evening of Menstrual Poetry to close out #SMCR2015. This is the first in a series of posts at re:Cycling that aims to give a broader audience to some of the poetry performed that evening. 

 

together we bleed – by Iris Verstappen

“The Crimson Wave” by Jen Lewis

existence ain’t real
without blood
on moonless nights
on moon-full nights
we celebrate

together
we
bleed

and we celebrate the blood
that has been given to us
to give back
give back
to our mother earth
who holds
the tender soil in which our ancestral roots
take rest

together
we
bleed

we are the bloodline
that connects
generations of women giving
the life
we are living right now
and together
they
bled

we are the sisters
the guardians of the blood
the blood keepers
because

together
we
bleed

cherish the blood
honor the blood
because
together
we
will
bleed

Iris Josephina L. Verstappen is a menstrual awareness educator, doula & ashtanga yoga teacher from the Netherlands who is passionate about empowering people to make informed choices about their bodies on all levels.

 

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.