Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

#SMCR2015 Saturday, June 6th: Zine Library, Awards Presentations, and Menstrual Poetry Open Mic

June 2nd, 2015 by Laura Wershler

The 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice:

Human Rights Across the Lifespan

Saturday June 6th 

8:00-9:00 Breakfast and Memorial Discussion

Discussion Hour

Moderator: Heather Dillaway

In Memory of Dr. Kathleen I. MacPherson, University of Southern Maine

Dr. Kathleen I. MacPherson, Professor Emerita of Nursing at the University of Southern Maine, passed away in April 2014. She was an active member of SMCR in the 1980s and is remembered by many who are attending the 2015 conference for her work on the social constructions of menopause, hormone replacement, and osteoporosis.  In the 1970s, she was one of 14 founding women of the Menopause Collective in Cambridge, MA, which led to her subsequent contributions on menopause and osteoporosis to the original issues of Our Bodies Ourselves and Ourselves Growing Older, published by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. She is credited by many nursing leaders with bringing the “medicalization of menopause” to the attention of providers. The breakfast discussion hour will be used to reflect on her major contributions and how far we have come in understanding the medicalization of menopause and women’s health more broadly. All are welcome at the discussion hour.

12:30-2:00pm Lunch 

Film & Discussion

NED: No Evidence of Disease

NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE, the words every patient dreams to hear, interweaves the harrowing experiences and remarkable courage of women, devoted families, and dedicated doctors. As music and medicine join forces in the fight for life, the surgeons are transformed into rising rock stars, and their patients and loved ones jump on the bandwagon, infusing the struggle for survival with heart, hope and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Mobile Zine Library

Chella Quint

Celebrate 10 years of Chart Your Cycle, Adventures of Menstruating and the power of zines!
Peruse zines and create your own page to contribute to a communal conference zine.

2:15-3:15pm Award Presentations

Making Menstruation Matter Award 

Presented by Nancy Reame

 Judy Norsigian, the former Executive Director of

‘Our Bodies Ourselves’

SMCR Awards

Ann Voda Lifetime Achievement Award

Mary Anna Friederich Service Award

Presented by Chris Bobel & Ingrid Johnston-Robledo 

Student Paper Award

Presented by Mindy Erchull

3:30-5:00pm SMCR Membership Meeting & Snacks 

All Welcome!

5:00-7:00pm Dinner and Discussion

Where do we go from here?

7:00-9:00pm Menstrual Poetry Open Mic and Raffle

Menstrual Poetry Open Mic

Hosted by Dominique Christina

Dominique Christina is an award-winning writer, performer, educator, and activist. She holds five national poetry slam titles in four years, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Her work is greatly influenced by her family’s legacy in the Civil Rights Movement and by the idea that words make worlds. Her first full-length poetry book, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A Colored Girl’s Hymnal, published by Penmanship Books, is available now. Her second book, This Is Woman’s Work, is set for publication in October 2015.

Sprinkle-feature from Boston’s first slam team, The House Slam,

And a fabulous raffle – Sponsored by Lunette


  

#SMCR2015 Friday, June 5th: Loretta Ross, Tomi-Ann Roberts, The Crimson Wave, and Artists Galore

June 1st, 2015 by Laura Wershler

The 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice:

Human Rights Across the Lifespan

Friday June 5th

9:00-10:30am Keynote 

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

Tomi-Ann Roberts 

In this talk, I will discuss my efforts at ‘mainstreaming the flow,’ and present 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.

Tomi-Ann Roberts is Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Colorado College, where she has also served as the Director of the Interdisciplinary program in Feminist and Gender Studies. Her research and advocacy efforts focus on the psychological and health consequences of the sexualization and objectification of girls and women. Her work has found its way to some interesting venues, to say the least, including blogs for Kotex, and the Lincoln Center stage for ’Women in the World.’ She is the proud mother of two decidedly feminist adult daughters. She is patiently waiting for a TED-Talks invitation, but is pretty sure that is futile. Besides, SMCR is a much smarter venue.

12:30-2:00pm Lunch and Plenary

Beyond “Menstruation Bathroom”:

Stimulating Social Change Through Visualizations of Gendered Blood

Panelists: Diana Álvarez, Gabriella Boros, Ingrid Goldbloom-Bloch,

Lucy Madeline and Kyle Peterson

Moderator: Jen Lewis

2:00-3:30pm Keynote

Respect for Menstruation is a Human Right

Loretta Ross


This presentation will address 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, the keynote will address 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 and how 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 of 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.

Sponsored by Diva Cup

 7:00-9:00pm Menstrual Comedy & Cocktails

The Crimson Wave


Best friends and comedians Natalie Norman and Jess Beaulieu are The Crimson Wave. Norman and Beaulieu co-host a feminist podcast about periods/vaginas/Beyonce’s vagina where guests tell hilarious stories, anecdotes, and theories about their lovely menses. They also co-host a weekly stand-up show called Crimson Wave Comedy every Sunday night at 9 pm at Comedy Bar in Toronto, Ontario. Plus, they’re pitching us as a scripted TV show. At SMCR they hosting a night of “cocktails and comedy”.

Sponsored by Lunette

  

#SMCR2015 Thursday, June 4th: Plenaries, Posters, Films and Art Show

May 30th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

The 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice:

Human Rights Across the Lifespan 

Thursday June 4th 

9:00-10:30am Welcome and opening Plenary 

Welcome 

Chris Bobel and Amy Agigian 

Opening Flash Plenary Session 

Nine different speakers and performing groups comprise this plenary session and they include a wide range of academics, practitioners, advocates, activists, and performers. Each speaker/performer has 3-5 minutes to present and they will be talking or performing about a variety of topics related to menstruation, women’s health, reproductive justice, and human rights – each with their own style. Individual presentations will include information on menstrual rights, media representations of menstruation, the history of SMCR, the medicalization of women’s health, new SMCR initiatives, bike tours, menstrual jokes, alternative health education, and much, much more! There will be a question and answer period after all 9 flash presentations are completed. We hope this flash plenary session will lead to a lively opening discussion and set the stage for a great conference!

Panelists:
Spokeswoman from Sustainable Cycles
Alice Dan – Menstrual Cycle Researcher and Founding Director of the Center for Research on Women & Gender at Univ of Illinois, Chicago

Jax Gonzalez – Menstrual Activist

Sharmila Murthy – Legal Scholar, Researcher of Water and Human Rights

Sharon Powell – Chicago-based Artist/Educator, SL Powell Public Affairs Services; Adjunct Faculty, Columbia College

Joan C. Chrisler – Feminist Psychologist and Menstrual Cycle Research

Arpan Yagnik – PhD Student in Media & Communications, Bowling Green State University

JoAnn Loulan – Psychotherapist & Author: Period: A Girl’s Guide

Crimson Wave – Menstrual Comedy Duo

Moderator: Heather Dillaway

12:30-2:00pm Lunch and Film Screening & Discussion 

Menstrual Man

MENSTRUAL MAN tells the inspiring story of an unlikely hero who stood up for India’s ignored. A critical and audience favourite, the film underscores the importance of empowering women to combat poverty, and the power in every individual to make a difference.


2:00-3:30pm Plenary

Menstrual Hygiene Management Across the Globe

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)

Moderator: Megan White Mukuria (ZanaAfrica)


3:30-5:00pm Film Screening & Discussion
 

Things we Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent

Things We Don’t Talk About: Woman’s Stories from the Red Tent is a groundbreaking 72-minute documentary film by award winning filmmaker Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost. The film weaves together healing narratives from inside the Red Tent to shine a spotlight on this vital, emergent women’s tradition. The film provides us an opportunity to remember, to listen, to know, and to find what it is we need to bring back to our communities to help awaken the voices of women.


5:00-7:00pm Poster Presentations & Menstrual Art Exhibit

Poster Presentations

Knowledge, Practices and Restrictions Related to Menstruation Among Adolescent girls in the Buea Health District
Ettamba Agborndip & Domin Sone Majunda Ekaney

 Breaking the Silence 2015: Empowering girls and women and involving boys and men on menstrual hygiene management
Urmilla Chanam

Queer Periods: Attitudes toward and Experiences with Menstruation in the Masculine-of-Centre Transgender Community
Joan C. Chrisler, Jennifer A. Gorman, Jennifer Manion, Michael Murgo, Angela Barney, Alexis Adams-Clark, Jessica R. Newton & Meaghan McGrath

Eco Femme: action research for holistic menstrual health programs
Ilana Cohen

First Blood: Women’s Recollections of Menarche
Kimberly Koerth

Menstrual Abnormalities, Perceived Femininity, and Intimate Relationships in Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Eunhye Lee

Memories of Menarche and Attitudes Towards Menstruation: Data from Mexico and USA

Ma. Luisa Marván, Kristian Jasso, Joan C. Chrisler, Jennifer A. Gorman & Angela Barney

Menstrual Blood Art and Self-Identity

Sadie Mohler & Stephanie Dragoon

Age at menarche and self-assessed health and well being among Icelandic girls

Herdís Sveinsdóttir & Rúnar Vilhjálmsson

Menstrual sex and the taboo of menstrual blood

Crystal Zaragoza

 Menstrual Art Exhibit – “Beyond Menstruation Bathroom”:

Stimulating Social Change Through Visualizations of Gendered Blood 

Curator: Jen Lewis – Beauty in Blood

Featured Artists:

Diana Álvarez – Socially engaged art & radical self love

Gabriella Boros – Female impurity, menopause & Jewish tradition

Ingrid Goldbloom-Bloch – Humor & serious issues; menstrual repulsion

Lucy Madeline – Menstrual reactions, esteem & education

Kyle Peterson – Gender dysphoria, menstruation & mental health


7:00-7:30pm Evening Break

7:30-10:00pm Dinner and Sustainable Cycles Event

A Bikes and Periods Party

Join us for a potluck dinner, a cross-country story share and an alternative menstruation raffle to support the Sustainable Cycles bike tour.

  

Menstrual contagion, men and menstruation, and other menstrual explorations

May 29th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

Menstrual musings on period cravings, talking about periods, contagious periods,  communicating about periods, and what men know about periods will be presented in two concurrent sessions at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston

 

Examining Menstruation Friday, June 5th:

Priming Menstruation Schema Moderates Relationship between Menstrual Attitudes and Chocolate Craving
Joseph Wister & Margaret L. Stubbs, Chatham University

Women who had menstruation schemas primed had significant positive correlations between negative menstrual attitudes and measures of increased craving and eating, confirming existing stereotypes. For women in the no-prime condition, these correlations were not significant or were in a direction that opposed the stereotypes.

Perceptions of Women who Speak Openly about Menstruation
Jessica Barnack-Tavlaris, The College of New Jersey

The purpose is to examine people’s perceptions of a woman who speaks openly about menstruation. We will test whether a woman will be judged more negatively when she speaks openly about menstruation (e.g., less competent, less likeable, less attractive) than when she does not speak openly about menstruation.

Menstruation as contagion? Women’s subjective beliefs about menstrual synchrony
Breanne Fahs, Arizona State University 

This paper utilized qualitative data from a diverse 2014 community sample of women to examine their beliefs about menstrual synchrony (women’s menstrual cycles syncing up). Results revealed an overwhelming endorsement of menstrual synchrony, belief in it as magical or “animal-like,” and targeted a wide range of potential women co-menstruators. (Image supplied by Breanne Fahs)

Examining Knowledge, Cognitive Involvement, and Behavioral Involvement with Menstrual Practices: Implications on Health Education and Communication Campaigns
Arpan Yagnik & Srinivas Melkote, Bowling Green State University

There is a scarcity of baseline research on menstruation and menstrual hygiene that can guide health communication intervention campaigns. The outcomes of this study on Indian women and men will provide practitioners, health communication managers and researchers scientifically accurate knowledge about understudied facets of menstruation (cognitive/behavioral involvement, and knowledge).

 

Figure 4 from Katherine Fishman’s Master’s Thesis: Putting men back in the menstrual cycle.

Men and Menstruation Saturday, June 6th:

Masculinity & Menstruation: An Exploration of a Complex Relationship
Kate Richmond, Muhlenberg College & Mindy Erchull, University of Mary Washington 

This exploratory study aimed to learn more about men’s knowledge and attitudes about menstruation. Men completed measures assessing their endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology, their attitudes and knowledge related to menstruation, their general levels of comfort talking about menstruation, and their reports of how they learned about menstruation.

She Got Her Period: Men’s knowledge and perspectives on menstruation
Ishwari Rajak, Minnesota State University

Myths, taboos, and shame associated with menstruation limit conversations about it. It is important for men to engage in conversation to understand at a deeper level why society silences conversation about menstruation. This research aims to explore men’s knowledge and perspectives on menstruation.

Putting men back in the menstrual cycle: A qualitative analysis of men’s perceptions of menstruation

Kate Fishman, Southern Illinois University 

This paper will explore qualitative findings of men’s perceptions of menstruation and the implications of negative attitudes, specifically as they relate to women’s bodily experiences and expressions of emotion. Participants’ creative artworks depicting their perceptions of menstruation will be presented, and future directions related to educational goals will be addressed.

 

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

Menstrual management for women with disabilities, menstrual hygiene taboos, and menstrual cycle awareness

May 28th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

These two concurrent sessions address the menstrual-related challenges of women with disabilities, menstrual hygiene taboos and practices around the world,  and the concept of gynaecological self-help at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.

 

Menstrual Management, Friday, June 5th:

Women with Spinal Cord Injuries Talk about Menopause
Heather Dillaway, Wayne State University

Using data from interviews with 20 women with spinal cord injury, I illustrate how disabled women may think about and experience menopause. Overall, interviewees think positively about menopause as a release from the hassles of menstruation, but face unique experiences when dealing with perimenopausal symptoms. I also discuss their concerns about aging.

“Kahani Her Mahine Ki” – A Menstruation Kit for the visually impaired women
Sadhvi Thukral, National Institute of Design

“I am constantly worried that my dress will stain during my period, I cannot see.”

“I will never be able to tell the colour of my discharge during menstruation or when I need to change my cloth. To be safe, I change every few hours.”

These are unique anxieties of visually impaired young women.

A large gap exists in the area of “Communication for Menstruation” for the visually impaired. This design degree project was an attempt to fill this gap by developing a product for menstruation that would meet the needs of visually impaired girls and women.

The kit “Kahani Her Mahine Ki” (The Same Story Every Month) covers the subject of menstruation and how to manage during periods and has the following features:

1. Tactile diagrams and material in the form of Information Slates, with labels of the different body parts. Each slate has text for the sighted and Braille for the visually impaired. 2. A life size human body model for demonstration.

What they do, what we do, what I do: A critical review of five contemporary international surveys of menstrual management practices and technologies. How can these surveys inform Western practice? What areas remain to be surveyed?
Susannah Clemence, Independent researcher

This critical review compares the catalogues of contemporary menstrual management techniques from around the World, presented in Sommer et al (2013), House et al (2012), Kjellen et al (2012), Bharadwai and Patkar (2004) and Finley’s (1995-2015) Museum of Menstruation.

The purpose is to test how well-documented are contemporary practices across the World, and what areas remain yet unrecorded. The rationale is that diverse technologies and conduct, with their implicit beliefs and attitudes, grant us reference points from which to examine, critique and improve our own practices.

The review shows that there are large gaps in documented knowledge. Furthermore, other than the Museum of Menstruation, existing surveys tend to be rooted in development agendas of Western origin and tend to a deficit perspective of non-Western practices.

 

Menstrual Hygiene, Saturday, June 6th

A Vicious Cycle of Silence: The perpetuation of the menstrual hygiene ‘taboo’ and the implications for the realisation of the human rights of women and girls
Emily Wilson-Smith, Kampala International University & Robyn Boosey, University of Bristol 

Despite the impact of poor menstrual hygiene on the rights of women and girls it has remained largely neglected by International stakeholders. A document analysis of the core international human rights treaties and relevant human rights body reports found an overwhelming silence and an analysis of the existing references revealed an inadequate framework for addressing menstrual hygiene.

Improving Menstrual Health and Hygiene in India: Another critical path way for women emancipation
K Yadagiri, Centre for Economic and Social Studies,UNICEF Division for Child Studies 

Gynecological Self-Help Isn’t Just a Good Feeling – What we learned when we systematically studied our own menstrual cycles – and how you can learn MORE now!
Kathy Hodge, Feminist Women’s Health Center

In 1975, nine members of the Feminist Women’s Health Center collective met daily for over a month, recording changes in our vaginas and cervixes and their secretions, for PAP and ferning smears, charting moods and basal body temperature. We raised questions, some of which remain open and ripe for future woman-controlled research.

 Menstrual Hygiene Management practices in Slums: It’s impacts on the Women and Adolescent Girl’s Health – A Case study of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Slums, Telangana State, INDIA
Venu Madhav Sharma, Centre for Economic and Social Studies

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

“Widening the Cycle” Featured Artists: Erdem, Lewis, Paul & Weigel

May 27th, 2015 by Jen Lewis

“Forbidden” by Derya Erdem

Derya Erdem

My work takes a critical view of societal, political and cultural issues,  focusing on identity, gender binary and the human mind. Reflecting the emotional dimensions of personal memories, collected histories, and cultural myths, I constantly search for new possibilities, thriving on chance outcomes and the connections (physical and virtual) that link nature and the overlooked realities of our lives. As an artist concerned with real life stories, I am affected by those with untold, sometimes overwhelming, hidden perspectives.

These themes are often combined into experimental installations, employing different techniques which include: video, sound, photography, installation and site specific art. I am a curious artist using diverse exploratory technics, all of which I self produce.

Inspired by repetitive dreams and underpinned by memories , driven by my understanding of the female conditions and the manifestation of injustice in patriarchy, the issues of woman’s social and sexual conditioning have all formed the foundation of my current work.

Surreal quality images, revealing glimpses of potential possibilities, what latently exists in nature, suggesting different views of our external world, inviting the viewer to move into a space of speculation.

 

“The Crimson Wave” by Jen Lewis

Jen Lewis

If I have learned anything over the last two years of producing Beauty in Blood, it is that menstruation matters more than most people in society are willing to recognize; it is deeply embedded in our global body politics and is a major contributor to the vast gender inequity between men and women today. Institutionalized hierarchies maintain and support the outdated patriarchal belief that menstruation makes the female body inferior to the male body. Billions of dollars are spent annually trying to make women’s bodies conform to male “norms” by suppressing the natural menstrual cycle through hormonal birth control. The feminine “hygiene” industry perpetuates taboo thinking by suggesting the monthly cycle is dirty and socially impolite; it should be concealed in frilly pink wrappers like candy and only very loosely referenced with blue liquid in product commercials. In my experience, women and men are hungry for an authentic dialogue about menstruation and all that encompasses. It is clear the time is now to stand up and speak out on behalf of menstruation. It is a natural, messy but beautiful part of life. Just because it is not a shared experience doesn’t mean it needs to be a divisive topic that aids in gender inequity. Beauty in Blood asserts that menstruation needs to be seen to help normalize the female body and to acknowledge this part of the female experience by inviting the viewer to take a closer look and reflect on their personal gut reactions to the subject of “menstruation.”

 

“Hidden Abject” by Petra Paul

Petra Paul

Menstruarte – Showing the Abjection

As feminist I’m concerned primarily with woman as a theme, or the showing of the ways women are discriminated against in this patriarchal society. Menstruation is a stigmatic condition (Erving Goffman). Women are regarded as of lesser value, as the Other (Simone de Beauvoir). I’m concerned with showing this mechanism and at the same time with undermining it.

By using menstrual blood in my informel and monochrome work, I draw attention to the negative taboo and publicly show something that is usually kept secret – everything is done to make the time of menstruation as invisible as possible. Cleanliness and discretion are foremost. The leaking women were seen as unclean, and the unpure blood contrasted with the masculine, healing blood of Christ. So I called a serie of menstruation pictures „That’s the blood I’ve spilled for you”, the other simply “Menstruarte”. “Hidden Abject” shows blood through a small cut in the canvas. I try first through the completed abstract structure of the menstrual blood to make the viewer aware of the theme, and second, I use the aesthetic work to reverse the negative value. Menstrual blood is abject: “Not me. Not that. But not nothing, either” (Julia Kristeva).

 

“The Party” by Jennifer Weigel

Jennifer Weigel

I first began creating artworks incorporating menstrual fluid in 2005, pressing my menstrual vagina to watercolor paper each morning to make a series of monoprints.  My purpose in producing and exhibiting these works was to confront the taboo associated with menstruation, demystify this natural function of the female body, and promote thought-provoking discussion among women & men, artists & non-artists alike.

After exhibiting these pieces, I curated a St. Louis based exhibition, entitled Life Blood Exhibit, which traveled throughout the city and to Cape Girardeau, MO from 2011 – 2012.  I have also continued to explore female reproductive health, with artworks themed around celebrating women’s bodies to addressing health concerns (my own and others’) to the political and social arena (abortion, birth control, the confiscation of tampons at a July 2013 Texas legislative meeting…).

Exploring menstrual shame, embodiment, and the parameters of premenstrual distress

May 26th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

Concurrent sessions on Saturday, June 6th explore unique cultural experiences of menstruation and delve into the parameters of premenstrual distress at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.


Strekkja (stretch, flexible) Original artwork by Magdalena Margrét. Used with permission.

Culture and Embodiment: 

Menstruation and objectification in an Icelandic context
Herdís Sveinsdóttir, University of Iceland

The aim of the study is to describe objectification among Icelandic women and how it relates to menstrual attitudes, women´s body consciousness and health behavior. Participants were 320 women aged 20-40 years drawn from the Register of Iceland in fall 2013. Findings regarding disordered eating and objectification will be discussed.

Shame, secrecy, or celebration: Experiences and constructions of menstruation across cultures
Alexandra Hawkey, Centre for Health Research, University of Western Sydney 

Through qualitative interviews this study aims to reveal culturally specific experiences and constructions of menstruation with migrant women from a range of backgrounds, in Australia and Canada. Analysis of the data highlights a range of themes including, cultural silencing; celebration of the girl to women transition; and menstrual rules.

Black Women, Red Tent: Doing Blood Work and Recovery of Black Girlhood, Spirituality and Ritual Exclamations for Black Girl Periods
Sevonna Brown, Williams College

This project invites black women to explore their relationships to their menstruation and their bodies more holistically through a consideration of blood, spirituality, and monthly ritual. This conversation-making and interactive study anticipates collective issues of shame, survival, birth, infertility, sexuality and disease. The research inquiries desire to find Black women in their own Red Tent in celebration of their own bodies, reproductive mysteries, traumas and triumphs.

Premenstrual Distress:

Psychosocial factors associated with Premenstrual Syndrome
Ina Rosvall & Sandra Ekholm, University of Lund

Inspired by critical feminist research the association between PMS and psychosocial factors was studied using 1320 responses to a web survey. 33,9% of the total variance in PMS could be predicted, emphasizing the importance of social norms, family structure and relational factors over hormones in the understanding of premenstrual distress.

Sarafem Redux: PMDD, Antidepressants, and Big Pharma
Shannon M. Peters, Madeline Brodt & Lisa Cosgrove, University of Massachusetts 

Industry-facilitated approval of antidepressants was used to justify inclusion of PMDD in the DSM-5. We provide data on industry funding of clinical trials of antidepressants for the treatment of PMDD, discuss the consequences of these commercial ties, and discuss the role of implicit bias in psychiatric research.

Evaluation of the relative efficacy and mechanisms of a couple-based intervention for Premenstrual Syndrome through a randomised control trial
Janette Perz & Jane Ussher, Centre for Health Research, University of Western Sydney

120 women took part in a randomised controlled trial comparing one-to-one and couple psychological therapy for PMS, in comparison to a wait list control group. Whilst women in all three conditions reported reductions in premenstrual distress and improvements in coping, women in the couple condition reported significantly greater reductions in distress post-intervention.

Measuring the Syndrome: An Introduction to the Measurement of Premenstrual Distress Disorders
Marie Hansen, Long Island University Brooklyn

This presentation will cover the history of the scientific measurement of Premenstrual Disorders and will explore the way in which these disorders are measured by researchers today. Included will be an analysis of two widely used scales: Premenstrual Tension Syndrome Observer Scale/ Self-Rating Scale (PMTS-O/SR) and the Daily Record of Severity of Problems (DRSP).

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

Menstrual Potpourri: Blood, mucus, art, poetry, identity, and protection

May 25th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

Two concurrent sessions continue the menstrual exploration with imagination and practicality on Saturday, June 6th at  at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.

 

Imagining Blood:

Special Edition Playtex by Danielle Hogan, 2006. Used with permission.

Menstrual Heterotopias in Spatial Art Practice
Ruth Green-Cole, NorthTec & Victoria University of Wellington

Menstruation is a significant marker of sexual difference; it is ‘gendered blood’ that divides and distinguishes women, and that has made them in many cases by association, the ‘subjects’ of taboo. The contemporary spatial artworks I present are instrumental in undermining this stigma and bring about changes in what we assume to be the function and value of art.

Image credit: Danielle Hogan
Special Edition Playtex, 2006
(from the Value Added series 2003-2006)
Collection of the Artist
Artist website: Danielle Carla Hogan

Blood For Thought: A closer look on contemporary conceptualization of menstruation
Anna Krol, Purchase College

What does it mean to menstruate in our culture? What is said (and not said) about bodies in relation to the conceptualization of periods in Western culture reveals deeper layers of sociopolitical fears and imperatives that involve challenges to traditional, authoritative, privileged-based reason prescribed to all for and by the privileged.

Mucus: The other taboo fluid
Lisa Leger, Justisse Healthworks for Women

While making menstruation matter at #SMCR2013, Lisa Leger asked “Where’s the Blood?” in pop culture’s sexy vampire stories. At this year’s conference, she explores “Where’s the Mucus?” in any form of entertainment or even sex ed. We rarely see references to menstrual blood in stories about women. Cervical mucus is mentioned even less. Our culture’s squeamishness causes an unfair knowledge gap. Let’s decode the mysteries of the mucus. Reproductive justice includes awareness, understanding and acceptance of cervical mucus as a normal, healthy part of female reproductive health.

 

Social Context and Identity:

You Menstrual Me
Emily Graves, Louisiana State University 

In a series of 26 very short, original poems written in the second person, I represent discourses of menstruation through aesthetic performance. Calling on the corporeal body to translate poetic expression from the page to the stage, the performance pursues the meeting of embodied language and language about bodies.

Between weirdness & empowerment: How social class shapes girls’ experiences of menarche and the female body
Theresa E. Jackson, Northeastern University

This qualitative study investigates how girls from diverse social locations make meaning out menarche and their changing bodies. Results indicate that all girls appropriate messages of shame related to menstruation. Discussions of the female body diverged according to social class where working-class participants highlighted vulnerability and middle-class participants acknowledged empowerment.

The optimal choice for menstrual protection for women: Reflections of MHM campaigners of MITU, an NGO, based on their experiences of three years in Rural Karnataka India
Kala Charlu, Multiple Initiatives Towards Upliftment

This paper presents findings from a Bangalore based organisation, MITU (Multiple Initiatives Towards Upliftment) on what are the right alternatives for protection during menstruation based on the last three years’ work with over 5000 under-privileged girls and women in Bangalore and Rural Karnataka. Conflicting objectives like health, hygiene, convenience, affordability and Eco-friendliness have made us ponder over the right way forward in this continuously evolving scenario.

Looking back, looking ahead: Two NGOs in India collaborate in a sanitary napkin user trial and critically examine their field interventions
Lakshmi Murthy, Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute of Technology & Kala Charlu, Multiple Initiatives Towards Upliftment 

Collaborative reflective studies in the area of menstruation were conducted by two NGOs in culturally diverse rural locations in India. In Study 1, 50 users compared two menstrual products. In Study 2, we interviewed 60 users to assess effectiveness of NGO interventions. Results helped both NGOs to redesign future goals.

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

Culture, menstrual narratives, and the messy politics of reproductive freedom

May 23rd, 2015 by Laura Wershler

Two workshops explore the menstrual health/awareness and reproductive justice connection on Saturday, June 6th at  at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.

POLITICS IS A MESSY BUSINESS: Menstrual Health, Reproductive Health Advocacy, Human Rights and Justice
Sharon L. Powell, Artist and Educator, S L Powell Public Affairs Services

Original image by Sharon L. Powell

Menstruation is part of the spectrum of reproductive health. Menstruation and menstrual cycle discourse takes up space as marker in the health and identity of female bodied individuals as well as in constructions of fertility. As such, it is on a reproductive health advocacy agenda. Menstrual health and menstrual health education are cornerstones of a reproductive health advocacy framework. Human rights and social justice movements concerned with self determination, health, human dignity, privacy, and bodily integrity, should pay political attention to menstrual health’s crucial and complicated place in an interdependent web of reproductive health concerns.

Social and chemical control of fertility is specifically connected to the hormones associated with the menstrual cycle. Menstrual shame. Hysteria. Sexualization. Contraceptive and other reproductive technologies. How does one truly consent to the use of reproductive innovations like hormonal birth control if they do not understand the hormonal patterns they are born with or acquire? Reproductive justice groups and reproductive health advocates must look at issues of self determination with an intersectional lens, acknowledging female bodied individuals’s multiplicity. It is important to explore and create opportunities for female bodied individuals to learn more about their bodies, not just lobby for abstract concepts of reproductive freedom.

Twenty years ago, I presented a paper at the Society’s conference in Montreal, Canada called “Better Dead Than Pregnant: Trends in Contraception – A Case for Menstruation Education.” Connecting my critiques of trends in non-user/”woman” controlled methods of contraception with myths of inconvenience regarding menstruation and convenience regarding methods of contraception, I made connections to the messy politics of reproductive freedom, the differences in the experiences for women of color, women with disabilities, and poor women with this focus on menstruation and the menstrual cycle. My contention that women from these communities were “better dead than pregnant” was picked up by other reproductive rights activists (such as Andrea Smith in her book Conquest). Subsequently, Malcolm Gladwell’s article, “John Rock’s Error, ” detailed how a myth of inconvenience regarding menstruation may have played a role in the development of the oral contraceptive pill.

Our Bodies, Our Stories: Celebrating the Menstrual Narratives of Womanhood
Deborah Dauda, LEPA & Kirthi Jayakumar, Red Elephant Fund

This workshop will look at culture and menstruation by sharing stories and testimonies of women from all over the world and the impact of open conversations in creating comfortable spaces for women to celebrate their womanhood through menstruation. In addition, we will welcome participants to share their own testimonies and stories, along with a session on simple “what-if” scenarios to encourage community conduct and resource sharing.

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

Menstrual education perspectives from Africa, India, Bangladesh, and the United States

May 22nd, 2015 by Laura Wershler

 Menstrual Education perspectives from around the world will be presented in two concurrent sessions at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston. The conference theme is Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice.


Menstrual Education Concurrent Session Friday, June 5th:

Confident Girls in Charge of their Own Lives
Chantal Heutink, Bilhah Anyango, Jackline Obado & Goretty Obure, Afri-Can Trust

Girls grow up feeling ashamed due to limited knowledge about menstruation and lack of proper sanitary means to take care of themselves during this period creates a huge backlog to these girls hence denying them the opportunity to take their place in the society. Menstrual Hygiene Management matters are important to bridge the gap and provide a pathway towards confident girls in charge of their lives.

Factors impacting on the menstrual hygiene among school going adolescent girls in Mongu District, Zambia
Anne Mutunda Lahme, Akros Global Health, Zambia 

The research showed that in a Zambian context the process of menstruation can turn into a threat to girls’ social, physical and mental well-being and ultimately their school careers, causing gender discrimination and violation of their rights. It also creates an atmosphere of emotional stress, leading to poor school performance.

GrowUp Smart: Demystifying the link between menstruation, fertility and sexuality
Jennifer Gayles, Kim Ashburn & Marie Mukabatsinda, Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health, @IRH_GU

GrowUp Smart is an interactive puberty education program for adolescents, parents and communities that links knowledge of the menstrual cycle to improved understanding of fertility and better reproductive health outcomes. This presentation will discuss findings from evaluation of the intervention’s effect on sexual and reproductive health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.

 

Menstrual Education Concurrent Session Saturday, June 6th:

Health Education and Menstruation: What’s happening in the classroom?
Jax Gonzalez, Brandeis University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Preliminary research on educator’s familiarity teaching health education in elementary schools suggests that teachers experience a multitude of limitations when administering the curriculum. By using sociological theory through an intersectional lens this qualitative study provides an important insight into the lived experience of teaching the taboo.

Making Schools Menstrual Friendly: Enhancing experience of girls in public schools
Dhirendra Pratap Singh, Azadi Inc.

A presentation of findings and analysis from the Menstrual Friendly School Program in Balrampur District, Uttar Pradesh, India – an initiative to address the menstruation management needs of girls’ at school so that puberty does not result in school drop out, a risk facing ~30% of India’s 87.5 million adolescent girls.

Menstrual Hygiene Practices of Girls in Rural India
Rita Jalali, American University 

The purpose of this study was to understand menstrual hygiene practices of poor girls living in rural India; their unmet menstrual management needs; and knowledge and awareness about menstruation and commercial napkins. Data were collected through survey, focus group discussions and diary entries and show how poverty and water deprivation impact hygiene.

Borohawa | Grown Up Girl – A short film on managing menstruation in rural Bangladesh
Sara Liza Baumann, Old Fan Films & Richard A. Cash, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Whether you live in South America, Africa, Europe or Asia, all women undergo a natural experience that signifies their transition from childhood to adulthood. It may have different cultural significance, and women have a variety of different experiences, but menstruation is a biological event that women around the world share. Setting out with the goal of increasing understanding of these questions, we traveled to a school in Mymensingh, Bangladesh to gather perspectives from adolescent school girls through this short film project.

 

Media Release and Registration for the SMCR Boston Conference on Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.

  

Young women’s experiences with cancer-related infertility, and HPV vaccine uptake and avoidance in Eastern Europe

May 21st, 2015 by Laura Wershler

This session will explore Cancer and Menstruation at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research at The Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights, June 4-6, 2015, Suffolk University, Boston.

The Significance of Menstrual Flow for Young Women with Cancer-Related Infertility
Kathryn Nattress, Centre for Health Research, University of Western Sydney

Although the dominant menstrual discourse is one of pain, mess and unpredictability, interviews with 20 young women who were diagnosed with cancer in childhood and adolescence suggest the possibility of alternative discourses. Five themes were identified:

1) A mark of womanhood: “People would talk about puberty or periods like it’s a foregone conclusion that everybody has them. So I would feel a little like I was orbiting and slightly outside of other women.”

2) Connection or disconnection: “People would talk about their periods and what a pain they were. I loved it because it made me feel more like a woman.” For others their differing experience led to disconnection.

3) Menstruation as a signifier of fertility: “I told everyone when I got my period back, I was so excited.”

4) Considering menstruation as abnormal: “My periods are very odd…It was like a tap, it just did not turn off.”

5) Maintaining a natural cycle: “Here I am, trying to do the natural fertility, and not be on the contraceptive pill, and really do everything to have a good cycle, and keep my hormones balanced.”

These young women strongly resisted contemporary, dominant patriarchal discourses and instead accommodated historical, matriarchal discourses where menstruation is seen as a powerful and sacred symbol of life and fertility. Their experiences provide greater understanding of the significance of menstruation for women with cancer-related infertility and allow alternative discourses to be explored.

Young women’s constructions of their post-cancer fertility
Amy Dryden, Centre for Health Research, University of Western Sydney

Young women diagnosed with cancer often face compromised fertility as a result of their treatment. However, little is known about young women’s constructions and experiences of their fertility post-cancer, or their interactions with healthcare professionals in discussing fertility concerns.

Semi-structured one-to-one interviews were conducted with 8 women aged 18-26 across a variety of cancer types including breast and brain tumours, leukaemia, lymphoma and sarcoma. Foucaultian Discourse Analysis identified three subject positions associated with fertility concerns: Inadequate woman: Accepting the motherhood mandate; Adequate woman: Resisting the motherhood mandate; and Survival of the fittest: Woman as genetically defective. Implications for subjectivity included feelings of inadequacy, fear and devastation; feeling undesirable to romantic partners due to compromised fertility; and feelings of guilt and worry about passing on cancer-positive genes. For the majority of participants, motherhood was constructed as an essential component of what they wanted to accomplish in their lives. Alternative pathways to motherhood (i.e adoption, egg donation) were constructed favourably by the majority of participants, although some constructed these options as inferior to biological motherhood.

Overall results suggest that issues surrounding fertility were important to this group of cancer survivors, and that compromised fertility can negatively impact on the subjectivity of young women with cancer. As such, the results reinforce the importance of the provision of information about fertility by healthcare professionals amongst a demographic who remain underserved in the area of reproductive health.

Constructing the HPV vaccine in the context of Eastern Europe
Irina Todorova, Northeastern University & Health Psychology Research Center, Sofia, Bulgaria 

An image about the HPV vaccine circulating in Bulgaria. The text reads “Attention: poisonous vaccine!”

This research paper explores the relevance of local context for understanding meanings, discourses and disparities related to uptake and avoidance of a vaccine for the prevention of Human Papilloma virus (HPV) transmission, associated with cervical and other cancers, in Bulgaria and Romania.

Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women worldwide, and differences between and within country disparities are striking. Instead of falling, as in many other countries of Eastern and most countries of Western Europe, cervical cancer morbidity and mortality rates in Bulgaria and Romania have been rising. The vaccine embodies an array of personal and cultural meanings and discourses, including those of responsibility, control, morality, health rights, and gender. It also represents multiple interests of many actors, whose attitudes vary depending on local meanings of sexuality, religious beliefs, stigma, their experiences and trust in the health care system.

Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with women, health-care providers and key informants, as well as focus groups with parents, and analyzed thematically. The paper will share dimensions of women’s narratives related to personal experiences, cultural constructions of gender, and the relevant structural and policy contexts in which vaccination behaviors are constituted. The discussion will address the relevance of history, healthcare policy and gendered attitudes in Bulgaria and Romania for the constitution of preventive attitudes and behaviors, and critically reflect on what a consideration of local meanings of medical interventions means for equitable health promotion.

Celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day!

May 21st, 2015 by David Linton

  
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.