Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Can art change the way society thinks about menstruation?

August 28th, 2015 by Editor

#SMCR2015 Plenary Session Video Presentation

Beyond “Menstruation Bathroom”: Stimulating Social Change Through Visualizations of Gendered Blood

Can art change the way society sees, perceives and thinks about menstruation? Can visual art help expand the scope of reproductive justice in the mainstream? In this panel discussion, five artists from Widening the Cycle, the art show that ran concurrently with the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, June 4th to 6th, 2015, in Boston, discuss the catalyzing power of visual art and explore the use of menstrual blood in art-making following the seminal work of Judy Chicago’s “Menstruation Bathroom.” From religious tradition to radical self-acceptance, the artists cover it all.

Participating artists: Jen Lewis, Diana Alvarez, Gabriella Boros, Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch, Lucy Madeline and Kyle.

Videography provided courtesy of Robert Lewis.

Ms. August – Menstruation Pin-Up

August 5th, 2015 by Jen Lewis

Guest Post by Jen Lewis

Beauty in Blood Presents
Ms. August: A Beautiful Bloody Dance
Year: 2015
Menstrual Designer: Jen Lewis
Photographer: Rob Lewis

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 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.

 

A doc about birth control, #LiveTweetYourPeriod, and other 4th of July weekend links

July 4th, 2015 by Laura Wershler
  • It’s old news that men find women’s faces more attractive when they are fertile, but the facial cues to explain this have eluded researchers. A new study from the University of Cambridge, as reported in the Science Daily, shows that women’s face skin gets redder at the point of peak fertility. However, as this change in face redness is too subtle for the human eye to detect, skin colouration has been ruled out as the reason for this “attractiveness effect.” Dr. Hannah Rowland, who co-led the study, said, “Women don’t advertise ovulation, but they do seem to leak information about it, as studies have shown they are seen as more attractive by men when ovulating.” The mystery continues.

When Elynn Walter walks into a room of officials from global health organizations and governments, this is how she likes to get their attention:

“I’ll say, ‘OK, everyone stand up and yell the word blood!’ or say, ‘Half of the people in the world have their period!’ ”

It’s her way of getting people talking about a topic that a lot of people, well, aren’t comfortable talking about: menstrual hygiene.

Ms. July – Menstruation Pin-Up

July 1st, 2015 by Jen Lewis

Guest Post by Jen Lewis

Beauty in Blood Presents
Ms. July: Truth & Perception
Year: 2015
Menstrual Designer: Jen Lewis
Photographer: Rob Lewis

Women’s Reproductive Health journal explores postmenopausal hormone therapy

June 17th, 2015 by Laura Wershler

Free access to Women’s Reproductive Health, the journal launched by the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in 2014, is available to all SMCR members. To become a member of the society or to obtain a subscription contact info@menstruationresearch.org.  For media, submission, and other inquires about the journal contact editor Joan C. Chrisler at jcchr@conncoll.edu.

 

Guest Post by Joan C. Chrisler

The spring 2015 issue of Women’s Reproductive Health contains our first special section: on postmenopausal hormone therapy. The section contains a thought-provoking anchor article by menopause expert, psychologist Paula Derry. It is followed by short commentaries by a multidisciplinary group of menopause experts–a physician, a sociologist, an anthropologist, and a nurse. This set of papers would make an excellent reading assignment for a women’s health course, and it is sure to generate class discussion. The issue also contains two other research reports: one on women’s experiences with gynecological examinations, and the other on the relative absence of mentions of menstruation in novels aimed at adolescent girls because publishers are worried about challenges by parents and school boards that could hurt sales. The issue is rounded out with three book reviews.

 

Women’s Reproductive Health

Volume 2, Number 1 (Spring 2015)

Special Section on Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy

Article
Evidence-based Medicine, Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy, and the Women’s Health Initiative – Paula Derry

Commentaries
The Science of Marketing: How Pharmaceutical Companies Manipulated Medical Discourse on Menopause – Adriane Fugh-Berman

Medicalization Survived the Women’s Health Initiative…but Has Discourse Opened up? – Heather Dillaway

Animal Models in Menopause Research – Lynette Leidy Sievert

Lost in Translation? – Nancy Fugate Woods

Articles
A Multi-method Approach to Women’s Experiences of Reproductive Health Screening – Arezou Ghane, Kate Sweeny, & William L. Dunlop

The Censoring of Menstruation in Adolescent Literature: A Growing Problem – Carissa Pokorny-Golden

Book Reviews
Investigating the Ubiquitous: The Everyday Use of Hormonal Contraceptives – Marie C. Hansen

Menstruation’s Cultural History – David Linton

WomanCode: Caveat Emptor – Elizabeth Rowe

Joan C. Chrisler is a professor of psychology at Connecticut College and the founding editor of Women’s Reproductive Health. Her special areas of interest include PMS, attitudes toward menstruation and menopause, sociocultural aspects of menstruation, and cognitive and behavioral changes across the menstrual cycle.

“Widening the Cycle” Featured Artists & Panel Speakers: Alvarez, Boros, Goldbloom Bloch, Kyle & Madeline

June 3rd, 2015 by Jen Lewis

“Cup of Flow 2″ by Diana Alvarez

Diana Alvarez

I believe my project fulfills the call for art because I use menstrual fluid as the primary source for the art and encouraged participants to confront their discomforts with menstruation. Empowerment was my main goal with the art, both for myself and for menstruators as a whole. The project was called “Cup of Flow” and involved my inviting a group of women over to my home to watch me interact with my menstrual blood and my menstrual cup. I interacted with the blood in a hands-on way that involved touching it, smelling it, wearing it as lipstick, and tasting it. My goal was to push the boundaries of what most of the attendees had probably experienced before. I also used a speculum to allow the attendees to watch me menstruate directly from the cervix, the source. I had accumulated some menstrual blood in a mason jar prior to the event that had coagulated and allowed for the guests to pass it around and examine it. The menstrual cup was an important element because we took the conversation into a broader spectrum of environmentalism. Everyone was allowed to take pictures and post to social media using the hashtag (#cupofflow). The images were flagged by Facebook users as “obscene,” but when threatened to have them removed we launched a formal complaint asking Facebook to reconsider by explaining that menstrual blood is natural and not trauma induced. The pictures ultimately remained posted to the website. In the revolution there will be blood!

 

“Niddah: The Curses” by Gabriella Boros

Gabriella Boros

Niddah: The topic of female victimaztion has been covered in the news with alarming frequency in the past year. This provoked me to turn to my own religious roots and learn about the Judaic tradition of Niddah, the14 day separation of women during and after menstruation. In traditional homes, women cannot have contact with their husbands nor participate in religious observation during Niddah. In this project, I project both the negativity that is inherent in the Talmudic view of women’s cycles as well as my own ambivalence to the bodily process.

Niddah: Seven Days: Over the course of seven panels an overprinted image emerges both reaching out and inaccessible. The last print shows a complete hand in black against a watery background, a visual reference to the tradition of ritual immersion that marks the completion of Niddah.

The Women Series: I reflect on how traditional women experience societal exclusion during their periods. The ghostlike images roughly flesh out each woman’s shape, their presence described by their absence. I gave these women a strong stance, unafraid and proud, yet their isolation is undeniable. Whether the isolation is societal or self-imposed it is unclear.

The Curses: These embroidered depictions show some of the physical manifestations of menstruants. The banners refer to a family coat of arms which displays negative sideffects with the pride that one hangs a family crest. At the bottom of every banner are bdikah cloths painted with abstractions. These are used by Jewish women to check for purity in the seven days following menses.

“Feminine Protection” by Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch

Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch

I love hardware stores. As a little girl, I would accompany my father on his errands and get lost in the aisles imagining all the things I could make from the bits and pieces I came across. Since that time, hardware stores have been the inspiration for many of the mixed-media sculptures I create. I see the beauty in common objects. Each bit and piece is a mini-sculpture to me. The shape of each singular object, the texture and the transformation of grouping small bits into a larger whole is what drives my art. By using everyday items and transforming them into something entirely different from their intended purpose, I try to draw the viewer in to take a closer look at materials and objects that ordinarily go unnoticed.

“Imbibe” by Lucy Madeline

 

Lucy Madeline

At the root of all my work is a fundamental belief in the power of image and an understanding of the body as the primary site of knowing the world. I see images and image making as a practice in magic as much as theory: I have found that by simply re-appropriating the female form through my work, I am able to simultaneously re-appropriate the female experience. I take back both personal cultural space through the making of alternative images of the abstract and literal female figure.

“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…).

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.