#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.
#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.
#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.
Megan White Mukuria (ZanaAfrica)
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:
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.
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.
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
existence ain’t real
on moonless nights
on moon-full nights
and we celebrate the blood
that has been given to us
to give back
to our mother earth
the tender soil in which our ancestral roots
we are the bloodline
generations of women giving
we are living right now
we are the sisters
the guardians of the blood
the blood keepers
cherish the blood
honor the blood
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For media, submission, and other inquires about the journal contact editor Joan C. Chrisler at email@example.com.
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
Special Section on Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
Evidence-based Medicine, Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy, and the Women’s Health Initiative – Paula Derry
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
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
Investigating the Ubiquitous: The Everyday Use of Hormonal Contraceptives – Marie C. Hansen
Menstruation’s Cultural History – David Linton
WomanCode: Caveat Emptor – Elizabeth RoweJoan 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 & MadelineJune 3rd, 2015 by Jen Lewis
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 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.
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.
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.