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Menstruation Perceptions in Different Aspects of Life

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Menstruation: Historical perceptions

Menstruation though tabooed is celebrated in most cultures. Taboos and folk tales that surround a woman’s period cross cultural and historical boundaries. The coded terms used to refer to menstruation across a variety of culture: tabiyat kahrab(India),I’m unwell (UK), udur (Indonesia, sickness), to the literature in 19th century where women employed a sea of ailments to describe menstruation, to the extent of calling oneself a mahar-untouchable assigns it a pathological character. Menstruation and modern medicineWe don’t know whether it was usage of the word disease in lieu of menstruation by women themselves or by Physicians first that brought menses under clinical gaze. As Catherine Kohler puts it, “More specifically I will suggest that physicians seek to medicalize experience because of their specific beliefs and economic interest. The medicalization is so profound that in one of the subsections of the book “Patterns and perceptions of menstruation” one of the author uses the term sequeale of menstruation.

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Yes a lot of women points out to the discomfort during menstruation like bloating, abdominal pain, laziness though some attempt to invisibilize it, especially young sports women. How this pain during menstruation became the problem and how the problem got medical constructions: PMS etc., and how this got developed as a branch of women hygiene health care needs better analysis. This new professionalization of women’s health reinforced the traditional/social beliefs of women as less capable. Medicine will only survive when there are patients. The discomforts of menstruation which were earlier dismissed by medical professionals were quickly adopted and renewed in the interest of creating new fields to make money.

The development of modern medicine at a time when feminism was at its peak, forced the women to speak up of their problems. Mostly upper class women started consulting doctors regarding the discomforts due to menstruation, thus contributing as an equal hand in medicalization.

Women and work

Once a person is identified with a disease they are supposed to take rest also their capabilities to function fully are reduced. When we see menstruation along the lines of disease we found out women rarely make changes to their work habits so contrasting it with ad portrayal which shows restricted work or inability represents and further instills the negative imagery, how physicians are creating new diseases for the marketing industry. That’s one side to the situation we can also infer women restrain from any change in work activities on account of being detected by family members. Many young girls are restrained from resting too much as it will put them under light. Is PMS ahistorical? We can count it upon medicine for inventing it. PMS serves as a lens through which women’s action and activity are viewed. Athletic women are often told by their coach as not to “PMS” in the grounds or during practice as it won’t be tolerated.( Geraldine Moreno et al, 2005) One way we see women’s participation is reduced due to discomforts other way it is employed to lessen women’s participation in all spheres.

Menstruation is a weapon in the hands of patriarchy to control women, to prevent them from fully participating in the society.

Menstruation and school dropouts

One needs to draw connection are girls really dropping out of schools because of Menstrual problems or menstruation is used as an excuse to stop girls from getting education. One also need to look out how negative ideas about menstruation bring down the girls performances as a lot of women don’t participate in sports considering it harmful for menstruation.

Menstruation and ads

From a mother talking to daughter to ads when menstruation is the topic its always hygiene not sexuality which presumes importance, menarche is never discussed in relation to fertility and reproduction. Menarche is seen as a hygiene rather than developmental milestone. Menstruation as deeply connected to sexuality is totally sidetracked and hygiene is made as the central issue.

Is this an attempt to marginalize or lessens women’s experience of their sexuality. The need to hide menstruation comes from the need to hide sexuality as menstruation is an irrepresible evidence of sexuality. Ads targeting adolescent girls and women’s behavior sold one needs to keep in mind that advertisements sell beliefs, behavior, ideology, status along with the product. The ads targeted to adolescence often portray a modern woman (no one wants to be left out from this category), menstruating women are always presented in dynamic, energetic manner functioning at optimal levels. The dynamic women’s in such ads encourage guilt for underperforming. Young girls often confuse if they should take rest due to pain or fly high, getting involved sportively in every activity as shown in ads. Ads also serve as information dissemination platform for young girls as the subject of menstruation is often met with silence form mothers, some mothers often conceal menstrual blood as a wound assuming the girls will figure out on their own once they realize they get this wound every month.

One can understand the importance of ads in the light of the study done by Sunila garg which shows majority of the girls knew nothing about menstruation except it’s once a month occurrence. “There is nothing which has to be discussed. They will come to know through their friends. How can we talk to our daughters about such things”. Thus young girls are likely to pick up their ideas from these ads. Euphemistic references to menstruation in the ads deny it any ground for public speaking. Though ads are changing with time because ads serve to reflect the changing culture even when the protagonist makes a direct reference to menstruation its either done in a way to exude pride or dullness, no normalcy in reference can be noted.

In 1890, Dr. Alice B. Stockham referred to “certain physiologists” who “claim that all sanguineous flow is abnormal, that there should be no show of blood in a perfectly healthy woman.”

Picking up form culture

What makes ads on menstruation survive is the intersection of the interest between patriarchy, capitalist market and medicine. Paradox lies in the fact the ads still use century old taboos which can be supposedly hidden by employment of medicinal authority espoused products. The deployment of medicinal authority often leaves out the rural women /tribal women whose century old methods are subtly shown as demeaning, discomforting and even dirty sometimes.

The ads constantly reinforces the belief that women is a prisoner of her biology and cannot participate equally due to menstruation, thus attaching a negative imagery. But yes the product sold somehow frees her from this prison and helps in fuller participation.

Ideas sold

Who stands between a women and her worldly pursuits no not men, not patriarchy but menstruation. Seems like women are in pursuit of their dreams only during that time of month. One can save themselves from menstruation a thief of confidence, by using certain products. Security, zero leakages, peace of mind during that time of the month are the underlying or rather upfront message sold in all ads. Yes one would definitely be peaceful if one doesn’t have to bother about staining but that does not fall true even for the best of the best products. So if one happens to have soiled clothes god knows what will happen as the entire plot of ads are directed towards eliminating any trace of menstruation. The efficiency of the products to do so are highlighted.

Constant appeal is how the magical product invisibilises menstruation, concealing femininity with a purchase. Feel safe for hours and the ‘can’t feel it factor’ relate it directly to the public gaze, ’the cant see it factor’. The ads play on the hopes and fear of women saying that you don’t have to change much in your daily routine during that time instead your performance will increase exponentially. Yes menstruation as an inevitable limitation for women by god’s grace but when you use our products all is well. The change in women’s fashion as depicted in ads in the form of wearing tight fitted clothes is a marker of confidence that is sold along with the product as they no longer have to wear lose clothes fearing stain getting shown.

In 1890, Dr. Alice B. Stockham referred to “certain physiologists” who “claim that all sanguineous flow is abnormal, that there should be no show of blood in a perfectly healthy woman.”

Conclusion

From age old historical beliefs to the present day ad depiction when one talks of menstruation there is a deliberate attempt to normalize it in a sense that ends up stigmatizing it all more. Yes from various studies one can point out that women prefer better sanitary products if they can afford them but simply providing products without awareness on issue of sexuality doesn’t end up good for young girls who are unaware of their sexuality. Also the idea of staining is feared deeply for which ads can be a contributor. The fact that women are not made to admit the discomforts without facing social inferiorities in workplace or home is bothersome.

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