The posts below were previously published at re:Cycling, the blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, between 2009-2014. I created and developed the blog in 2009, during my presidency of the Society, and continued to edit the site and serve as the primary contributor for five years. SMCR ultimately discontinued the blog, but the complete archives remain online, re-named Menstruation Matters by a subsequent editor in 2016. I’ve reproduced only the entries I produced.
The formatting may be a little wonky due to the difference in style of the original SMCR site and this one. I’ve also disabled comments, but feel free to contact me if you have something to say.
Guest Post by Josefin Persdotter, Gothenburg University
As I write this, it is only hours until the acclaimed Swedish television program Kobra airs an episode about menstruation in art, and as a growing social movement in Sweden. They’ve interviewed none other than menstrual art and activism pioneer Judy Chicago. In the trailer she jokingly exclaims: “Oh, so Scandinavia’s discovered that women menstruate!” And it seems we have. Or at least Swedes seem to have. Sweden’s currently enjoying a kind of menstrual boom. Maybe one could even call it a menstrual revolution. From my (albeit very menstrually focused) horizon I see menstruation everywhere. During the last year it’s gone from (almost) total menstrual silence to it being in national newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and naturally, all over social media.
I guess one could say it began last summer. Feminist cartoonist and writer Liv Strömquist (bravely!) did a two-hour radio show about menstruation, depicting menstrual taboos in history, arguing that it ought to be a much larger part of culture. The show aired on prime-time when “everyone” was listening. Being a menstrual activist for many years, I listened with a pounding heart wondering how Sweden would react. Though I’m sure she got some internet hate and many negative comments, the reception from those who liked it seems to have been quite overwhelming for Strömquist, and quite palpable to everyone else.
Instantly, something changed. Just as I had experienced when I met people through my own activism, but this time on a national scale. People began to open up; they shared their own menstrual stories openly on various social media platforms. And they haven’t stopped.
To only name a few of the many amazing things that have happened since then: several menstrual art projects have enjoyed unprecedented attention in the media, menstruation-related diseases make the headlines in the tabloids, several other radio-shows have had menstrually-themed episodes, a menstrual documentary has been made and another one is in post-production, new books about menstruation have been launched and sold out in weeks (!), and on top of that two national organizations for menstruation and PMS respectively have been founded. Menstruation’s become something that’s publicly handled as a truly relevant and important issue.
I may exaggerate a little, but I don’t want to downplay it either, as I really do think that something rather spectacular has happened. First I called it a menstrual spring, then it became a menstrual year, and now it’s going on year two. Could one dare to hope for a menstrual paradigm shift? Or might the public lose interest? I see no signs of menstrual fatigue, but quite the opposite. More and more people and institutions engage in menstrual issues publicly. The need to talk periods seem to be stronger than ever.
Sweden’s got a small population of about 9 million, speaking an equally small language. This has been a pain in the neck in my menstrual activism, until it wasn’t. I was quite jealous of menstrual activists friends who got to do their work in English or Spanish, having so many millions more that could like, comment, and retweet on social media. But now I’ve begun to think the small size might be a huge advantage. I think we have the size to thank for some of what’s happened. It might be easier to reach everyone, to become in some way part of the media mainstream and have a national impact in a small country like this. Sweden has only a couple of national newspapers, fewer television news shows, etc., compared to larger nations.
I post this to the international menstrual community wondering if I am witnessing something unique, or something universal? Are there currently similar menstrual surges elsewhere as well? And naturally: what’s it been like historically? What can we learn from eachother? What should we think about to make these changes last and become real shifts in the menstruculture?
If buying condoms was like getting birth control pills . . .
- The 20th World Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology & Infertility (COGI) meets in Paris, December 4-7, 2014. This year’s meeting will feature a workshop on the first successful live birth from a uterus transplant.
- According to a UK study by The Eve Appeal, an charity organization dedicated to raising money for research and treatment of gynecological cancers, only half of the women surveyed between the ages of 26-35 were able to correctly locate and label the female reproductive system on a diagram.
- The University of California at San Francisco is about to start a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) about abortion. The course, which involves more than 20 faculty members, is intended to help health providers in the United States and around the world with patient care and the public health aspects of abortion. You can take the course for free or for a certificate, but it starts Monday, October 13, so jump on it.
- Are any of my M.A.R.C. ladies reading re:Cycling? Here’s a great way to demonstrate that menstrual cups don’t leak.
- Shakira Andrea Sison recently published this piece at The Rappler about the still-powerful influence of menstrual shame and stigma.
- Gary Schwitzer at Health News Review takes down the media coverage of the BMJ study titled, “Association of skirt size and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in older women“. Hint: “linked to” does not mean “causes”.
- Adolescents with disabilities are often overlooked in discussions of birth control access, but data show that adolescents with disabilities and chronic illnesses have similar levels of sexual behaviors and sexual health outcomes.
- Between 2011 and 2013, 205 new restrictions on abortion access were enacted at the state level in the U.S. A new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights has found the more abortion restrictions present, the worse a state performed overall on indicators of women’s and children’s well-being — contrary to the stated goals of legislators imposing such restrictions. Download the report here.
- Faux tampon earring provokes faux outrage at xoJane.
- A new study related to the longitudinal Contraceptive CHOICE Project was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, show that teens with access to birth control at no cost, especially long-acting reversible methods such as implants and injections, will have fewer abortions. The study has received a great deal of media attention.
- Young women are desperate for contraception: a 22-year-old woman in Colombia recently had to have a potato surgically removed from her vagina after it had grown roots, causing her serious abdominal pain. She placed it there two weeks earlier, on the advice of her mother, as a contraceptive. According to Colombia Reports: The fact that a 22-year-old women was so naïve as to believe that a potato was an appropriate and safe method of contraception shows a concerning lack of education for young people as to the options available for them when they become sexually active.
This video delineating seven reasons to use menstrual cups is entertaining, but we’d like to point out that a reusable cup (such as Diva Cup, Moon Cup, Keeper, etc.) will last much longer than ONE year.
- What goes in eventually comes out somehow. The excreted drugs pass right through most sewage treatment processes and end up in rivers and lakes, and then in our drinking water.
- Emergency Contraception can now be legally purchased over-the-counter, without a prescription, by anyone of any age in the U.S., but it’s not always available to young men who try to purchase it for their partners. A study involving three “mystery shoppers” in New York found the men told to bring a woman or her I.D. with him at 22 pharmacies.
- Why it’s important to teach children accurate names for their private parts.
- A new study from Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health has demonstrated some success implementing the Standard Days Method® of fertility awareness contraception “on a national level in a low resource environment”, i.e. in Rwanda, one of the poorest nations in the world.
- Kotex welcomes consumer reviews of their products online, but there are some words the site will not publish. One of those words is vagina.
- The Sunday New York Times published interactive graphs showing the likelihood of failure of the most popular methods of birth control in the U.S., comparing typical use to perfect use.
- Sanitary panties: Not just for ladies anymore (via Chris Bobel).
- Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews Dr. Penny Castellano, Chief Medical Officer at Emory Clinic, about menopause and the need to continue using birth control. The concern is sound, but the inconsistency of whether menopause describes a moment or transisional years is confusing. (Video plus transcript)
- Another ladymag publishes another story of pulmonary embolism from birth control pills. These just never get old, do they?
- The newest advocacy tool in HPV prevention and vaccine promotion: Grandmother power.
- Speaking of HPV, it may be possible to diagnose with a urine in the not-too-distant future.
- Does the G-spot exist? It’s complicated.
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has advocated since December 2012 that birth control pills be available without a prescription. The Republican Party has only recently jumped on the bandwagon, seemingly because unlike with prescription pills, most insurance companies would not cover over-the-counter birth control. OTC pills could cost women $600 a year, compared to $0 under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
- Period sex. Let’s talk about it. ‘Cause we’re doing it.
- This striking photo essay of the chaupadi tradition in Nepal was published last spring, but we missed it. Check it out now. Chaupadi is the practice of menstrual seclusion; women and girls sleep in sheds or outbuildings while menstruating, and have little contact with others. They are also exposed to the elements, and easily suffer exposure and illness.
- The National Academies of Science recently confirmed that styrene is a carcinogenic chemical. Why do we care? Styrene is among the chemicals listed as a fragrance in Procter & Gamble products – but P&G doesn’t identify which products. So is styrene in Tampax tampons or Always pads? We don’t know, because femcare companies are not required to list ingredients on the packages.
- What if celebrities are wrong? That’s not as trivial a question as it may sound: Consider the Angelina Jolie Effect, in which the media presented an overwhelmingly positive slant toward Jolie’s mastectomy, while overlooking the relative rarity of her situation.
- Here’s a really cool survey of female cartoonists talking about drawing their bodies.
- The venerable Black Women’s Health Imperative is hosting a webinar next week about gynecologic cancers: Myths, Misunderstandings and the Truth about Gynecologic Cancers, Screenings and the Affordable Care Act will be held September 17, at 12:00 pm EDT/9:00 am PDT. Advance registration is required.
- Have you ever searched a database of stock photos for menstruation-related images? Rachel has. She found a lot more than tampon pictures.
- Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) dropped a line to Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health (a chain of drugstores in the U.S.), to inquire about the little matter of their implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s Women’s Health Amendment. It seems some stores were illegally charging co-pays for generic birth control pills, which are supposed to be covered at no cost. Representative Speier has a few questions for Mr. Merlo [pdf].
- The popular lesbian site Autostraddle published an article this week about alternatives to disposable menstrual products and the menstrual cup. There’s some interesting discussion happening in the comments about whether or not the sponge is an animal and therefore philosophically acceptable for vegan use.
- Is there a link between depression and menopause? A new study in Maturitas identifies biological as well as psychosocial factors that are likely to be contributing in an individual.
- Is it really going to happen this time? Bustle says we can put birth control for men on our calendars.
- September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The rate of the disease has dropped, but it is still the fifth-leading malignant cause of death among U.S. women.
- Do you crave sandwiches when you’re menstruating? Maybe you need a Bloodfeast like the Ragwood.
- This week at Lady Clever, Holly Grigg-Spall interviewed Alisa Vitti, author of best-selling book Woman Code.
- Findings of a study published this month in the Journal of Women’s Health suggest that early life emotional and physical abuse increase the risk of PMS in the middle-to-late reproductive years.
- So has everybody checked out Tampon Run, the new video game created by teenagers? The premise is simple: Collect tampons, shoot them at your enemies, and don’t run out of them before your moon cycle is over. Read more about the game and the two young women who created it. (By the way, that article has been ‘liked’ on Facebook more than 21,000 times.)