Conference Speakers May 2023
Dr Maria Tomlinson
Affiliation: University of Sheffield
The Impact of Social Media on Teenagers’ Knowledge and Perceptions of Reusable Menstrual Products
Drawing on focus groups with 77 16–19-year-olds across Yorkshire, this paper examines the impact of social media on teenagers’ knowledge and perceptions of reusable menstrual products. Focus groups revealed that teenagers primarily learn about environmenstrual concerns via advertisements, influencers, and Tiktok videos. This includes boys who learned about reusables outside menstrual specific contexts (e.g. in videos advising on exam preparation). Although four participants used reusables on a regular basis, all other girls and non-binary participants were reluctant to try reusables. Reasons included fear of leakage, disgust at touching menstrual blood, a lack of access to sinks in cubicles at school, upfront cost, and uncertainty on how to use reusables. My findings therefore indicate that, due to stigma and social inequalities, awareness of reusables products from social media rarely translates into uptake.
Dr. Maria Tomlinson is a lecturer in Public Communication and Gender at the University of Sheffield. Her current research examines the impact of the media on young people’s attitudes towards the health and social issues around menstruation. She is using her findings to advise organisations and individuals on how they can use social media to communicate effectively with young people about menstruation. She is the author of From Menstruation to the Menopause: The Female Fertility Cycle in Contemporary Women’s Writing in French (2021, Liverpool University Press) and is working on her forthcoming book The Menstrual Movement in the Media: Reducing Stigma and Tackling Social Inequalities (2024, Palgrave Macmillan, Open Access).
Prof. Bettina Bildhauer and Dr Lara Owen
Affiliation: University of St Andrews
Sustainable Menstrual Products and the Eco-Shaming of Menstruators in Scotland
We bring Critical Menstruation Studies concepts and textual analysis methods to a corpus of Scottish reports on menstrual product access and waste, along with interviews with regional experts. Our analysis indicates that while promotion of reusable menstrual products is intended to dismantle menstrual stigma, this stigma can become displaced via environmental concerns to other contexts, retaining key characteristics such as the containment ideal and the concealment imperative. The contemporary Scottish discourse uses the same fundamental concepts to describe both menstrual blood and the environmental pollution caused by plastic applicators and similar products.
Bettina Bildhauer is Professor of Modern Languages at St Andrews. She has researched medieval medical and cultural conceptions of menstruation as well as the contemporary Scottish policy initiatives around menstruation. She was Principal Investigator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh-funded project Ending Period Poverty, to which many MRN members kindly contributed.
Dr Lara Owen is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews. She holds a PhD on menstrual organization from Monash Business School and has done research on menstruation in several countries and contexts. In recent years her research has focused on menstruation in the workplace, menstrual stigma, and menstruation and sustainability. She teaches a year-long Master’s level course in Contemporary Menstrual Studies through her website, laraowen.com.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik
Affiliation: University of Agder
‘Feminine Waste Only’: A History of the Sanitary Bin and Exchange System
The sanitary bin and warnings such as ‘Do Not Flush Feminine Products!’ have become a feature of women’s public bathrooms throughout Britain. Begun in the 1950s by family-owned companies such as Personnel Hygiene Services and Cannon Hygiene, and developed into large corporate systems, these items and their cleaning structures have expanded into nearly every university, hospital, office, café, school and gym in the country. This paper examines the three historical phases of sanitary bin technology and its meanings. First, the pioneering phase when the bin was needed to tackle the problems of flushing menstrual products and unpopular incinerators, and was developed and popularised by creative entrepreneurs. Second, the environmental phase when campaigners, especially the Women’s Environmental Network, boosted the industry as they called for more regulations regarding menstrual product waste in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to the popularisation of the bin exchange and cleaning services now commonplace throughout the UK. Third, the high-tech phase of the 2000s, when the industry sought to reinvent the object by adding no-touch technology, more chemicals and aesthetic innovations. This paper thus presents the sanitary bin in its historical context for the first time, and argues that it reveals changing attitudes towards menstruation, the environment and bathroom politics.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik is Associate Professor in History at the University of Agder. She is Honorary Lecturer in Medicine at the University of Aberdeen, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. Røstvik is the PI of the Wellcome Trust-funded Menstruation Research Network UK.
Affiliation: Goethe University
Good for nature, good for us? Ambivalent Politics of Waste Prevention in Menstrual Hygiene Technologies
Reusable and therefore waste reducing technologies play a crucial role in a diversifying market for period products. Especially the menstrual cup can be regarded as a symbol of sustainability and de-stigmatization. But while waste reduction is often used as a synonym for sustainability, I question this discursive framing. Based on qualitative interviews, I show how menstruators distinguish between aspects of waste avoidance that are ‘good for nature’ and those that are ‘good for them’. While the former is indeed shaped by ideas of sustainability, the latter can be analysed as a materialization of a history of shame and the concealment of menstruation.
Sophie Bauer is a PhD Candidate at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. Her research focuses on ideas of gender, nature, and technology in the context of menstruation, her theoretical interests lie in feminist theories, new materialisms, biopolitics and feminist sts. She is supported by a scholarship from the Hans-Böckler-Foundation and works as a tutor inside and outside of academia.
Dr Lisa Smith and Prof. Gillian Anderson
Affiliations: Douglas College and Vancouver Island University
Dispensing Menstrual Equity? Mundane Menstruation Technologies and the Messy Politics of Social Change
Our collaborative work in support of menstrual equity situates menstrual product dispensers within wider systems of power, activism, and social change. Examining a range of technologies that dispense menstrual supplies across public institutions in British Columbia, we consider the ways such technologies are subject to change, and by and for whom. Though these technologies may often seem mundane, we argue that they are steeped in cultural meaning as highly contested political spaces. In regulating access to, and the provision of menstrual supplies, we argue these dispensers fundamentally serve to manage both menstruation and menstruators.
Prof. Gillian Anderson, PhD, is Professor and Department Chair, Sociology Department, Vancouver Island University. Her research focuses on menstrual equity, motherwork and the sociology of home.
Dr. Lisa Smith is a Faculty Member in the Department of Sociology and Coordinator of the Menstrual Cycle Research Group, Douglas College. She researches the politics of menstruation, sexual and gender-based violence, and community-engaged sociology.
Catalina Espinosa Notrica and Prof. Emily St. Denny
Affiliations: The University of Copenhagen
The Policies and Politics of Menstrual Inequality Reduction: The Case of The Scottish Period Products Act (2021)
Gender studies of public health and studies of feminist movements have long focused on the policies and politics of reproductive rights, in particular abortion and sexual education. Nonetheless, the study of gender, health, and social movements has long ignored the new agenda and development of policies and politics focused on menstruation as a source of inequality. In this paper, we study the Scottish case of The Period Products Act (2021), the first in history where a country developed a law that guarantees universal access to menstrual products. This case is interesting because it challenges expectations in classical comparative and gender welfare theories. Indeed, this type of socially progressive legislation is usually predicted to arise in countries with Universal Welfare Regimes first, rather than in countries like the devolved UK which are typically associated with a more liberal welfare tradition. In this paper, we develop a Multiple Streams Analysis of the 2021 Scottish Act to explain how and why a ‘window of opportunity’ opened in Scotland. Drawing on a range of documentary and interview data we show how ideas concerning poverty, social justice, and gender were actively (re)configured by a range of political and civil society actors to shape the policy problem of ‘menstrual poverty’. In the process, we unpick the complex and at times conflictual politics which underpinned the development of the policy’s design, which we situate in the broader context of Scottish constitutional politics and the effects of the constitutional question on shaping social policy.
Catalina Espinosa holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen. Her research focuses on social policies and policymaking of gender inequality reduction. Her current research agenda focuses on the interaction between gender, public health, and welfare policies including menstruation, gender affirmation, and reproductive rights.
Jessica Campbell and Prof. Gayle Davis
Affiliations: The University of Edinburgh
‘A Crisis of Transition’: Menstruation and the Psychiatrisation of the Female Lifecycle in 19th Century Edinburgh
Examining how the female body and lifecycle were constructed within 19th-century Scottish psychiatry, and the wider significance of such portrayals, this paper situates the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act within a much longer history that presents menstruation as a problem. We highlight the historical resonance of two prominent features of the Act and the debates leading to it: the enduring tension between views of menstruation as a normal versus a pathological process, and the perceived deleterious impact of menstruation upon female education and, by extension, women’s status. By 1900, Scottish psychiatry had achieved professional status. Asylums were recognised as the officially approved response to madness, and mass institutionalisation allowed the medical profession unparalleled opportunities to observe, classify and treat those deemed insane. Madness as a ‘female malady’, with doctors portraying the female sex as more vulnerable to insanity in publications and clinical documentation, largely due to their reproductive system, has become a popular theme in historical scholarship. This paper examines how 19th-century psychiatry depicted the biological ‘crises’ of the female lifecycle and the extent to which menstruation was conceptualised as a pathological process. The widely cited and prolific medical writer, Thomas Clouston—physician-superintendent of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum (1873–1908), Scotland’s largest and most prestigious asylum—offers a particularly illuminating case study. An advocate of managing mental health holistically, Clouston advised society on healthy living through adherence to respectable Victorian standards. In his policing of social norms, he became a prominent spokesperson for limiting female education to protect women during the ‘dangerous’ transition from childhood to womanhood.
Jessica Campbell is an ESRC-funded final year PhD candidate within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Her doctoral project ‘The Healing Arts? An Examination of Madness, Creativity and Experience in British Asylum Culture c1840-1914’ explores the use and experience of arts-based therapies within nineteenth-century British institutional psychiatry with an emphasis on the patient’s experience. Whilst Jessica’s primary research interests lie within the history of psychiatry, she is interested in social histories of medicine more broadly, her work in collaboration with the Mensuration Research Network stimulating her interest in histories of menstruation and reproductive health and their relationship to mental health and wellbeing.
Gayle Davis is Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She has published widely on the social history of medicine, particularly the interface between reproductive health, clinical practice and the law in post-1945 Britain. Her most recent publication, the outcome of a research collaboration with Sally Sheldon (Professor of Law, University of Bristol), Clare Parker (Kent) and Jane O’Neill (Edinburgh), is The Abortion Act 1967: A Biography of a UK Law (Cambridge University Press, 2022).
Dr Ming Zhang
Affiliation: University of Kent
Rethinking the Debate over Selling Menstrual Products on High-speed Trains in China
A heated debate on whether menstrual products should be sold on high-speed trains went viral on Chinese social media sites in September 2022. The China Railway’s response that menstrual pads were private items not suitable to be sold on trains, together with many Chinese men’s staunch opposition to selling menstrual products on trains, further fuelled the debate and provoked a fierce feminist outcry. This paper is based on a conversation between Dr Chi Zhang (a political scientist) and myself (a feminist scholar), regarding the entrenched misogyny and discrimination against menstruation that constantly springs up on both of our personal social media feeds on this debate. We hope that our reflection will help feminists better understand the obstacles faced by the Chinese women’s movements and the possible paths to make some meaningful progress. Finally, we want to encourage more exchanges between researchers from different fields and disciplines like us, although this kind of cross-disciplinary exchange is not unique within academia.
Dr Ming Zhang is currently a postdoctoral research assistant in the Politics, Arts and Deconstructing project at the University of Kent after receiving her PhD in Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. She is a writer and feminist scholar, interested in the intersection of feminist media studies, fandom studies, transcultural communication, and critical health communication, including women’s creativity in digital cultures, digital narratives of gender-specific health issues, and the political agency of grassroots artistic practises. Her previous work can be found in Celebrity Studies, Communication, Culture and Critique, Feminist Media Studies, and International Feminist Journal of Politics.
Dr Bee Hughes
Affiliation: Liverpool John Moore University
Re-use, Re-signify, Menstrual Cycle: Academic and Menstrual Materialities in Contemporary Art
In this research slam presentation, Bee will show and tell the story of the work produced as part of their Artist’s Residency at University of St Andrews and share some thoughts on the tampon as an icon for menstruation and as a tricky object in their practice and in art history.
Dr Bee Hughes (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and Senior Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at Liverpool John Moores University. Bee’s recent research explores embodied experiences of gender through themes including menstruation, representation, and everyday rituals and routines. Previous practice-led works examine repetition, cut-up methods and the social construction of menstrual normativities. They have recently begun a new research strand exploring the experiences and representation of LGBT+ people in Higher Education and the media.
Affiliation: University of Oxford
Theories of Cycles: Sustainability, Gender and Menstruation
The theory of a ‘cycle’ is often central to ideals of sustainability, including circular fashion, economies, and life cycles of recycling. The theory of a ‘cycle’ is also integral to ideals of sex, gender and femininity, linked to menstrual and hormonal cycles in those medically defined as female. This tendency to understand cycles as sustainable could explain the recent prevalence of eco-products for menstruation compared to other bodily processes. How can we use theories of cycles to explore the relationship between sustainability, gender and menstruation, or the sustaining of gender and menstruation?
Chloe Curtis (she/her) is a DPhil Anthropology student at the University of Oxford. She works between the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, and the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health. Her research focuses on the experience and assessment of hormonal contraceptive side effects in the contemporary UK healthcare landscape. She investigates what constitutes a ‘side effect’ from multiple perspectives, including hormonal contraceptive users, healthcare providers, health initiatives, and the emerging FemTech (female technology) industry. She explores how sexualities, genders and subjectivities inform, and are informed by, the ‘social’ and ‘biological’ lives of side effects.
Affiliation: University of Cardiff
#MenstrualCup: Exploring Menstrual Management Online in Uncertain Times as a Posthuman Phenomenon
This presentation explores the surprising and interesting assemblages between menstrual management and digital worlds – focusing on one stage of data collection from my PhD. My PhD discovers ways menstrual cups are being discussed on social media and explores the ways that menstruation is materialised in a posthuman digital social world. Data was collected by searching #Menstrual Cup on TikTok and “menstrual cup” in the search bar on YouTube and then collating information such as likes, comments etc. then conducting thematic and visual analysis. Whilst there were similarities in videos on both platforms there were distinct differences not only in content but also in style and communication techniques. Many videos discuss an ongoing relationship to the cup, awareness of menstrual cycles and management linking to the earth (and moon), a focus on correct techniques for insertion, removal and sanitisation of the cup, and advertisements/endorsements for particular menstrual cups . Implications and conclusions include: i) a complex relationship between offline and online worlds in this content ii) the material matterings of menstruation are highlighted even when using metaphor and models to discuss and iii) techniques are employed to discuss menstruation in a public space that both subvert and perpetuate norms.
Amelia Ignire is a PhD student at Cardiff University. Her thesis title is Period Poverty, Period Products and the Future of the Environment. Amelia uses feminist and posthumanist approaches to understand the material experience of menstruating in uncertain times.
Dr Mandi Tembo
Affiliation: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
The Uptake of Sustainable Menstrual Health Products in Zimbabwe
Achieving good menstrual health (MH) remains a challenge for many women. This study aims to examine MH service uptake, including MH information, analgesics, and a choice of MH products (between the menstrual cup and reusable pads) and continued use or discontinuation of MH products within an integrated intervention in Zimbabwe called CHIEDZA. This study used quantitative data collected from female clients aged 16-24 years, who visited CHIEDZA services in three Zimbabwean provinces from April 2019 to March 2022. Overall, almost all female clients (26746; 96.5%) took up the MH service at least once. Of these, 25165 took up an MH product and most (23346; 92.8%) clients chose reusable pads and 1819 (7.2%) chose the menstrual cup. Clients aged 20-24 years old were more likely to choose cups than reusable pads compared with those aged 16-24 years (9.4% vs 6.0%; p<0.001). Over the implementation period, 300/1819 (16.5%) of clients swapped from the menstrual cup to reusable pads and 83/23346 (0.4%) swapped from reusable pads to the menstrual cup. Integration of MH within an SRH intervention proved central to young women seeking SRH services. High uptake demonstrates how the MH service provided much-needed access to MH products, information, and support in the community. Consistent access to a choice of products was important as MH product choice and use over time varied by age and location.
Dr Tembo (PhD) is a public health specialist with a research focus on menstrual health, adolescent sexual and reproductive health service delivery, and public engagement. Currently, she is a Reckitt Global Health Institute post-doctoral fellow leading an innovative project focusing on women and menstruation across the life-course and on the co-creation of a menstrual health toolkit with women, healthcare providers, and other relevant stakeholders in rural and urban communities across Zimbabwe. She is also the public engagement lead for The Health Research Unit Zimbabwe (THRU ZIM) and is involved in several public engagement research projects across Zimbabwe including the Youth Researchers Academy (YRA) and the Art of Health. She holds a PhD (Epidemiology) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an MSc in Global Health and Development from UCL and a BA in Public Health and Women’s Gender Studies.
Dr Omoye Akhagba
Affiliation: Collegium Civitas
Mapping Menstruation Poverty in Polish Refugee Camps: Pilot Study
Menstrual poverty is on the rise among displaced women who have been forced to live outside of their home countries as a result of war and economic poverty experience even worse menstrual health conditions. In a report by UNICEF (2019), displaced women face various challenging hygienic conditions while living in the camps due to lack of adequate and accessible facilities that support menstrual hygiene for women and young girls. As reported by Concern Worldwide (2018), Syrian refugee women living in Lebanon often prioritise their demand for basic human needs such as food and shelter because they considered these issues as the means of survival while living the camps and as result, menstrual hygiene is not valued as the main issue they need at the time of stay in the host country. In addition, menstrual hygiene in these camps is often unattainable due to long lines to the toilet, no privacy to the toilet doors as they are usually without locks, and unhygienic toilet-water shortages and experienced sexual and gender-based violence. Menstrual health and hygiene management should be treated as a social -economic problem with the implication for sustainable health and environment action. This pilot study aims to find out the living conditions of refugees in the Polish camps and how they maintain their menstrual hygiene while these camps. The preliminary findings from the ongoing observation indicates the level of absolute poverty of refugee women in the camp, due to the economic standard of living and access to social facilities. Through this observation and preliminary interaction with the participants, these women are unable to maintain financial stability and often rely on the goodwill of non-governmental organisations for basic hygienic needs.
Omoye Mary Akhagba holds a doctorate degree in Sociology from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland (IFIS, PAN). Her doctoral research focused on the social and cultural aspect of cervical cancer screening among Nigerian women living in Poland. She also holds a master’s degree in media, Culture and Society from Graduate School for Social Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland. She has worked in both top advertising and public relations agencies in Nigeria before she moved to the academia where she has taught courses in advertising, marketing, public relations and media theories. She has published research articles in media studies, health communication, sociology and migration. She currently employed in Collegium Civitas as a fulltime lecturer teaching courses in sociology, marketing, advertising and public relations. She is also supervising undergraduate and postgraduate theses. She very active in several developmental and integrational projects in Poland. She enjoys cooking and taking photos of food as a way of storytelling.
Affiliation: University of St Andrews
The (Non)Menstruating Body in Medieval Jewish and Christian Texts
In this paper, I will be providing a brief introduction on menstruation in medieval Judaism and Christianity. The texts from my PhD corpus view the menstrual cycle as symbolic of the ideals of a religion and community. Medieval Jewish texts idealise the ritual of menstruation, claiming it creates a covenant with God. Christian literature focuses instead on other elements of the menstrual cycle: lactation and fertility. I will be presenting these ideas today, highlighting how medieval religious menstruation should not always be seen as something dirty or impure, but rather as something empowering.
Rosalie Bernheim is a second year PhD candidate in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews, supervised by Prof. Bettina Bildhauer and Dr. Victoria Turner. She did her undergraduate degree in English and Related Literature at the University of York, and completed her Masters in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, with a specialty in medieval French literature and language at UCL. She is currently working on her thesis, the working title being ‘(Non)Menstruating Biblical Women in High Medieval Judaism and Christianity,’ an interdisciplinary thesis that spans French, German and Spanish-speaking countries of the medieval world.
Dr Chloe MacLean
Affiliation: University of the West of Scotland
Embarrassment, Fear and Shame: The Emotional Experiences of Karate Practitioners Leaking Menstrual Blood
Whilst prominent female athletes are increasingly publicly discussing menstruation, the visibility of menstruation within everyday sporting contexts remains limited. This presentation will explore the emotions of karate practitioners in relation to leaking menstrual blood during karate sessions, moments in time where menstruation becomes visible. Data presented in this presentation is drawn from interviews with 10 female Scottish Karate practitioners aged between 18-48 years old. Findings suggest that fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and shame are central emotions that female karate practitioners experience in relation to the experience, or thought of, leaking menstrual blood. These emotions are not only felt, but are socially produced within the context of karate, and impact the ways in which women engage during karate sessions. This paper argues that these emotions are central to understand the meanings associated with menstruation, and the embodied female experience in karate.
Dr Chloe Maclean is a lecturer in sociology at the University of the West of Scotland, and the director of women and girls interests for Karate Scotland.
Affiliation: Birkbeck College
Blood Moon: Menstruation in the English Young Adult Novel
Before the 2020 publication of American author Elana K Arnold’s Red Hood and Sarah Cuthew’s England-based verse novel Blood Moon, Judy Blume’s 1971 novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was one of the only Young Adult novels to feature menstruation as a central theme. Through a close comparative reading of Arnold and Cuthew’s works, this paper argues that both fictions fulfil their feminist agenda by representing the historically silenced experience of the physicality of menses, and by depicting young females negotiating instances of the kinds of misogyny that punctuate contemporary Western culture. At the same time, the novels share an overly simplistic, binarized attitude towards male adolescents. That aspect highlights the need for the development of affirmative feminist boys studies (Driscoll, 2019). Such progress would foster more nuanced literary depictions of young males – and address both the promise and the challenges of building a more equitable world, thereby responding to some of the main motivating concerns of both Red Hood and Blood Moon.
Jemma’s ongoing Birkbeck College PhD analyses what US and English surrogacy memoirs suggest about the links between progressivism and global fertility chains. She is a secondary school English teacher and Librarian and co-runs the reproductive scholar network Broadly Conceived.
Affiliation: University of Southern Denmark
Menstruation is insistently material; a slimy red-brown-ish, perhaps lumpy, substance flowing out and creeping up on everyday life in a society expecting exactly this uncontrollable material to be controlled. Menstrual products absorbing and collecting menstrual blood are used to this end, thus deeply entangled with what means to be menstruating. Informed by new materialism, this research conceptualizes menstruation as ‘body-blood-product’ entanglements, or what I theorize as menstrual materialities. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Denmark including in-depth interviews with 15 women, this research asks what the menstrual materialities facing women are like and how these shape menstrual experiences and bodily understandings.
Signe Banke is a PhD student in the research group ‘Consumption, Culture and Commerce’ at the Department of Business and Management at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. She holds a master’s degree from the same university in Market Anthropology and her research is ethnographic in nature. Materiality is a key research interest of hers and previous research projects includes the study of home-making in US dormitories, self-tracking practices, COVID-19 festival spaces, and uses of the menstrual cup. Her PhD research ‘Menstrual Materialities’ focuses on the materiality of various menstrual products, blood and bodies in a Danish context.
Affiliation: Royal Holloway, University of London
At a time where menstrual scholarship is increasing in scope, volume, and geography, this is an opportunity to think about how this research is being done. Taking stock of existing work, I propose a menstrual methodologies agenda that is multiple, creative, and underpinned by justice, to reflect the vibrancy of our field. This presentation specifically focuses on embodied methods as one essential tenet to this agenda, in line with wider efforts that centre the body as a material site of analysis. I explore how the body becomes an instrument for data collection (or data creation) through personal research experiences using auto-ethnography and zine-making.
Jasmine Joanes is a PhD researcher based in the Geography department at Royal Holloway University of London, with interests in feminist and political geographies. Her current project investigates the ways in which menstrual justice is understood, practised and imagined by different stakeholders across the UK. She also volunteers for the Black Women’s Reproductive Health project.
Dr Melanie Channon
Affiliation: University of Bath
The Criminalization of Chhaupadi in Nepal
Following multiple deaths, enforcing chhaupadi (a menstrual restriction involving sleeping away from home, often alone, in poor conditions) was criminalized in 2018. Few convictions have been made and the effectiveness of this ban is unclear, with few quantitative studies undertaken. We collected survey data in 2019 from 400 girls aged 14-19 in Dailekh, Karnali province. 77% of girls reported practicing chhaupadi. They said that this practice impacted their mental health, inducing fear, stress and anxiety. 60% of respondents knew that chhaupadi was illegal, but knowledge of the law did not reduce the practice. Chhaupadi was not associated with missing school or work; the most common reasons were pain and heavy bleeding. However, chhaupadi was associated with 80% increased odds of depression. We conclude that criminalizing chhaupadi has not been effective and alternative policy solutions should be sought. Other areas of menstrual health also need to be prioritised, especially menstrual pain.
Prof. Margaret Johnson and Prof. Marcy Karin
Affiliations: University of Baltimore & University of the District of Columbia
Menstruation at School: Comparative Law and Advocacy
This paper compares how law, public policy and advocacy in Australia, Scotland, and the United States support or change societal attitudes towards menstruation, menopause, and related conditions that deny students equal educational opportunities, and cause harassment, discrimination, and other school-based harms. This paper uses the three countries’ context to examine the legal and policy initiatives to change institutional structures, attitudes, and education regarding menstruation, menopause, and related conditions. The focus includes (i) Scotland’s new legal requirements to provide menstrual products and recent government investments in anti-stigma campaigns, public education, and other menstrual-friendly public policies; (ii) the (non)existence of federal and state requirements in the United States related to menstrual product provision, menstrual education, and antidiscrimination protections; and (iii) government initiatives and proposals in Australia to improve menstrual literacy, menstrual modifications, and protection from discrimination, harassment and bullying. By comparing the different legal theories, advocacy campaigns, and resulting laws and policy, the paper next offers a preliminary evaluation of how each reveals the possibilities and limitations of law and policy as change agents. Specifically, the paper explores the role that these laws and policies have in normalising menstruation, improving menstrual literacy, providing menstrual modifications, and decreasing discrimination, harassment and bullying on the basis of menstruation, menopause, and related conditions in educational settings.
Marcy L. Karin is the Jack & Lovell Olender Professor of Law and Director of the Legislation/Civil Rights Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Through the clinic, she trains legislative lawyers and advances systemic reform projects for non-profits that are working to improve access to civil rights. Professor Karin also teaches Employment Law, Employment Discrimination, Gender/Sexual Orientation Under the Law, Administrative Law, Disability Law, Introduction to Clinical Pedagogy, and Service Learning. Her scholarship focuses on menstrual dignity, legislative lawyering pedagogy, and workplace protections for menstruators, breastfeeding workers, domestic violence survivors, people with disabilities, and the military community. She has a LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center, a JD from Stanford Law School and a BA from American University. This year, she is serving as the 2023 Fulbright-Scotland Distinguished Scholar at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities to work on a project entitled “Menstrual Justice at Work and School: Public Policy Lessons from Scotland’s Period Products Law.”
Margaret E. Johnson is a Professor of Law and Co-Director, Center on Applied Feminism at The University of Baltimore School of Law in the United States and a 2023 Fulbright Scholar (funded by UTS), University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Professor Johnson’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of menstruation, law, and policy, including the articles Menstrual Justice, Title IX and Menstruation (with Profs. Crawford and Waldman), and Menstrual Dignity and the Bar Exam (with Profs. Karin and Cooper). She has participated in advocacy campaigns for period product provision in schools, jails, and prisons in Maryland; for better policies for menstruating standardized test takers as co-founder of MP and the Bar (with Prof. Karin); for federal education law to protect against discrimination based on menstruation and menopause; and for laws and policies to support and stop discrimination against menstruators in workplaces, schools, and housing, and to improve school curricula relating to menstruation in Australia. She is on the expert panel for Our Bodies Ourselves Today, Menstruation to Menopause vertical. Professor Johnson has received several awards for her scholarship, teaching, and service, including being named one of the Top 25 Women Professors in Maryland and receiving the USM Board of Regents’ Faculty Award for Public Service. Johnson is a graduate of Wisconsin Law School, cum laude, and Dartmouth College.
Conceptual, Multidisciplinary, Performance Artist and Writer
Jay Critchley’s visual, conceptual and performance work and environmental activism have traversed the globe, showing and/or performing in Argentina, Japan, England, Holland, Germany, Columbia and the United States. He was featured in the LOGO channel’s “Ptown Diaries”, and interviewed by BBC/UK. His solo exhibition at Freight + Volume Gallery in Chelsea, New York City received exciting reviews from the New York Times, The New Yorker and the Village Voice.
A longtime Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA resident, he utilizes the town, landscape, harbor, beaches and dunes as his medium. He founded the patriotic Old Glory Condom Corporation, which won a controversial three-year legal battle for its US Trademark. He produced, wrote and directed several movies and documentaries, including: Toilet Treatments, HBO Audience Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival; The Beige Motel project involved encrusting a 1955 iconic, roadside motel in sand – “an A-frame with wings” before it was demolished.