Establishing the Network
This project established a UK-wide Menstruation Research Network, bringing together experts from sciences and humanities, NGOs, the arts, activists and campaigners, industry, and the NHS in order to unify knowledge about the many medical, political, economic, psychological and cultural issues related to menstruation.
Our project was launched as the Scottish government rolled out its ‘End Period Poverty’ scheme, the medical community acknowledged menstruation as a ‘fifth vital sign’, and activists called for more environmentally friendly, inexpensive and positive menstrual products and culture.
Through free conferences open to all, the Menstruation Research Network continues to empower professionals, activists and academics to gain an overview over the state of the field, explore knowledge and cultural representation, set research agendas together, and plan future interdisciplinary collaborative work.
The initial work of the MRN UK was supported by a Wellcome Trust Small Network Grant (2018 – 2020).
Professor Bettina Bildhauer
Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews (UK)
Bettina is the lead researcher on the RSE Ending Period Poverty project, looking into the gendered conceptions of bodies underlying the current campaign. She has researched medical, artistic and social views of menstruation in the Middle Ages and has published on this at length in her monograph Medieval Blood (2006/2009), in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (2013) in Menstruation: A Cultural History (ed. Andrew Shail and Gillian Howie, 2005) and elsewhere. Her core argument is that menstruation was often seen as polluting and uncontrollable, marking women’s bodies and identities as less coherent and integral than men’s. She also works on modern conceptions of the Middle Ages (especially on film), and on material things in medieval literature. Her research has won the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2009 and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prize in 2020.
Dr Lara Owen
Lara has been writing and researching on menstruation for over 25 years, studying women’s lived experience in a range of contexts. An early advocate for destigmatised reframing of the menstrual cycle, she is the author of Her Blood is Gold (1993, 2008).
Lara has worked in the non-profit sector and for universities and major international institutions as a consultant and researcher on menstruation, menopause, and women’s health and rights more broadly. Her PhD (Monash Business School) explored the uptake of the menstrual cup and the menstrual workplace policy from a feminist socioeconomic perspective.
She has been a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews investigating menstrual stigma and sustainability, and her research has been published in journals including Gender, Work and Organization, and Women’s Reproductive Health. She currently consults for a variety of organizations on menstruation in the workplace, and teaches a year-long course in Contemporary Menstrual Studies through her website.
Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews
Camilla works on the visual culture and institutional power structures of menstruation from 1970s to the present day. Her PhD is from the University of Manchester.
Camilla’s St Andrews University profile
Dr Carrie Purcell
Carrie is a medical sociologist who specialises in qualitative and mixed-method research on sexual and reproductive health and health inequalities. She is currently at the planning stages of a new qualitative study of menstruation-related stigma and menstrual equity in Scotland (2020-23). As part of a programme of abortion research on which she leads, Carrie is also PI on the Wellcome-funded Sexuality and Abortion Stigma Study (SASS, 2018-20), which is exploring the potential for qualitative secondary analysis of a range of recent abortion-related datasets to inform understanding of abortion stigma. She is current co-chair of the Interdisciplinary Research on Sexual Health Network (IReSH), and a collaborator on the My Body, My Life project Carrie’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach, with interests including menstrual health and equality; abortion and reproductive justice; stigma; gender; embodiment; and evaluation of health interventions.
View Carrie’s university profile, Google Scholar and ResearchGate pages.
Dr Liiita N. Cairney
Managing Director of Kalitasha Limited and founder of FirstPeriod.org
Dr. Liita N. Cairney is a laughter, dance, and life-loving academic and entrepreneur. Liita earned a Ph.D in International Health Policy from the University of Edinburgh, a Masters of Science in Environmental Policy, and Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Bard College in New York State, USA. Dr. Cairney was born and spent the first 18 years of her life in Namibia. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her Husband, Mark, and their son, Henrik Omepo.
Kalitasha designs and manufactures ergonomic and reusable menstrual hygiene products for girls who are just starting to menstruate, while educating them about their menstrual cycle. Using the character, Koree, the Firstperiod.org website provides educational materials that use the menstrual cycle as a framework for harnessing self-awareness and self-confidence in young women.
Dr Marisa Carnesky
Creative professional and scholar of menstrual rituals
Olivier Award winning Marisa Carnesky completed a practice-led PhD at Middlesex University on reinventing menstrual rituals through new performance practices, including the production Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman.
Designer, writer, educator and performer
Chella Quint coined the phrase ‘period positive’ in 2006 and developed the concept into a well-known campaign to improve menstrual literacy. The project began in 2005 with her print zine Adventures in Menstruating, and evolved into a 5-star Edinburgh Fringe comedy show. Her spoof fashion line, STAINS™, was featured in the highly acclaimed BLOOD exhibition at Science Gallery, Dublin. A former head of PSHE, Chella completed a Master’s Degree in Education focusing on using humour, co-design and interactive activities to improve menstruation education in schools, which formed the basis of Period Positive.
She is piloting her Period Positive charter with UK universities and city councils, has advised the Welsh Assembly, the APPG on Women’s Health, and drafted an Early Day Motion in 2019. Chella has consulted for a number of national and global organisations and brands including The Body Shop, YouTube, Google, WaterAid and the International Girlguiding Association and has just published the Period Positive Pledge as a roadmap for other organisations wishing to develop best practice in this growing field of research, charity and enterprise. She provided social and historical commentary on Radio 4’s A Bleeding Shame and Woman’s Hour, is a regular guest on BBC Radio Scotland and frequently writes for national print media. Her zines are held in a number of zine libraries, and she has a chapter Down the Pan: New Directions in the Sociology of Dirt, a monograph from the The Sociological Review.
Chella has recently joined Sheffield Hallam University Lab4Living’s 100 Year Life Project as a doctoral researcher exploring the impact of shame on product design and consumer agency.
View Chella’s website
Follow Chella on Instagram
Founder of the Social Enterprise Hey Girls
Hey Girls donates one menstrual product for each product bought with the aim of ending period poverty in the UK. Celia has been working closely with the Scottish Government and Local Authorities to advise on the roll out of free period products in schools and public buildings. Hey Girls recently launched an education programme to complement its work to increase access to products. Celia provides insight and expertise as a social enterprise founder and product manufacturer through her collaboration with the network.
Dr Bee Hughes
Academic, curator, and visual artist
Bee’s interdisciplinary work explores nonbinary approaches to menstruation, menstrual art history, materiality, and performativity. They completed their PhD ‘Performing Periods: Challenging Menstrual Normativity through Art Practice’ in 2020, and is currently Artist in Residence at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Instituted for Gender Studies & School of Art History at University of St Andrews. Bee is a Lecturer in Media, Culture & Communication at Liverpool John Moores University, and also contributes to the Education Studies programme.
Professor of Gender and Employment Studies at Heriot Watt University
Kate’s research and teaching explore the sociology of work with a particular interest in gender, and disability at work. Most recently Kate has been working on disability inclusive science careers (funded by the EPSRC), and menstruation and gynaecological health conditions and academic careers. Kate is the former chair of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK & Ireland. Kate is passionate about improving the working conditions of academics, particularly those who continue to experience marginalisation and discrimination. A member of the Heriot Watt branch of UCU, Kate is the equality officer and committee member.
Dr Tania John
Medical doctor with experience in travel medicine, occupational health and international primary care.
Tania is co-founder of Women’s Adventure Expo CIC and project lead for Managing Menstruation in Extreme Environments Project (MMiEEP) is an initiative which aims to identify and explore issues around menstruation in extreme or challenging environments around the world, looking at many different factors including types of environment, activities, stage of life, contraceptive use, cultural considerations, and practicalities in the field such as environmentally responsible waste management. The project seeks to encourage solidarity between women, promote their health and wellbeing, including participation in adventure and outdoor activities, and ultimately to produce useful, practical, evidence-based information and guidance for women and organisations.
Co-founder of The Real Period Project CIC
A UK socieal enterprise, The Real Period Project CIC, works to promote wellbeing through accessible and sustainable menstrual cycle education. She is a nurse and educator, working with young people in and out of school, parents and teachers, covering everything to do with managing periods and the menstrual cycle. Coming up in 2019 Emily will be leading a study into the effect of menstrual cycle awareness and charting on wellbeing and attitude towards menstruation in groups of teen girls in Bristol and Bath.
Dr Victoria Newton
Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University
Victoria leads the Reproduction, Sexualities and Sexual Health research group at the OU. Her research focuses on reproductive health, including contraception, abortion, menstruation and fertility. She specialises in qualitative research, and research on sensitive subjects. She has been researching menstruation for over 12 years. Her interest began when she was a postgraduate student at the University of Sheffield, studying for a MA in Folklore and Cultural Tradition. During this time Victoria gave a presentation on ‘the folklore of menstruation’ at a Sheffield postgraduate conference. This research sparked her interest and she then went on to research contemporary popular knowledge and belief about menstruation for her PhD (2011). Victoria’s PhD was funded by the AHRC and addressed ways in which lay-knowledge and everyday experience influence the social and cultural constructions of menstruation. The research was interdisciplinary, and drew its inspiration from social anthropology, popular culture and folklore studies. Victoria published this work as a monograph Everyday Discourses of Menstruation with Palgrave Macmillan in 2016.
Her later research has explored bleeding in relation to hormonal contraceptive methods. She is interested in hormonal contraception and the manipulation of bleeding, the symbolic significance of bleeding (as an indicator of non-pregnancy) and the experience of side-effects, such as irregular bleeding. Victoria’s research has had a broad focus on reproductive stigma and, within this, menstruation-related stigma.
Dr Pamela Warner
Reader in Medical Statistics at the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh
Pam’s research career began in the MRC Centre for Reproductive Biology, encompassing research on sexual health, contraception, and health conditions related to the menstrual cycle. She subsequently moved to the University of Edinburgh to set up an MSc in Epidemiology, and once there developed her own programme of research in women’s and reproductive health, in particular heavy menstrual bleeding. While Pam’s background is medical statistics, her interest in women’s health has steered her towards mixed-methods and qualitative research. Pam is a member of the FIGO international Menstrual Disorders Working Group, a Co-Director of the Centre for Families and Relationships. She has recently had great pleasure in developing, for the Institute’s online MPH programme, an interdisciplinary course titled Societies Reproduction and Health, which of course includes consideration of menstruation from the perspectives of public health, reproductive rights, and gender equality.
View Pam’s university profile
Dr Sarah Zipp
Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Science and Sport at the University of Stirling
Sarah’s research focuses on sport for social change, gender equality, international development and health education. She is currently working on two projects on menstruation in sport, menstrual health education through sport in Zambia and an evaluative study of the On the Ball campaign in UK football.
In Zambia, she is collaborating with the National Organisation for Women in Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (NOWSPAR), the Women Win Foundation and Kalitasha Ltd. to develop physical activity focused menstrual health education activities for adolescent girls. In the UK, Sarah is working with Dr Kay Standing to evaluate the impact of the grassroots On the Ball campaign for menstrual products at football stadia. Sarah has taught at universities in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States and Singapore. She earned her PhD in Development Studies at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.