the negative legacy left behind by some cultures and those in power who influence us daily. Menstruation, and the stigma surrounding it, has an endless list of influences, however, the most obvious contribution comes directly from culture. As a young, white woman with many systemic and social advantages, I still can identify negative attitudes that are shockingly common in westernised society. We understand significant first world leaders hold no regard for the menstrual cycle and contribute to the stigma surrounding it.
Donald Trump’s famous 2017 quote, “blood coming out of her wherever,” reflects his belief that this disrupts major businesses being run by women. Through this, we can determine the cultural taboos and biological misconceptions about female menstruation are well and truly evident (Brink, S., August 11, 2015.) Yes, it wasn’t long after my twelth birthday I realised there isn’t one part of the world that does not find one way to make women feel inferior, dirty, impure or dangerous because of their monthly cycle.
Through this content analysis, I attempted to understand the stigma and taboo regarding menstruation. When participating in a content analysis of online articles or countries’ relationships with menstruation e.g. Ethiopia or India, we discover that places like Burundi, Sierra Leone or Nigeria place a large stigma surrounding periods, and the impact culture has on this. A young girl reported to PLAN that she is so afraid to tell her mother about her period, in case she “laughs” at her, and it was often reported that taking a bath near any kind of utensils in the house is strictly prohibited, as drops of blood could kill family members (Plan International, 2019).
This secondary research can directly be supported by this quote extracted from my primary research utilizing interviews. “Even though I’ve lived in two countries, the difference in culture regarding menstruation is not much different. Periods are still surrounded by stigma and it’s hard being a woman no matter where you go· When I stayed in a hostel which was owned by an Indian family, they told me a whole list of rules I had to follow to stay there. It was cheap but restrictive and degrading. All of them involving things I had to do or couldn’t do on my period.” From these quotes, we can create a distinct connection between the secondary and primary research and this enables us to gain a deeper understanding of how culture impacts stigma surrounding menstruation and this connects to the overall treatment of women. After analysing the secondary data (S, Gard, N, Sharma and S, Ragini, 2001), we understand that the article goes into detail about the treatment of women while menstruating in the “slums” of Delhi, India. The article attempts to “Understand the experience of menstruation in the socio-cultural context of an urban Indian slum.” We can distinguish connections between the secondary data and primary data presented. This shows us that despite differences in location, the similarities are all there and that women in developing countries are still having the same experiences as those living in first world countries.
A respondent from my questionnaire had placed a strong, (cultural) view forward as they stated, “Although sometimes the treatment of women is a bit, like, on steroids and taken overboard, I think it’s important traditions are followed and the peace is kept between the ancestors· I think that’s why so many men refuse to conform to this new world.” ( This accelerates the cultural vision on the topic, this stimulates the idea that not only is the stigma around menstruation ethically wrong and ruining lives. But this behaviour also exploits the foundation of culture and is perpetuated by those who are passionate and strong believers of a particular custom or tradition.
Hence, the purpose of this chapter is to investigate the underlying perception of menstruation by utilising a cross-cultural feature, to further understand where and how misogynistic attitudes are accepted in the 21st century by particular cultures and how this is a representation of the misogynistic attitudes.
What is the role of socialisation agents in people’s beliefs surrounding menstruation?
Socialisation has been a catalyst to influence the way an individual thinks and acts as well ultimately, their beliefs. Throughout time different agents of socialisation have become more prominent and thus more likely to influence individuals all throughout society. Therefore, it is evident that socialisation agents have a significant impact on the beliefs of people regarding menstruation. This could create both positive and negative perceptions of menstruation and women in general. Through extensive research conducted, it is evident that gender and culture are the main socialisation agents which impact an individual’s beliefs about menstruation.
This quote extracted from a respondent using the primary research method focus group directly answers the underlying question of the thesis, “What does menstruation have to do with men anyway?” The respondent stated, “Women and their periods are no one’s business· I mind my business and my daughters do what they need to do to, you know, be a woman.” A quote taken from secondary research “Recent analyses of menstrual distress have emphasized sociocultural influences. Yet beliefs and attitudes of men an important socialization force in the lives of women have received little attention.” These two extracts tie in together in order to support the same underlying belief, although men have no firsthand experience in menstruation, their beliefs and attitudes regarding periods influence the remaining perceptions of menstruations and women in general internationally.
Due to personal experience, women have a greater understanding and sense of empathy regarding menstruation. Through the research method of personal reflection it became evident that there is a significant stigma regarding menstruation which is perpetuating gender stereotypes. As a teenager, I have been exposed to first hand negative attitudes towards menstruation and this has ultimately left the impression that I should be ashamed and embarrassed. This was supported by Richards (2019) who stated that “teenage boys view girls as moody or smelly during their periods, and in general, they want to avoid them.” (Richards, 2019. Lecturer in Applied Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University.) Through this quote we are able to extract the main idea that floats around youth which is that periods are nasty and change women in such a dramatic way that they must be avoided. What does youth have anything to do with this? Youth are often exposed to certain attitudes and characteristics which they will eventually exhibit, which leads us to understanding that family is one of our biggest influences throughout life, especially in your childhood where you’re unable to form opinions by oneself. After participating in a range of interviews, it became clear that life experience and gender in general had a major factor on overall beliefs and attitudes about menstruation. “So although men do not menstruate, writers have argued that their views on menstruation are important given their ability to directly influence women’s and girls’ attitudes in their roles as fathers, brothers, partners and friends” (T, Peranovic, 2015). This quote directly regards my own personal beliefs and answers the ultimate question, “Why does it matter what men think?”
Two quotes have been carefully selected in order to exemplify how misogynistic attitudes have been rooted throughout society since the “beginning of time.”
“‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.” (Leviticus 15:19).
“‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.” (Holy Bible, New International Version, 2011) (Levitivus 15:19).
Sure, the bible is believed to be full of valuable truths, however it has been written through a stained patriarcal lense which has impacted the treatment of women for millennia. Through the deliverance of the image that is being portrayed in thousands of biblical passages of men constantly having positions of power, we understand just how this has echoed throughout society. If power and authority had been more equal throughout the sexes in the bible, equality would be reached, disrupting the dominating male stereotype. From this, I begin to understand the relationship between continuity and change and the link between past, present and the future.
“When I first went to the doctors to buy the contraceptive pill for my heavy cramps; I was swarmed by a group of pro-life believers. With their Christian shirts and blessing from god to be delivered to me, I realised that religion was poison and I would NEVER take part in it.” This quote that will be used in order to support the fact that religion is a major factor of socialisation that has contributed to the normalisation of misogynistic attitudes in society. From these quotes, we are able to see a distinct connection between the bible, its believers and how women play a role in becoming victim to the radical perspectives.
The media is full of ideas that educate us, influence our deepest beliefs and attitudes, whether that be negatively or positively. The media is accessible almost worldwide, its influence spreads to a macro level as we can share our thoughts with the world in a simple press of a button. However, social media is a place that often erupts with rancorous debate at the sight or sound of some sort of human rights issue. You guessed it, menstruation is mentioned ordinarily throughout the media, just like any other topic that people believe is open to discussion and requires their opinion. Period talk is tempting clickbait. Of course, there are some of us who are sincere when we say that gender equality is a major interest to us and how we are genuinely unsure of just how the media is influencing the feminist cause – whether it is hindering it or supporting it. Feminism is an ideology with the belief that the sexes can reach a state of equality in all sectors of life; political, social and economic. The media has continually reshaped feminism in to what it wants it to be, another man-hating ideology by man-hating women.
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