Menstrual suppression

Menstrual taboo

Menstrual taboo is the taboo pertaining to menstruation. It stems from menstruation being perceived as "unhygienic", "dirty", and "improper." The menstrual taboo extends to avoiding the mention of menstruation both in public (in the media and advertising) and in private (amongst friends, in the household, and with men).

With the recent FDA approval of menstrual suppression medications, researchers have begun to shift their focus to the attitudes of women toward their periods. One study in particular found that of the women they surveyed, 59% of them reported an interest in not menstruating every month. Of these women, 1/3 said they were interested in not menstruating at all anymore. Results indicate that the symbolism or meaning of menstruation to women has shifted. Women see their menstruation as a burden and an inconvenience. However, the attitudes of women towards their menstruation can be attributed to the values that the society they live in hold for a women's menstrual cycle. Different cultures and religions view menstruation in both positive and negative lights.

Cultural implications

In the Bible, in the fifteenth chapter of Leviticus, verses nineteen through thirty describe how a menstruating woman is to be regarded as ritually unclean. The taboo is so great that not only the woman herself suffers uncleanness, but even "anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening" (New International Version). Some scholars believe that the Christian teachings of this Taboo has fueled the prohibition of women as priests in the Catholic Church. They cite that church law has maintained this prohibition due to "ritual uncleanness.

Other religions such as Hinduism also view menstruation in a negative light. In the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. Raphael, Melissa, "Menstruation" November 22, 2007. . She must be "purified" before she is allowed to return to her family.

On the other side of the issue, some cultures continue to view menstruation, especially first menstruation or menarche, as a positive aspect of a girl's life. In South India, girls who experience their menstrual period for the first time are given presents and celebrations to mark this special occasion.

In advertising

One common way that even sanitary-product advertising avoids mentioning menstruation is by pouring a blue liquid on the sanitary item to demonstrate its absorptiveness. This shows the stigma surrounding the blood associated with menstruation. The invention of the tampon in may have been inspired by the taboo, as tampons are more "discreet." Further evidence of the taboo is the creation of a variety of euphemisms for menstruation, including "Aunt Flo", "on the rag" (vulgar), "my friend", or even "the curse."

Movies and television also reflect the taboo nature of menstruation. Typically menstruation as a topic is avoided, except for scenes involving menarche or "first period." For example, as Elizabeth Arveda Kissling explains in her article, "On the Rag on Screen: Menarche in Film and Television," the early 1990s movie, My Girl contains a scene where the main character, Vada, experiences her first period. The explanation given to her by a female role model of what is happening to her is done off camera and the subject is never mentioned again. This shows that desire of society not to see or hear of the unpleasantness of menstruation in their movies. Also in one of the few films where menstruation is shown on screen (in Carrie) it seems to re-inforce the taboo of menstruation being somehow wrong by having Carrie's first period become the starting point for her telekinisis which then leads to murder.


Overcoming this menstrual taboo is a point of contention amongst feminists. The primary argument behind this movement is that if menstruation is normal, there is no reason why the topic should be avoided: "After a while it becomes psychologically disorienting for women to look out at a world where their reality doesn't exist.

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