Academics to Establish 'Critical Menstrual Studies'

Will publish first-ever scholarly handbook devoted to the consideration of menstruation

Protesters march during the Women's March on Washington
Protesters during the Women's March on Washington / Getty
December 16, 2017

Academics intend to establish the field of "critical menstrual studies" with the upcoming publication of the first-ever scholarly handbook devoted to the consideration of menstruation.

The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstrual Studies, slated for publication in 2020, will be "animated by the central question: what new lines of inquiry, including research questions and social justice engagements, are possible when we center our attention on menstrual health and politics across the lifespan?" according to the book proposal.

The handbook will establish "'critical menstrual studies' as a coherent and multi­dimensional transdisciplinary subject of inquiry and advocacy, one that enables an exciting epistemological clarity and potential," the book proposal goes on. "Attention to menstrual issues across the lifespan surfaces broader societal issues and tensions, including gender inequality, practices and discourses of embodiment, processes of radicalization and commodification, and emergent technologies as read through various disciplines and inter disciplines."

Handbook editor Christina Bobel—associate professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research—said she began the project with Sharra Vostral, a history professor at Purdue University, whom Bobel credited with coining the name for the new subfield.

"I have been working on these issues since at least 2003 and I've been watching quite an evolution in thinking and practice," said Bobel, but she believes menstruation-shaming remains part of mainstream culture.

"We have a long way to go," she said. "In spite of increasing media attention to menstrual issues, menstrual stigma is powerful and enduring. If we treated bodily functions like menstruation as regular then we, our work would be done. But we don't—we shame, silence, judge, contain, control, and so on."

Bobel hopes the handbook will point a way forward for increased research and "evidence-based policy and programming."

The publication will have six sections, namely, Menstruation as Narrative, Menstruation as Structural, Menstruation as Embodied, Menstruation as Material, and Menstruation as Fundamental.

Each section is expected to have six to eight chapters, with topics including "queering menstruation," "menstrual suppression," "menstrual art," "FemCare advertising," and "menstrual leave."

"There will be other pieces—some creative writing and images and what we are calling transnational dialogues on key topics," said Bobel, adding that the book is still very much in progress.

Bobel estimated that the team has already received 100 submissions.

The handbook's team of associate editors includes Tomi-Ann Roberts, a professor of psychology at Colorado College who is among the women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct; and Breanne Fahs, an Arizona State University professor of women and gender studies, who has offered extra credit to female students who ceased to shave their underarms and legs for 10 weeks and points to the male students who shaved everything from the neck down.

Palgrave handbooks are "high-quality, original reference works that bring together specially-commissioned chapters, cutting-edge research, and the latest review articles in their fields," according to the website. The collection covers topics in economics and finance, social sciences, and the humanities.

Published under: College Campuses , Women