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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.[1] 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."[2]

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 India, girls who experience their menstrual period for the first time are given presents and celebrations to mark this special occasion.[3]

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.[1] This shows the stigma surrounding the blood associated with menstruation. The basic concept of a tampon in itself shows the taboo of menstrual bleeding. The object is to keep menstrual periods discrete and hidden from anyone to see or encounter. Further evidence of the taboo is the slang names or nicknames that have been created to avoid even saying the word menstruation. Some of these are "Aunt Flo", "On the rag", "my flow", or even "the curse" itself. [2]

Movies and television also show a social taboo of menstruation, more specifically the 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, Veda, 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 never mentioned.[4] This shows that desire of society not to see or hear of the unpleasantness of menstruation in their movies.


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."[5]

Some feminists, such as Germaine Greer in her book The Female Eunuch, counsel women to taste their own menstrual blood. (This is, in fact, an oft-misquoting of Greer's.)[citation needed] However, this is not a widely accepted view.[citation needed]


  1. ^ L.C. Andrist et. al. (2004), " ", Contraception 70: 359-363
  2. ^ Women were considered ritually unclean.
  3. ^ Supriya, Sharon (2007-11-23). Celebrate Womanhood. OneIndia. Retrieved on 2007-12-28.
  4. ^ Arveda Kissling, Elizabeth (January 2006), " ", Sex Roles
  5. ^ Houppert, Karen (1999). The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo: Menstruation. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-374-27366-9. 

See also

  • Culture and menstruation
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Menstrual_taboo". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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