Recent news stories have suggested that a woman’s menstrual cycle may compromise or place restrictions on job duties, specifically those related to the military.
At the core of these conversations is not really whether a menstruating woman should or should not be on the frontlines or that they are less suited for combat. What is really being discussed is whether the capabilities of women are limited due to menstruation.
Today, discussions (and in some cases discrimination) around the menstruating body poses a challenge for women working in what some call a “non-traditional” occupation. Our Military Diva shared about these challenges on our Diva Blog affirming what we already know to be true, the menstrual cycle is still seen as a taboo topic.
Although we’ve come a long way from the misleading menstrual claims of age old medical textbooks, the question needs to be asked: “Why is menstruation still being used as an excuse to prevent women from advancing in their field of choice?”
One answer may be that regardless of how accepting menstrual talk is today, discussion about menstruation is heavily influenced by historical and cultural moments. And when we skim over the history of menstrual talk what we find can be quite discouraging.
Here is a brief look at what was once said about the menstrual cycle:
- Ancient philosophers warned of the damaging effects of menstrual flow, the dangers of the “wandering womb”; and often cited menstruation as a sign of reproductive failure. (1,2,4)
- In the late 1800s, texts of medical professionals carried forward this ancient menstrual talk, convincing women (and society as a whole) that menstruating women were not biologically capable of accomplishing much outside of the home. Specific exercises were even prescribed to young girls when they first started their menses to ensure ultimate health for child-bearing. (2, 6)
- Up until the mid-1920s the “mental strain” of education was said to weaken a woman’s reproductive capabilities and women who worked outside the home were said to disrupt the natural rhythm of the menstrual cycle, leading to reproductive challenges. (2, 3)
- And let’s not forget the 1950s Lysol ads that advocated women use this popular furniture cleaner as a vaginal douche! (5)
This is a fair bit of negative menstrual talk for us to work through!
As a woman, I will be the first to agree that having your period is not always a walk in the park. But, what I am capable of accomplishing while menstruating has little to do with my period and more to do with who I am as a person. From what history has shown us, women have and will continue to accomplish many great things, regardless of whether or not they are menstruating.
Of course, I cannot ignore the obvious “hassles” of period care. But, since switching to The DivaCup, the hassle of product changes, disposal and storage are no longer an issue.
For some women, the menstrual cycle can pose some unfortunate symptoms – extreme cramping, heavy flow, mood changes etc. – which may be limiting. However, just as we’ve come a long way in how we care for our periods, there are ways (healthy ways even) to manage such symptoms.
Military Diva, Stephanie Mckee
Many of the news stories surrounding the recent dismissal of those who’ve questioned whether women should be “dealing” with their periods while in combat raise some important issues that need to be addressed. If we take a closer look at the broader concern, it may be that the commentary is not suggesting that women not serve in the military, but more so that the process of caring for one’s cycle can be problematic.
And sometimes the process can be.
What many women don’t yet know is that The DivaCup offers a better way to care for your period. Because The DivaCup offers 12 hours of leak-free protection, women can work long hours without fear of leaking, whether on the frontlines, in the office, on campus or at home with the kids. Add to this, the reusable feature of The DivaCup and you no longer have to worry about disposal, environmental effects or whether or not you grabbed extra product for the day’s events.
Over the past 10 years, the Diva Team has learned that changing the way our society views menstruation and period care takes time. Although we may not like to read stories that question a woman’s capability while menstruating, viewing these moments as opportunities to educate the public about the truth of the matter and offering solutions to “dealing” with one’s period, can have lasting effects for women and society as a whole.
Help us debunk the menstrual myths of the past by sharing your insight with the Diva Community today, as well as with the women (and men) all around you!
Want to learn more about the history of menstrual talk? There resources will provide you with years of menstrual culture history!
1. Dean Jones, L. (1994). Women’s Bodies in Classical Greek Science. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
2. Delaney, J., Lupton, M.J., & Toth, E. (1976). The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation. New York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.
3. Meyer. M. L. (2005). Thicker Than Water: The Origins of Blood as Symbol and Ritual. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group.
4. Stein, E., & Kim, S. (2009). Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
5. Tone, A. (2001). Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.
6. Vertinsky, P. (1988). “Of No Use Without Health”: Late Nineteenth Century Medical Prescriptions for Female Exercise Through the Life Span. Women & Health, 14(1), 89-115.