When I teach a course called “Gender, Bodies, and Health,” designed to explore topics that include everything from pregnancy and domestic violence to orgasm and food politics, nothing provokes more disgust, hostility, and discomfort than the week on menstruation. Male students have left the class on the first day when I merely mention that we will study menstruation in the second week; women often gaze uncomfort- ably down at the syllabus and have later characterized menstruation as a topic they do not discuss. Certainly, the panics that surround men- struation have long rendered the menstruating body shameful, taboo, silent, and even pathological. From the historic separation of women’s menstruating bodies into “menstrual huts” (Guterman, Mehta, and Gibbs 2008) to the pervasive insistence upon the (pre)menstruating body as disordered (for example, PMDD, accusations of women “on the rag” when they express anger, etc.), women have had to confront their internalized body shame and cultural expectations for the absence of menstruation for some time.
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