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Title: Social meanings of menstruation : a feminist investigation
Author: Laws, Sophie Katharine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3606 0804
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1985
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This thesis constitutes a preliminary investigation of the ways in which the British dominant culture deals with the phenomenon of menstruation. Its theoretical framework is a social constructionist radical feminism: an analysis of male political power which regards such domination as socially rather than biologically created. One crucial concern has been to challenge the determinism behind most existing theories about attitudes towards menstruation. In an attempt to 'triangulate* this study, data has been drawn from a number of sources: interviews with individual men; gynaecology textbooks: 'the literature', including data from research on women; and the experiences of the campaign to ban tax on sanitary wear. This research focuses particularly upon men's attitudes, since men have greater social power than women. Men's and women's views of menstruation are not only expressed in different language, but contain quite different elements, and are concerned with different issues. There exists a 'male culture', within men-only groupings where menstruation is viewed as a "sick Joke", and where it is understood in a strongly sexual way. It is argued that 'taboo' is not an appropriate way of describing the social marking of menstruation in this culture: 'etiquette' is proposed as an alternative term. It describes rules of behaviour which reinforce women's and men's different social statuses, without Implying that such rules involve any supernatural sanction. The patriarchal attitudes of gynaecologists are clearly shown in their textbooks, as they struggle for the right to define the 'normal woman'. Menstrual pain is a crucial case where female and male definitions clash: both individual men and gynaecologists display a systematic failure of empathy towards women. The development of ideas about 'premenstrual tension' (menstrual cycle mood change interpreted as an illness) and the campaign against tax on sanitary wear are contrasting cases where attempts have been made to bring issues relating to menstruation into the public eye.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman