Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

This Time With Feeling! Making the Menstrual-Reproductive Justice Connection

December 24th, 2012 by Chris Bobel

Rejection stings.

A couple weeks ago, I received  the following ‘thanks, but no’ to a  proposal I sent to a reproductive justice conference,

Dear Chris Bobel,

Thank you for submitting your proposal, “How Menstruation Matters to the Reproductive Justice Movement”…..Our staff has spent the last few months evaluating proposals and building an initial workshop list. We were inspired by the volume of quality proposals that we received. All of them helped us in the planning process.

 At this time, however, we are not accepting your proposal for the 2013 conference.


As I typically do, I immediately headed to the deep dark brooding place of self-recrimination. That’s where I go. But as I set afoot on this well-worn path to my special ugly place,  I did something I don’t usually do; I paused, lifted my head and looked around.

As I did, I wondered, if just maybe, the rejection was not the result of the deficits in my proposal, but rather, a reflection of the broken link between menstrual awareness and the broader movement for embodied autonomy.

In other words, maybe the rejection was not as much about me (and my failings) but more about the world around me, and ITS (meaning OUR)  failings as a culture to see how a certain bodily reality is part of a larger whole.  Maybe the fact that a team of progressive reproductive justice activists and scholars saying NO THANKS to an opportunity to make the essential linkages between the menstrual cycle across the lifespan and reproductive justice is an indication that WE still have SO MUCH WORK TO DO to help people see this crucial connection.

I know I am not alone in feeling like the spotted elephant on the Island of Misfit Toys (seasonal reference: DONE!). Sister menstrual warrior Laura Wershler recently wrote the following when I this blog post-in-progress:

Caring about menstruation and the menstrual cycle makes me almost a freak in the pro-choice world. I get ignored or criticized a lot because people don’t want to ask or answer some of the questions I keep trying to pose about choice around non-hormonal contraceptive methods. 

So what’s a freak to do? We could stamp our feet and curse those who don’t see what’s pretty obvious to us, but that won’t raise the awareness.

This is on us.

Yes. Rejection stings, but maybe this time, I can take something away far more productive than the usual self-flagellation. Maybe this time, I can take it in as a clarion call, a motivation for a deeper commitment to help others make the menstrual connection, to, spread the #menstruationmatters message (thanks again Laura Wershler).

This means more conference proposals (and a thicker skin for more rejections). More writing. More blogging. More teaching. More radio interviews. More everything.

Who’s with me?


7 responses to “This Time With Feeling! Making the Menstrual-Reproductive Justice Connection”

  1. janeen says:

    i’m with you. thank you for the important work you are doing. i’m reading new blood right now and really enjoying it.

  2. Chris Bobel says:

    Thanks Janeen! Onward!

  3. And I feel that we must take it one step beyond women’s reproductive justice and the menstrual cycle to ovulation. Why does that have to do with justice?
    For several reasons:
    1) Regular cycles are sometimes or commonly without ovulation.
    2) Whenever a seeminly normal menstrual cycle occurs without ovulation estrogen’s powerful growth promoting effects is not counterbalanced by progesterone’s cell maturing effects–only this balance leads to good health.
    3) Those of us who are under stress may have regular cycles but silently don’t ovulate. What causes women stress? Sexual, physical or sociocultural abuse or undernutrition (especially when it is associated with psychosocial stressors). So the poor and downtrodden of us end up having lifelong health risks.
    4) Those who have frequent or recurrent anovulation may end up not being able to have children.
    5) Those with recurrent anovulation may end up with early broken bones–premenopausal women with the most disturbed ovulation within regular menstrual cycles lose about 1% of their spine bone density a year–a recipe for weak bones when we are older.
    6) Increasing evidence says that women’s risks for heart disease and breast cancer are also increased when they do not consistently ovulate.

    Thus reproductive justice requires open acceptance of menstrual cycles as normal and natural but also necessitates attention to ovulation. At present there are no easy and inexpensive ways to know about your own ovulation except to keep your first morning temperature and analyze our data

  4. Laura Wershler says:

    Great point about the importance of ovulation within our knowledge and awareness of the menstrual cycle. I think the answer to helping women know if the are ovulating is staring us in the face. What could be easier and less expensive, after an investment of a few months’ time and money to learn how to chart your menstrua cycles, than tracking morning temps and other signs of ovulation? It’s a life skill, that once learned becomes second nature. IMO, learning to chart our menstrual cycles is as critical to our health and well-being as learning to swim. Once learned, like riding a bicycle, it is never forgotten.

    If every 13 year-old girl received a copy of Toni Weschler’s book Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of her Body, we’d have a generation of women forthwith with the knowledge to confirm ovulation. The good that could come of this for women’s health is hard to comprehend.

  5. Chris Bobel says:

    Thanks for reminding us all to NOT neglect ovulation in these discussions and interventions, Jerilynn.

  6. Laura Wershler says:

    Chris, I linked to and quoted myself from your post in my latest post – my perspective on how hard it is to help people see the menstrual connection. And how frustrating it is to sometimes, often, feel that you’re on the outside looking in:

  7. Chris Bobel says:

    so glad you did, Laura!

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.