Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Taking the Period Public: Weekend Links @re_Cycling_SMCR

October 31st, 2015 by David Linton
It seems that woman have had to hide their periods forever, as this image from the ancient Biblical story of Rachel and her father, Laban, suggests. But a band of feisty women have decided to come out of the menstrual tent to protest the secrecy surrounding the chemical content of menstrual products.

It seems that woman have had to hide their periods forever, as this image from the ancient Biblical story of Rachel and her father, Laban, suggests. But a band of feisty women have decided to come out of the menstrual tent to protest the secrecy surrounding the chemical content of menstrual products.

It looks like menstrual activism is springing up all over the continent. We at re: Cycling launched an exploration of social and political menstrual activism at the beginning of October, just weeks before Cosmopolitan magazine noted 2015 as “The Year the Period Went Public,” devoting 12 full pages to the topic in the November issue available on newstands now. Several articles from this issue, plus others covering a broad range of topics, were posted on the Cosmopolitan website in mid-October under the headline Your Guide to the Modern Period:

Why the Hell are Periods Still Taxed?

What It’s Like to Get Your Period When You’re Homeless

8 Life-Changing Ways to Stop Your Period Pain

Everything You Need to Know About Your Menstrual Flow

The 8 Greatest Menstrual Moments of 2015

What Guys Really Think About Your Period

Answers to Your Most Important Menstruation Questions, Period

8 Fixes for Your Worst Period Problems

Does Your Period Have to Be This Bad?

Donate Now to Help Every Woman Have an Easier Period

And a group of activists has taken up the cause that the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research has been promoting for several years: holding the makers of menstrual management products responsible for publicly posting the chemicals and other agents used in their tampons and pads. The story was reported in the Oct. 26, 2015 online edition of The New York Times.

Though other aspects of women’s reproductive lives are under attack, including access to contraceptives and abortion rights, it looks like there’s progress on the menstrual front.

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

Period Politics – Call or Write to Your Member of Congress!

October 15th, 2015 by David Linton

Though getting anything through Congress these days is a daunting task, there is a piece of legislation that is of special interest to anyone concerned about women’s health.  It’s a bill called The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (H.R. 1708),and it directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine through research whether feminine hygiene products that contain dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other chemical additives like chlorine, colorants and fragrances, pose health risks. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is the author of the bill which now has an additional six co-sponsors in Congress.

Unlike other political issues that involve women’s reproductive rights such as contraception or access to abortion, this initiative is relatively free of controversial elements (aside from the fact that it does require governmental regulation and testing, a factor that some extreme “anti-government” politicians oppose regardless of the value or intention).  And the fact that the bill does not address the contentious issues might make it appealing to elected officials seeking to counter the impression that they are generally “anti-women” when it comes to making policy.  In other words (though this might not be the best way to phrase it when writing to them), this is a chance for elected representatives to do something good for the vagina.

In addition to advocating for the legislative action, Maloney and her co-sponsors have taken the initiative of writing directly to Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) urging the agency to take the lead on the recommended research.

The press release from Congresswoman Maloney’s office spells out the details of the issue, the letter to the NIH, and  the names of its co-sponsors.  Readers who live in the districts of these individuals are encouraged to thank them for their support.  Others are urged to contact representatives in their home districts asking them to become co-sponsors and to vote in favor of it in committee and when (or if) it comes to the floor for a vote.

Here’s how to find the contact information for all member of the US Congress by zip code, probably the easiest way to find out who they are and the configuration of their districts:

It is noteworthy that the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR) is identified as a supporter of the effort along with the Annie Appleseed Project, Liberty Feminine Care, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, NaturallySavvy, Red Web Foundation, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.  Readers are invited to share this post with others and to get additional organizations involved in the effort.  

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

De-Tox and De-Tax the Period

October 9th, 2015 by David Linton

Although the social status and understanding of the menstrual cycle has (at least among industrialized and relatively better educated societies) improved slowly but perceptibly over the past 50 years, there are still many ways that menstruation is still stigmatized and used as a way to diminish women. Period jokes, PMS slurs, and even jibes at women’s capacity to hold political office or conduct political debates abound. For these reasons the SMCR has often broadened the scope of its efforts beyond the realm of “research” stated in the organization’s name to include artistic endeavors as well as political and social activism.

Social activism includes a variety of campaigns such as provision of menstrual management products to homeless and incarcerated women or raising awareness of the environmental impact of disposable products. In the area of political action there are two separate initiatives currently in the works. In order to highlight the relationship between the two efforts in conjunction with Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28) 2015, I coined the slogan De-Tox & De-Tax The Period.

The De-Tox part of the two-pronged campaign focuses on a piece of legislation that has been introduced into the U.S. Congress by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, H.R. 1708: Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act of 2015. The aim of the bill is to require the regulation and testing of the content and manufacture of menstrual management products. A separate blog post later this month will spell out the details of the bill and suggest ways of advocating on its behalf.

The De-Tax aspect of the political effort concerns the levying of sales taxes on the purchase of tampons, pads, and other similar products. In the U.S. this is a difficult topic to mobilize around since sales tax policies vary widely as they are levied under state, city or other municipal authorities. Currently only five states have exempted menstrual products from sales taxes: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, and Massachusetts. See this Fusion post for complete state-by-state details.

In some other countries where sales taxes are nation-wide mandates, organizing against them is easier. For instance, a drive in Canada was successful in garnering wide support and led to the repeal of the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) on all menstrual products as of July 1st, 2015. Similarly, activists in Australia have succeeded in raising a nation-wide drive to mobilize support for the elimination of menstrual product taxation.

Simply put, this is a discriminatory, gender-based tax that is paid almost exclusively by women.

In New York City there is a move in the City Council to address the problem; however, the NYC budget structure is linked to the state legislature’s approval so the drive faces numerous bureaucratic and procedural roadblocks. A separate item dealing with this topic will be posted later in the month.

For now, the first step toward bringing about change is to ascertain what the tax practice is in any particular setting and, where anti-women menstrual taxes exist, to educate both elected officials and the general public about them. Even for those individuals who can easily afford the extra fee on their monthly purchases, the issue has symbolic significance that warrants attention. It’s taxing enough just to cope with the social demands placed upon women. It’s time to eliminate the additional fee.

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

Menarche on Degrassi: The Next Generation – Emma’s Dilemma

September 30th, 2015 by David Linton

Emma and Manny from Degrassi: The Next Generation

Menarche month began at re: Cycling with reference to the brilliant first period talk Roseanne gave her daughter Darlene in a 1989 episode of Roseanne. We’ve chosen to end it with another TV reference from the beloved Canadian series of series named for the fictional street near which it is set–Degrassi. 

The word “menarche” is commonly defined with reference to the biological changes that occur within a female’s reproductive system at the point when the menstrual cycle begins to function. However, the onset of menstruation is also a social occurrence that has been layered with significance in every culture and time. In contemporary societies with “advanced” media of communication, menarche has been depicted in a wide variety of ways, sometimes reflecting prevailing taboos and superstitions, and at others in ways that are informative or even liberating. The focus is often on what I have labeled “menstrual transactions,” that is, the way interactions with other individuals, frequently boys or men, structure the meaning of menstruation for both the girl and others in her surroundings. This post explores one example of how this transitional moment in a girl’s life has been represented in a broadcast television series.


Emma’s Dilemma

One of the most positive and explicit portrayals of a girl’s first period appeared in the popular Canadian series directed at a young audience, DeGrassi: The Next Generation. Emma, the main character in the series, a girl known for her activism and responsible behavior, gets her period while sitting outside of school talking to her best friend. She is wearing a light-colored skirt and in several shots a bright red stain is visible on the back. On this particular day Emma and her friend, Manny, are scheduled to give an oral book report in front of their class and the only thing they can find for Emma to wear is a pair of gym shorts that are much too large for her. As they give the report, two young boys sitting in the front row tease her for her baggy shorts asking, “Has Emma peed her pants?”  She silences and stuns them by frankly responding, “No, I just got my period, for the first time.” They shrink in their seats. However, a somewhat more mature boy sitting in the back of the room, one who Emma has a flirtation with, is aroused from his torpor to a state of interest and appreciation for her courage as well as her implicit sexuality.

The DeGrassi clip demonstrates a rich variety of menstrual transactions. Emma’s close girlfriend comes to her rescue and even another girl, who is normally antagonistic toward Emma, gives her a pad and some “womanly” advice. Menstrual needs supersede social competition or status differences–a classic case of menstrual bonding. Perhaps most interesting is the behavior of the boys. The two young kids who tease Emma are silenced and stunned by her blunt assertion. I think of this as an effective use of her WMD–her Weapon of Menstrual Destruction. In contrast, the more mature boy, appreciates her for her assertiveness.

Missing from the four-minute clip of the transaction described above is an earlier scene in which Emma and her mother are seen walking through a shopping mall eating ice cream cones where a leering man says as they pass, “Hmmm, I’d like to lick that.” Emma shrinks away but her mother turns and confronts the man saying, “Don’t you ever talk to a woman that way!” The scene acts as a role modeling moment for Emma who replicates it in her response to the teasing boys.

Unfortunately, not all TV menarche moments are this positive. But let’s hope for more first period talks from moms like Roseanne and more socially significant, self-structured menstrual experiences from girls like Emma.

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

Celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day!

May 21st, 2015 by David Linton

Taxing the Period

April 6th, 2015 by David Linton

Photo courtesy Canadian Menstruators

It seems that Canadian menstrual activists are way out ahead of those in the US with a drive to eliminate sales taxes on menstrual products.  I understand that this issue has come up previously at the Provincial level in Manitoba and British Columbia, but this is a nation-wide drive.

The topic of menstruation is so delicate in the US that it’s unlikely that any party or mainstream candidate would sign on to support a bill to eliminate menstrual sales taxes at any level.  It would surely invite ridicule and smarmy commentary from the uptight media pundits and politicians who run rampant over anything having to do with women’s health, especially when it comes to the menstrual cycle.

Yet it’s surprising that, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a law suit filed on the basis of gender discrimination against state and local taxation of menstrual products since they are a necessity used almost exclusively by women.

Perhaps it’s time for more activists in the US and elsewhere to pick up on the lead of the Canadian feminists and raise a fist clutching a tampon, pad, or cup (whichever one prefers) and demand the elimination of this discriminatory levy.  Readers are invited to propose appropriate slogans.  And perhaps in Boston in June we could stage a new version of the revolution’s tea party.  Boston harbor afloat with tampons!  Now there’s an image sure to get coverage.

Bad Blood!

March 10th, 2015 by David Linton

The history of women being discriminated against for having a menstrual cycle is, unfortunately, long and varied one, going far back into antiquity as demonstrated by prohibitions spelled out in the biblical book of Leviticus. Sometimes the prejudices or fears underlying both formal and informal practices spring from misunderstandings of biological functions; sometimes they are simply vestiges of patriarchal systems designed to maintain male dominance; sometimes they are indications of cultural lag, behaviors kept alive despite the fact that the individuals really “know better” but are stuck in their traditions. Shirley Jackson’s famous short story, “The Lottery,” captures such a phenomenon brilliantly.

The bad news is that there are still a lot of cultural practices in place whose meaning or usefulness has long ago been found to be worthless. The good news is that every once in a while enough noise is made or enough light is shed on a bad idea that it is abandoned, even if reluctantly.

The recent story about how women job applicants have been asked intrusive and pointless questions about their menstrual cycles and how the interview questions were dropped from the protocol gives us cause to sigh in dismay that such things continue to happen but also gives us reason to smile with pleasure that public exposure brought about change.

Readers are encouraged to respond with posts citing other similar stories.

Menstrual Marking

November 18th, 2014 by David Linton

The idea that animals (male animals, that is) mark territories with urine streams is well established, particularly in the case of dogs, wolves, and other similar breeds. It seems that men too (notably adolescent boys) engage in some sort of marking practices when it comes to failure to flush urinals or toilets in public (and sometimes domestic) facilities.

A story by Haruki Murakami in a recent New Yorker magazine (Oct. 13, 2014; pg. 100+) depicts a teenage girl who uses a menstrual product as a way of marking territory as well. Murakami’s character is a middle-aged woman in a story titled “Scheherazade” who, in the course of a string of post-coital sharing moments, confides to the narrator a time in her adolescence when she was obsessed with a boy in her high school. Too shy to approach him personally, she would occasionally sneak into his home and peruse the contents of his bedroom. Eventually she stole several of his personal objects – a pencil, soccer insignia, sweaty tee shirt – and leaves something of her own hidden in the back of a drawer or under some old notebooks. In addition to a few strands of her hair, she hides the most personal object she can think of:

“Finally, I decided to leave a tampon behind. An unused one, of course, still in its plastic wrapper. . . . I hid it at the very back of the bottom drawer, where it would be difficult to find. That really turned me on. The fact that a tampon of mine was stashed away in his desk drawer. Maybe it was because I was so turned on that my period started almost immediately after that.”

When she returns to the house on several later trips she always checks to see that the tampon is still in place and delights that it has remained in the boy’s drawer. The tampon comes to be described as “a token” that represents her unrequited crush on the boy who is barely aware of her existence. Eventually she comes to associate her erotic attraction with her menstrual cycle, even thinking about the boy’s masturbation as being compared to her period, “All those sperm had to go somewhere, just as girls had to have periods.” Finally, the boy’s parents discover that someone has been invading their home and change the locks so that her trespasses are ended. But the story’s exploration of the erotic associations of menstrual details is fascinating and fairly rare.

Furthermore, the fact that this is a male author’s take on the topic probably makes it somewhat unreliable even though it claims to be told through the words of a woman’s reminiscences. Readers are invited to respond with mention of other stories that explore both the erotic and territorial marking potential of menstrual products and blood.

Literary Menstruation

November 12th, 2014 by David Linton

Given their first-hand awareness of the role it has played in their own lives, it is not surprising that women writers (and researchers) have included references to the menstrual cycle in their books. Even so, social taboos have probably tended to keep the subject from appearing as often as it might have otherwise and literary menstrual references have only come to the surface in the mid-twentieth century. The women appearing in the fiction of Bronte, Eliot, Alcott, du Maurier, and the other major women writers of the 19th century seem to be lacking a menstrual cycle regardless of how otherwise thoroughly detailed their lives were depicted.

Men too have been menstrual-averse. The cycle played no part though later male authors, notably William Faulkner, did include specific menstrual details if only to capture a male chart in the lives of the women in the novels of Hardy, Conrad, James, Dickens, Lawrence or Hawthorne, to name a representative few. Men seem to be “in avoidance,” if not “in denial” about the cycle’s presence. Even male writers such as Updike and Roth for all their frank depictions of sexual behavior have treated menstruation gingerly, in the case of Roth using it in two novels to express characters’ kinkiness.

The more permissive climate of the past 60 or 70 years not only saw the rise of a new generation of women writers, but a greater openness to the inclusion of menstrual material in their stories. Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Patchett, and Margaret Atwood, to name a few of the most noteworthy, have built entire scenes or even complete plot lines around menstrual tropes.

This is a subject rich in possibilities for a wide variety of investigations in literary studies, women’s and gender studies, communication and media, sociology, psychology, and even religious studies. With the exception of Dana Medoro’s path breaking book, The Bleeding of America, the subject is virtually untouched. Readers are urged to dig into this treasure trove of material.

So, the purpose of this blog post is to invite suggestions of literary sources that are fertile ground for cycle commentary. Help build the menstrual canon with mention of “sightings” that have come to your attention.

Women Break The Taboo Around Menstruation By Sharing Hilarious Period Reminders

September 23rd, 2014 by David Linton

Without endorsing the sites, readers of re:Cycling might be interested/amused by this item from Lauren Braun at BioWink that was received recently by a member of the blog team:

Women Break The Taboo Around Menstruation By Sharing Hilarious Period Reminders

Menstrual cycles are still a taboo subject, and this discomfort with talking about them results in both misinformation and lack of information about menstrual health.

But earlier this week a tweet went viral when @pamwishbow customized her Clue period reminders, a new feature we launched last month. As of today, she had 348 retweets and 458 favorites.

We were so inspired by how Pam confidently owned her period in this public way that we decided to encourage other Clue users to share how they made the period reminders their own through customization. The uniqueness of the reminders seems to represent the uniqueness of each person’s cycle.

Sharing something that’s so personal helps break the stigma and open the door to more honest conversation. We’re proud to be part of this growing trend of empowering women with knowledge about their bodies, so that they can make the most informed decisions about their reproductive health. We’re asking women to #OwnYourCycle.


Pam Wishbow’s Viral Tweet with 800+ Retweets and Favories

Bettie Whorechata’s Tweet

Blogger’s Customization of Reminders

Here is our website:

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