Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

SMCR Member Profile: Researching attitudes and emotions toward menstruation

June 27th, 2016 by Editor

Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD, Chair, Department of Psychology, Colorado College; BA, Smith College, 1985; PhD, Stanford University, 1990

TA Roberts Seneca FallsWhen and why did you join the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research?
I believe I joined SMCR in 2008 or 2009, because I discovered the society through my friendship with Ingrid Johnston-Robledo

How did you become interested in doing menstrual cycle research?
As I theorized regarding sexual objectification and the ensuing self-objectification that occurs for many girls and women, I began to wonder if girls’ and women’s internalizing a sexually objectified view of one’s self (prioritizing appearance over other aspects of the body such as competence) led to poorer attitudes toward their body’s more creaturely functions such as menstruation.

Which researcher or paper influenced or inspired you to pursue research in this area?
Jane Ussher’s book The Psychology of the Female Body. This, plus Simone Beauvoir’s The Second Sex got me connecting these two ideas of the internalization of the male gaze and the repudiation of the body’s reproductive functions.

What are the primary areas of your menstrual cycle research?
Attitudes and emotions toward menstruation.

Connections between objectification, self-objectification, and menstrual attitudes.

Menstrual justice.

Where can visitors to our blog read about your work on menstruation?
Pursuing menstrual justice for women in prisons, Menstruation Matters, February 11, 2016

Restriction and Renewal, Pollution and Power, Constraint and Community: The Paradoxes of Religious Women’s Experiences of Menstruation, Nicki C. Dunnavant and Tomi-Ann Roberts, Sex Roles, 68(1-2), December 2011

“Feminine Protection”: The Effects of Menstruation on Attitudes Towards Women, Tomi-Ann Roberts et al, Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26(2):131-139, May 2002

Female Trouble: The Menstrual Self-Evaluation Scale And Women’s Self-ObjectificationPsychology of Women Quarterly 28(1):22-26, February 2004

Wrestling with nature, Tomi-Ann Roberts and Jamie L. Goldenberg; The Self Conscious Emotions: Theory and Research, Publisher: Guilford; Editors: Jessica L. Tracy, Richard W. Robins, June Price Tangney, pp.389-406

What is the most interesting, important or applicable thing your research has revealed about women’s experience of menstruation?
That women have internalized shame and disgust about their own bodies to such a degree that they go to lengths to not touch it or learn about it. This may be rooted in our existential fears about our own animality and mortality. The media’s obsession with sanitized, deodorized and sexually objectified bodies provides the fuel for this problematic relationship women have to their own and other women’s menstruation.

What is your current research or work in this area?
Menstrual justice for incarcerated women, which I’ve written about for the Menstruation Matters blog. 

How has the field of menstrual cycle research changed since you entered this area?
A lot! We now have a whole journal (thanks to SMCR member Joan Chrisler, the editor) on Women’s Reproductive Health, and menstruation is making it into popular headlines all over the internet and even Newsweek.

What else would you like our readers to know about the value, importance or influence of menstrual cycle research?
Studying the menstrual cycle and our attitudes and emotions about it is, in itself, social justice research in the service of a more equitable society. So join us!

For information on becoming a member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research contact us by email: Subject line: Membership.

Menstrual Bonding, Birth Control Brouhaha, and other Weekend Links

March 10th, 2012 by Laura Wershler

Research by SMCR members Tomi-Ann Roberts and Nicki Dunnavan garnered a lot of attention this week. Stories showed up at Live Science – Why Why Women Should Bring Their Periods ‘Out of the Closet, popular ladyblog Jezebel – Your Period Is a Time for Deep Lady-Bonding, and the Daily Mail – Women, start talking about it. Period! Roberts and Dunnavan surveyed 340 religious and non-religious women about their experiences and attitudes about menstruation. As the Daily Mail reported: “U.S. researchers say women across the world need to be more positive about menstruation – and that means talking about it in public.”

Credit: MK Carroll

There’s been lots of public discussion about contraception, some might say too much!  The birth control/medical insurance coverage brouhaha hit a boiling point last week with Rush Limbaugh’s egregious comments about Sandra Fluke, and the heated debate rages still. Maureen J Andrade at OpenSalon writes that Birth Control Is Not a Women’s Issue: It’s a Human Right, while Asma T. Uddin and Ashley McGuire, blogging at the Washington Post, insist It’s about religious liberty, not birth control.  A group of crafters has come up with a  unique protest action: sending “interfering” male government members a knitted or crocheted uterus, vagina or cervix, while has invited readers to Talk About Birth Control For REAL.

Back to women’s experience of menstruation,  Enith Morillo in Menses’ non-sense: Menstruation and the Muslim Woman’s “Red Tent” and Carolyn West in Menstruation – Celebration or Taboo?, explore different cultural menstrual traditions.

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.