Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD, Chair, Department of Psychology, Colorado College; BA, Smith College, 1985; PhD, Stanford University, 1990
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.
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,
“Feminine Protection”: The Effects of Menstruation on Attitudes Towards Women, Tomi-Ann Roberts et al,
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Membership.