Period drama! Pop culture makes menstruation 'overly traumatic'

A study by the University of Melbourne has raised concerns about Hollywood’s treatment of menstruation, and whether it’s frightening girls into believing it is worse than the reality.

Researcher Dr Lauren Rosewarne, from the University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, has analyzed hundreds of representations of menstruation in film and television.

“The presentation of menstruation on screen is an overwhelmingly negative one,” she said.

The analysis included jokes, plotlines and references from popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Mad Men, Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, and blockbuster films like Annie Hall, Anchorman and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

“The regularity, normalcy and uneventfulness of real life menstruation is rarely portrayed on screen. Instead, it’s treated as traumatic, embarrassing, distressing, offensive, comedic or thoroughly catastrophic,” she said.

“There are numerous portrayals where menstruation is considered as evil, disgusting and as the root of all female evil.”

Dr Rosewarne said these negative representations affected how women approached their own experiences.

“Girls in real life are viewing menstruation as a hassle, women are happily filling prescriptions to make it go away, men are mocking it, loathing it and rarely understanding it,” she said.

“On screen presentations likely have some complicity.”’

The research identified the representation of in Carrie (1976) as perhaps the most traumatizing.

“The fusion of a naked girl, shower stream, screaming and blood harked back to cinema’s most famous shower horror scene from Psycho. Even though the audience presumably recognized Carrie was only menstruating, the character’s terror was contagious.”

Dr Rosearne’s full analysis will appear in her upcoming book, Periods in Pop Culture, to be published by Lexington Books.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Making surveillance cameras more efficient

Mar 05, 2012

A University of California, Riverside professor has recently co-authored a book about his surveillance camera research that has applications in everything from homeland security, environmental monitoring and home monitoring.

Recommended for you

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

Aug 27, 2014

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

User comments