Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Recounting, rethinking, and reclaiming menstruation

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  • I assessed influences on women's attitudes toward and experiences with menarche and menstruation using feminist qualitative methodologies. Bronfenbrenner's ecological model interpreted through a feminist lens was the organizing framework for the study, focusing as it does on the sociohistorical and multilayered context wherein the women developed. Fourteen college women between the ages of 18 and 25 completed the Menstrual Attitude Questionnaire (MAQ) for Adult Females and engaged in open ended, tape-recorded interviews. Information was gathered related to their first menstrual period their current attitudes about menstruation, and factors they felt had influenced their beliefs about menstruation. Special attention was focused on women who have reclaimed menstruation as a positive, natural event. Four groups of women were created along the continuum of menstrual attitudes. Those categories included; (a) reclaimers, (b) positive, but not reclaimers, (c) middle, and (d) negative. Scores on the MAQ and interview transcripts were used to support my classification of women as reclaimers or as occupying another place along the continuum of menstrual attitudes. The aim of this study was to examine women's views of menstruation, with a focus on the aspects of a woman's life that have led her to possess reclaiming views or views elsewhere on the continuum of menstrual attitudes. Key factors in leading women to become reclaimers, included exposure to nontraditional attitudes and alternative menstrual products from one's peers in late adolescence or early adulthood. Reclaiming women also tended to be feminists and concerned about the environment. Knowing the factors in a woman's life that lead her to possess reclaiming views, makes it possible to develop educational programs that will help other women to view their bodies and natural bodily functions in an affirmative light. When women are able to accept their bodies and reject cultural messages that menstruation is a dirty event and something to be hidden, there is potential for all women's lives to be improved. It is time for more women to believe menstruation is a natural event, worthy of celebration and pride.
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