P is for Period (english)

Interview with: 
Lauren Rosewarne

Menstruation rarely gets a starring role on screen despite being experienced by most women for many decades of their lives. Written from a feminist perspective, Lauren Rosewarne's book, "Periods in Pop Culture: Menstruation in Film and Television" (2012), turns the spotlight on menstrual representations in contemporary media.

migrazine.at: What was the idea behind your book "Periods in Pop Culture: Menstruation in Film and Television", and why did you focus on the media?

Lauren Rosewarne: My decision to write the book was underpinned by my belief that menstruation - something near universal in women and lasting for over thirty years of our lives - was missing in our popular culture. Whereas every other sexual or bodily topic has a distinct presence in our pop culture, I could only think of a small handful of menstruation references. As it turned out, I was wrong: I ended up locating over 200 scenes!
This proved it was much more common than I thought but also, that representations were invariably negative. The regularity, normalcy and uneventfulness of real life menstruation are rarely portrayed on screen.

Do you have the impression that the visual representations of menstruation had - or still have - an influence on society's relationship with female biology?

I think popular culture - particularly film and television - is one of our main sources of information: not only does it educate, but through repetition of similar sorts of imagery lessons become part of our cultural experience. I think the media's frequently negative depiction of menstruation helps shape how women often experience it.

Stephen King's horror story "Carrie" seems to be the classic representation of menstruation, being an embarrassing and almost catastrophic and terrorising "event", that is connected with female hysteria. Is this example somehow typical for the popular representation of menstruation?

In many screen examples, menstruation comes as an alarming surprise to the menstruator: it is frightening, alarming, and potentially grievously embarrassing. That said, menstruation for most women is an uneventful happening and therefore, for it to be interesting enough to justify its inclusion in film or television it needs to be dramatic and interesting so perhaps this is unsurprising.



Clip from "Carrie" (1976, directed by Brian de Palma)



Clip from the remake of "Carrie" (2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce)

There seems to be the predominant idea of "good" and "bad" blood, when it comes to how societies construct the symbolic meaning of bleeding. Why do you think menstruation is still and most of the time imagined as "bad blood"?

Menstruation is "bad blood" because it doesn't come through violence; whereas guts and gore on screen has a celebrated place, menstrual blood makes us queasy. I think this is partly attributable to the fact that it's women's blood and thus maligned on the grounds of sexism. I think it's also "bad blood" because for many people it still seems mysterious. Also, for others it's "bad blood" simply because it's perceived as inconvenient or disruptive - notably to sex lives.

Can you tell us about the positive representations of menstruation you found for your study?

There are a small number of examples where menstruation is presented positively. Californication for example, had a sexy scene of menstrual sex. In episodes of Roseanne, The Cosby Show and Nip/Tuck menstruation is also served as grounds for celebration.

Do you have a favorite menstruation-scene in a movie? Which one is it, and why?

I like the scene of Darlene getting her first period on Roseanne and her mother congratulating her and telling her daughter that bleeding doesn't compel her to change how she behaves nor forces her to become more feminine.



When you have a look on new feminist movements - especially young feminists -, do you think they have a different way and different strategies to cope with the topic of menstruation?

I think third-wave feminists are generally more sex- and body-positive than earlier generations of feminists and thus menstruation has more of a role in the activism of young women; something particularly visible online. An example is Sangre Menstrual, a Spanish performance group that wrote the "Manifesto for the Visibility of the Period."




Interview: Nadia Shehadeh


"Mezzanin" ist ein Teilprojekt von "Intermezzo", entwickelt von maiz und gefördert vom BMBF und Europäischen Sozialfond/ESF.