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A Blast from the Past: Menstrual Health and Politics, and a Reading List

September 1, 2009

Menstrual Health and Politics EXCO Course PackDear readers, I’ve been working on getting my home books more organized this weekend (a big task), and stumbled across an item I thought had vanished somewhere along the way – the course pack from an ExCo course I took at Oberlin called “Menstrual Health and Politics,” which I’ve mentioned here multiple times. It’s where I first read anything from Our Bodies, Ourselves. It’s where I first learned about alternative menstrual products like the Keeper. It was one of the first opportunities I had to sit around in a roomful of women and talk about the ethics of pharmaceutical companies and their advertising, about media portrayals and popular stereotypes of women’s health and bodies. It was really cool to find that I still have this collection of readings and reminder of the course.

The readings include selections from the titles below, in order only by the order I’m finding them in the course pack; I’m linking to where to find them in a nearby library:

Of course it’s been a while since I took this course as an undergrad in 2000 (with that semester’s instructors Jenna Allen and Danielle Witherspoon) – any readings you would add today or think should have been included at the time?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2009 8:29 am

    Elizabeth Arveda Kissling’s Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation (2006) is good and very very readable (and, as my husband said when he saw my copy, ‘nice title!’)–I’m using an excerpt in an undergraduate course this semester, actually.

  2. Ethel permalink
    September 1, 2009 5:17 pm

    “The curse : a cultural history of menstruation” is pretty good, read it in college – helped frame how I think about my body in a more useful manner then what is fed to us by popular culture.

  3. greyson permalink
    September 7, 2009 9:30 am

    Hi Rachel,
    I co-facilitated that exco course when Jenna and Danielle took it, and, given that I teach a women’s health course at a local university nowadays, have given a bit of thought as to how I’d restructure the reader these days.
    I think there are 3 main areas related to menstrual health & politics where knowledge (and literature) has really boomed since the late 90’s:
    -Perimenopause/menopause and menopausal hormone therapy (MHT, aka HRT), with particular emphasis on the big WHI hormone therapy trials, which were still underway at that time
    -The increased/continued medicalization of “PMS” with new added drug & DTCA action (possibly also tie this into “female sexual dysfunction”)
    -Menstrual cessation, largely via hormonal contraceptive methods, and the accompanying medical ramifications and ethics

    Also, at the time I was planning our iteration of the course I just wasn’t as aware of fertility issues (kind of like menupause, largely because of my youth and lack of experience in these areas back then), and thus would nowadays include more there; for example excerpts from Taking Charge of Your Fertility and/or materials from the CeMCOR website (

    Finally, there are now some decent published articles about “alternative” menstrual products and I’d probably include one or two of those. I am partial to Chris Bobel’s “Our revolution has style” because I think she captures not only the topic of alt products, but also some underlying cultural factors enabling their underground popularity.


    (postscript: Oh, I suppose that new “Little Red Book” might be useful, although I hear it’s nothing special, as as entre/hook into the class?)

    • September 7, 2009 1:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment! Those are great suggestions for anyone wanting to update or begin a course like this.

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