Dirty Bodies, Dirty Secrets, Dirty Earth: Transforming Restrictive Perspective of Menstruation and Women'S Lives through Alternative Menstrual Products( I )

  • Shaw, Malissa Kay (PI)

Project: A - Government Institutionb - National Science and Technology Council

Project Details


Menstruation is a biological process affecting millions of women around the globe. Although women’s experiences of menstruation are idiosyncratic and context specific, dominant discourses on sanitation, pollution, and secrecy typically surround menstruation. This negative portrayal devalues women, as it stigmatizes their bodies, alienating them from themselves and those around them. Menstrual poverty (the inability to purchase sanitary menstrual products), combined with this secrecy, prevents some women from attending school or work – further alienating them. Conventional menstrual products often reinforce these dominant symbolisms while adding to environmental degradation. Women-founded companies have begun to address the negativity surrounding menstruation through developing reusable menstrual cups, eliminating the costs of monthly menstrual products, the labor/risks involved in reusable pads and cloths, and the discomfort of bulky menstrual protection substitutes, while providing a sanitary product that is better for the environment and women’s empowerment. Today more than 70 companies produce menstrual cup around the globe, all with unique messages on how their cup will improve the lives of women and change the dominant discourses of menstruation. In a sense, these cups are framed as agents that can transform unequal social structures. This study aims to explore what messages these various companies portray and how these messages are positioned within broader concerns for the local context; how women perceive these concerns, how they experience using a menstrual cup, and, ultimately, how this use alters their experience of menstruation; last, how broader social dynamics are being transformed (in specific contexts) through the production and use of menstrual cups. This study will consist of two phases. Through the analysis of menstrual cup company websites and interviews with representatives of these companies, we will gain a broad understanding of the messages and agendas companies have for their products. In the second phase, two case studies will be conducted in Taiwan and Colombia, where an in-depth qualitative approach will be taken to exploring women’s experiences of using menstrual cups and the ways these cups are impacting their lives.
Effective start/end date2/1/201/31/21


  • Menstruation
  • menstrual cup
  • gender inequality
  • women's health
  • embodiment
  • agency
  • empowerment
  • environmental conservation
  • technology design


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