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The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma

Abstract

In this theoretical paper, we argue that menstruation is a source of social stigma for women. The word stigma refers to any stain or mark that renders the individual’s body or character defective. This stigma is transmitted through powerful socialization agents in popular culture such as advertisements and educational materials. We demonstrate, in our review of the psychological literature concerning attitudes and experiences of predominantly American girls and women, that the stigmatized status of menstruation has important consequences for their health, sexuality, and well-being. We argue that the stigma of menstruation both reflects and contributes to women’s lower social status and conclude with suggestions for ways to resist the stigma.

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Correspondence to Ingrid Johnston-Robledo.

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Johnston-Robledo, I., Chrisler, J.C. The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma. Sex Roles 68, 9–18 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0052-z

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Keywords

  • Menstruation
  • Stigma
  • Self-objectification
  • Women’s health
  • Media