The social construction of menstruation, a historical study of menstrual product advertising

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Carvalho, Natasha S.
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The research focused on the social construction of menstruation as portrayed in menstrual product advertisements since the beginning of the twentieth century. Using a sample of North American advertisements dating back to 1914, depictions of menstruation and menstruating women were analyzed as mediators of socially constructed realities. This work builds upon previous work into the social construction of menstruation in menstrual product advertisements. Over seven hundred menstrual product advertisements from Good Housekeeping and Chatelaine were systematically sampled beginning in 1914. The advertisements were transcribed into text format to facilitate constant comparative analysis. Menstrual product advertisements provided a means to document societal attitudes and beliefs of the time towards menstruating women. It was found that early advertisements clearly treated menstruation as women's problem that required pragmatic attention in contrast to contemporary portrayals of menstruation in advertisements which were found to be more confining and less liberating than might be expected according to our modern sensibility. Contemporary advertisements portrayed menstruation as something which must be virtually denied. A number of themes were identified through the use of constant comparative analysis. These themes, while virtually ever present, varied over time in content and expression. Three key themes were Menstrual Management Kit, Sanitary Protection: Feminine Hygiene, and the "Time of the Month". The variation evidenced in the themes revealed much about the social construction of menstruating women n our society over time. The concepts identified in the study led to a definition of the social process as 'expansion'. As well a core variable of Always Menstruator was identified.