A Feminist Critique of the Political Economy of Menstrual Hygiene Management in South Asia
This article argues that through menstrual hygiene management lessons, menstruation is medicalised to construct new and repressive expectations of normality for the female body.
Medicalising Menstruation: A Feminist Critique of the Political Economy of Menstrual Hygiene Management in South Asia
Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala. 2014. “Medicalising Menstruation: A Feminist Critique of the Political Economy of Menstrual Hygiene Management in South Asia.” Gender, Place and Culture
Gender, medicalization, feminism, NGOs, WASH, sanitary products, South-Asia, critique
Type of Research
Peer-reviewed, Qualitative research
- What is problematic is the pegging of menstruation with hygiene, opening up the scope for its industrialisation problematic is the manner in which they are being carried out, the public messages made about women and their bodily autonomy, and the lack of attention given to alternative means of dealing with menstruation.
- The potential for the commercialisation of menstruation through the construction of sanitary napkins as the only means of living clean, healthy and hygienic lives is also problematic.
- The benefits of formalising education and awareness-building around menstruation need to be considered because the ‘hidden agenda’ is to regulate, normalise and discipline. Economic implications in hygiene management cannot be disregarded
- The cost of handling menstruation through napkins without economic empowerment may be counterproductive. Advertising and WatSan interventions convey the message that hygiene and good health can only be achieved through commercially available sanitary pads.
- Relating menstruation and menstrual blood to the politics of the body allows us to rethink the body as the physical site of contestation between institutional medical, governmental and corporate interests in response to disintegrating traditional and private knowledge.
- The motives of modern capital – in determining the practices that define such a regular feature of women’s lives, and in redefining the standards of normalcy – need to, and can, be checked. Rewriting how feminist knowledge is produced and circulated by international donors will assist in this task
Identified Research Gaps
- Applying feminist critique to MHM interventions by international development agencies is crucial to highlight biases hidden (economical) agendas and to shine a light on culturally specific alternatives.