Menstrual Shame: Exploring the Role of ‘Menstrual Moaning’

In: The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies [Internet]. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan; 2020. Chapter 32.


McHugh introduces the term ‘menstrual moaning,’ to refer to women’s negative communication about menstruation. Women’s talk about menstruation is often negative through its focus on pain, discomfort, and moodiness. McHugh ties menstrual moaning to the stigma associated with menstruation. Cultural attitudes that require girls and women to maintain secrecy and silence regarding menstruation contribute to the experience of menstrual shame. Breaking the taboos against menstrual talk may be a form of resistance. Brown argues that breaking the silence and secrecy taboo may help women to develop shame resilience. However, McHugh suggests that menstrual moaning, by reiterating negative cultural constructions of women’s bodies as flawed, deficient, and diseased, may have a deleterious impact on women’s menstrual attitudes, and perpetuate menstrual shame. Women could develop shame resistance and build community through more positive talk about menstruation, but positive menstrual conversations are rarely documented. McHugh recommends further research and activism on menstrual shame, resistance, and resilience.

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