Menstrual organization and embodied sustainability

4 May 2021, 11:00-12:00

Research Seminar

Guest speaker: Dr Lara Owen

Join us for another great interdisciplinary paper, this time by Dr Lara Owen (School of Modern Languages) entitled ‘Menstrual organization and embodied sustainability’.

This paper explores contemporary changes in menstrual organization in the contexts of product use and workplace practice, and develops the concept of embodied sustainability. Working with Goffman’s stigma theory and Skeggs’ theory of gendered respectability, Dr Owen shows how normative social constructions surrounding menstruation perpetuate unsustainable practices, and continue to be reproduced even in apparently progressive contexts.

How might these entrenched notions be further dismantled? In what ways might this increase menstrual vulnerability? What is the significance, if any, in the topic of menstruation undergoing cultural redefinition at the same time as environmental issues surge in public attention? To address these questions, Dr Owen first draws on her empirical research on menstrual cup adoption, and identifies the role of environmentalism in the uptake of sustainable products, and in altering conceptualisations of menstruation and menstrual blood within certain social cohorts.

Second, she will draw on her empirical research in workplaces to think beyond menstrual products and associated waste and pollution to develop a wider working definition of embodied sustainability, with discussion of expectations and conceptualisations of the cyclical body, stoicism and rest.

Dr Owen suggests that as a regular reminder of the life rhythms that sustain us, the menstrual cycle can be situated as a vivid example of (potential) embodied sustainability, and the products used to manage it a reflection of the complexity surrounding how we assess and manage the ‘capacity to endure’.

STACEES menstrual organization and embodied sustainability poster 2021

‘Menstrual organization and embodied sustainability’ video on YouTube