Modern, Empowered, but Stigmatized: Analyzing the Construction of Menstrual Cups as Feminist Technologies

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Gender and Society


Menstrual products have long shaped how women manage their menstruating bodies and how menstruation is socially constructed. Historically, these products have simultaneously promoted messages of shame—menstruation is dirty and requires concealment—and modernity or have linked their use to overcoming the constraints of menstruation to become modern and liberated. In this article, which analyzes the websites of companies that produce menstrual cups (an insertable, reusable menstrual technology), I identify a new use of this “modern” discourse that emphasizes the interrelationship between “modern women” and female empowerment. Notions of modernity are connected to depictions of menstrual cups as modern technologies that invoke modern ideologies and promote living a modern lifestyle—all conceptions of modernity that seek to empower women in their menstrual health and wider lives. Although these intertwined discourses of modernity and empowerment reflect those of feminist menstrual activists, menstrual stigmas often remain embedded within these messages. Analyzing the persistent intermixing of these contrasting discourses allows for expanding the theories of feminist technologies to consider how technologies may benefit, empower, and destabilize patriarchal systems in subtle and diverse ways.

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