Plastic Bodies: Sex Hormones and Menstrual Suppression in Brazil
Managing the Inside, Out: Menstrual Blood and Bodily Dys-Appearance
This chapter details local understandings of menstruation. It provides an ethnographic account of the situations in which menstrual blood generates disgust. The chapter critically engages with the work of Mary Douglas, where emphasis is put on the way bodily or social integrity is breached by the circulation of “matter out of place.” Here, the problem is taken the other way and issues concerning bodily boundaries are seen as making, rather than unmaking, bodies. The chapter provides ethnographic data on how menstruation is experienced by women, rather than by focusing on how it is symbolized. Drawing on extensive interview data on menstruation, hormone-use and bodily changes, it critically engages with phenomenological accounts. Menstrual cycle changes are often experienced as loss of control over the body. A range of strategies are adopted to deal with this, from celebrating cyclical changeability to managing it with hormonal regimes. Although these attitudes cannot be clearly attributed to sociological differences they are underscored by conditions of employment, changing kinship and gendered expectations placed on women or the role of bodily transformation in class processes.