New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation

New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation

New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation

New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation

Synopsis

New Blood offers a fresh interdisciplinary look at feminism-in-flux. For over three decades, menstrual activists have questioned the safety and necessity of feminine care products while contesting menstruation as a deeply entrenched taboo. Chris Bobel shows how a little-known yet enduring force in the feminist health, environmental, and consumer rights movements lays bare tensions between second- and third-wave feminisms and reveals a complicated story of continuity and change within the women's movement.

Through her critical ethnographic lens, Bobel focuses on debates central to feminist thought (including the utility of the category "gender") and challenges to building an inclusive feminist movement. Filled with personal narratives, playful visuals, and original humor, New Blood reveals middle-aged progressives communing in Red Tents, urban punks and artists "culture jamming" commercial menstrual products in their zines and sketch comedy, queer anarchists practicing DIY health care, African American health educators espousing "holistic womb health," and hopeful mothers refusing to pass on the shame to their pubescent daughters. With verve and conviction, Bobel illuminates today's feminism-on-the-ground--indisputably vibrant, contentious, and ever-dynamic.

Excerpt

Chris Bobel’s account of third-wave menstrual activism is a generational eye-opener. For a second-wave feminist like me, whose early goal in life was to have a full-time career and a family at the same time, menstruation was something to be minimized, managed, and made invisible. The idea of flaunting its bodily manifestations and making it the basis of political activism would have been unbelievable and retrograde to me. My generation gratefully seized on tampons and “the Pill” to accomplish the goal of making menstruation and birth control less of a bother. We soon learned to manipulate oral contraceptives so the bleeding days occurred at our convenience; I expect that I would have embraced the means of medically suppressing menstrual periods entirely had the drug Lybrel been available then. It was therefore with a bit of skepticism and a show-me attitude that I came to Chris Bobel’s work on flaunt-and-fight menstrual activism.

Menstrual activists, Bobel notes, straddle several strands of feminism. Like radical feminists and body spiritualists, menstrual activists want to experience their bodies fully and naturally, and as eco-feminists, they also boycott, or “girlcott,” commercial single-use products for reusable cups and homemade cotton pads. More significantly for feminist theory and practice, they directly and deliberately address conflicts among feminists. As Bobel says, “The menstrual activist struggle taps directly into the ongoing tug-of-war between feminists who embrace sexual difference theory and those who embrace gender theory.” Some movement activists want to make menstruation everyone’s issue, not just menstruators’. They want to include among the menstruators intersex people and transmen who bleed but do not identify themselves as women. By splitting femaleness and womanhood from menstruation, one branch of menstrual activism spills over into queer theory and challenges the standard sex/gender . . .

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