Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present

By Sue V. Rosser | Go to book overview

Menstruation/Menopause/PMS

SUE V. ROSSER

Menstruation serves as a visible marker that distinguishes men from women. Since it also signals the potential for physical, reproductive capability for a woman, it becomes a defining stage in the female life cycle. Because it begins at puberty and ceases at menopause, menstruation provides an outward manifestation of a complex interaction among the brain, hormones, ovaries, and uterus occurring each month in most women from adolescence through middle age.

The Greeks believed that women’s balance of humors made them “colder and wetter” and also more emotional and sexual than men. Without regular menstruation to eliminate the surplus fluid, women could suffer physical and/or mental illness. In the absence of regular menstruation and intercourse, the uterus was believed capable of wandering around the body, causing a variety of physical or mental ailments. These Greek notions of fragility during menstruation and links to mental imbalances endured into the 19th and early 20th centuries as hysteria (the Greek term for uterus) when delicate, upper-class Victorian women experienced breakdowns that necessitated bed rest. Too much studying was also thought to drain sustenance to the brain from the uterus, making college-educated women less fertile and more mannish.

Anthropological studies suggest that menstruation is a cultural event, experienced in different ways by individual women in different societies. Thus, it is not surprising that myths have historically surrounded the science of this marker of gender differences and that the “natural” processes surrounding menstruation and menopause have become increasingly medicalized today.

One motivation for such medicalization may be men’s interest in controlling reproduction. The current medical structure in the United States segregates issues of women’s reproduction, and virtually all aspects of women’s health, into the specialty of obstetrics/gynecology. Medical models of menstruation, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopause reflect negative images of women and their bodies through their depiction of menstruation as

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Women, Science, and Myth: Gender Beliefs from Antiquity to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chronological Section- Changes in Myths of Gender over Time 1
  • Antiquity 3
  • Medieval Era 17
  • Renaissance 31
  • The 18th Century 43
  • The 19th Century 61
  • Early 20th Century 79
  • Thematic Section- Concepts of Gender in Different Contexts 93
  • Disciplines - Chemistry 95
  • Physics/Astronomy 103
  • Mathematics 109
  • Computer Science 115
  • Biology 123
  • Psychology 129
  • Medicine 135
  • Technology 141
  • Aspects of Human Biology and Behavior - The Brain 149
  • Cognitive Abilities 155
  • Mental Illness 161
  • Personality/Rationality/Emotionality 167
  • Endocrinology and Hormones 173
  • Menstruation/Menopause/PMS 177
  • Early Modern Health 181
  • Gender/Sex—How Conjoined 187
  • Homosexuality 193
  • Race 201
  • Nature/Nurture 207
  • Institutions - Women’s Education 213
  • Motherhood 223
  • Religion 229
  • Universities 235
  • Federal Agencies 249
  • Industry 259
  • Professional Societies 263
  • Discrimination 273
  • Women Scientists as Leaders 283
  • Nobel Laureates 295
  • Gender and Occupational Interests 319
  • Other Perspectives on Gender and Myths and Beliefs in Scientific Research - Feminist Philosophy of Science 325
  • Biologists Who Study Gender/Feminism 337
  • Historians of Science and Technology Who Focus on Feminism 347
  • Primatologists Who Focus on Females/Gender 357
  • Critiques of Science 365
  • Marxism/Socialism and Feminism/Gender 373
  • Ecofeminism 381
  • Cyberfeminism 387
  • Race, Postcolonial Gender, and Science 393
  • Feminist Science Studies 399
  • Women’s Health Movement 405
  • Science Fiction 419
  • Conclusion 427
  • Appendix of- Statistical Tables 437
  • Glossary 445
  • Bibliography 469
  • Index 481
  • About the Editor 501
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