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

By Chris Bobel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Making Sense of
Movement Participation

When I first encountered the menstrual activism movement, I wasn’t surprised when I scanned the human landscape. Almost immediately I detected something similar between the menstrual activists and the natural mothers, a variant of mother activists I studied several years ago. In fact, I am quite certain that my fascination with natural mothering led me—with almost magnetic force—to the Bloodsisters who introduced me to menstrual activism. During the mid-to-late 1990s I researched a loose network of mothers who embody a feminist critique of the denigration of women as mothers. Through alternative mothering practices, these women resist mainstream consumerism and the commodification of the body, the family, and the home. In my book that grew out of that research, The Paradox of Natural Mothering, I describe these natural mothers and interpret their back-to-basics, low-tech style of parenting as a paradoxical attempt at social change at the microlevel. While the mothers work to transform society one family at a time, they reify traditional gender norms rooted in essentialism and deference to nature.

There are definite connections between the menstrual activists and the natural mothers. Both movements embrace notions about bodies, health care, and consumerism that radically depart from the norm, enacting what Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner call “everyday acts of defiance.”1 All thirty-two natural mothers I interviewed were white, almost all were college graduates (and many held advanced degrees), and most were married to men (and financially supported by their husbands’ white-collar employment) and owned their own homes.2 These data led me to argue that it takes privilege, or more precisely, Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “cultural capital,” to adopt a lifestyle that violates dearly held and deeply entrenched cultural norms of parenting.3 Natural mothering is high-risk activism. Breastfeeding a three-year-old in public, for example, can (and does) elicit negative responses. Choosing alternative health care over

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Encountering Third-Wave Feminism 14
  • Chapter 2 - Feminist Engagements with Menstruation 28
  • Chapter 3 - The Emergence of Menstrual Activism 42
  • Chapter 4 - Feminist-Spiritualist Menstrual Activism 65
  • Chapter 5 - Radical Menstruation 97
  • Chapter 6 - Making Sense of Movement Participation 135
  • Chapter 7 - When "Women" Becomes "Menstruators" 154
  • Conclusion 171
  • Appendix A- Methods 181
  • Appendix B- Interview Protocol 187
  • Appendix C- Demographics of Interviewees 189
  • Appendix D- Selected Menstrual Activist Resources 191
  • Notes 193
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 239
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