Repunctuated Feminism: Marketing Menstrual Suppression through the Rhetoric of Choice

By Woods, Carly S. | Women's Studies in Communication, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Repunctuated Feminism: Marketing Menstrual Suppression through the Rhetoric of Choice


Woods, Carly S., Women's Studies in Communication


This essay examines the rhetoric of choice as it is used by direct-to-consumer campaigns to persuade women to limit menstruation through the consumption of oral contraceptives. Using the tools of feminist rhetorical criticism, I trace how choice is rhetorically constructed to suggest that menstrual suppression is a path to individual empowerment while co-opting second and post-second-wave rhetorics. Finally, I explore the meaning of these constructions of choice and suggest broader implications for ongoing feminist movements.

Keywords biomedicine, choice, direct-to-consumer advertisements, feminism, menstruation, pharmaceuticals, rhetoric

**********

Choice, or the illusion of choice, is central to contemporary feminism. Easily aligned with activism aimed at empowering women to make decisions about their own lives and bodies, choice is ubiquitous, rhetorically powerful, and highly portable. Beyond its long and storied history within debates about reproductive rights, choice has gradually emerged as a key term to characterize a whole host of gendered issues, from conception to work-life balance. (1) As such, it presents a rhetorical paradox: It holds the promise of individual agency but can also be co-opted to promote controversial choices that reinforce sexist stereotypes. What are the implications of the rhetoric of choice for ongoing feminist movements? How has choice been deployed in fresh discursive terrains? This essay explores these questions in the context of menstrual suppression, a topic that has only recently emerged in public discourse.

Our starting point is simple: Should menstruation be a choice? Not long ago, the idea that it could be a choice would have seemed absurd. Menstruation was not a decision to be pondered; it was a reality to be dealt with. Yet twenty-first century advances have introduced pharmaceuticals that make this issue increasingly relevant. (2) Oral contraceptives have been specifically developed and marketed to limit menstruation. When posited as a needless reminder of biological difference, the decision to suppress menstruation may seem like an uncontroversial personal choice. For example, in the advertising campaign for Seasonique, an oral contraceptive that limits menstruation to four times a year, Duramed Pharmaceuticals implicitly argues that menstruation is an unnecessary event with the slogan "Repunctuate your life with fewer periods." Here, the magic of modern biomedical technology presents a simple and yet potentially liberating option: Consume a pill and take control of your life.

But what does it really mean to repunctuate one's life? To punctuate has a double meaning--it can designate a periodic interruption (to punctuate a silence with sound; a punctuation mark interrupts or divides a sentence from another), or it can mean to accentuate (to emphasize or intensify). Seasonique's campaign plays on menstrual periods as punctuation and promises to correct for the way they interrupt women's lives. On the other hand, some scholars see menstruation as an important part of gendered identity. Beyond its physiological purposes, those who promote this perspective believe that menstruation can be significant to individuals and as a collective experience for women. Feminist political philosopher Iris Marion Young gives voice to the value of menstruation in both senses. Her essay "Menstrual Meditations" in On Female Body Experience does not deny that menstrual periods disrupt everyday routines but instead argues that disruptions can be valuable reminders to take time out: "Because the event returns monthly, it affords an experienced discontinuity that prompts one to look back and forward.... Because menstrual moments punctuate our lives, they easily orient our self-narrative" (120-21; emphasis added). If embraced for its reflective possibilities, menstruation can allow for a productive indulgence in one's affective states.

In other work, Young offers a way to understand the relationship between menstruating individuals and collective gendered identity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Repunctuated Feminism: Marketing Menstrual Suppression through the Rhetoric of Choice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.