Recently we observed Menstrual Hygiene Day, an annual awareness day on 28th May initiated in 2014 by the German-based NGO WASH United to shine a light on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Specifically, this day seeks to publicise ‘period poverty’: the lack of access to adequate menstrual products faced by many in low income countries and, it is becoming increasingly apparent, by poorer women1 in rich countries. The movement’s vision is:
“…to create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period”.
Virginia Braun is a Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Auckland, Āotearoa/New Zealand. She is a feminist and critical (health) psychologist, and teaches and researches in these areas. Her research explores the intersecting areas of gender, bodies, sex/sexuality, health, and (now) food. She has worked on projects related to heterosex, sexual health, cervical cancer prevention policy, sexuality and higher education, women’s genital meanings and experiences, and “female genital cosmetic surgery” (FGCS), pornography, body hair, and contemporary formations of “healthy eating”. Alongside this, she is a qualitative methodology writer (with long-time collaborator Victoria Clarke, and others), writing about qualitative research, thematic analysis, story completion, and a range of other qualitative methods and approaches.
As a critical health psychologist, I have been haunted by the image of the feckless wastrel – my name for the character created by neoliberal forces to justify treating particular people as incompetent, unworthy and undeserving.