Medical metaphors of women's bodies: Menstruation and menopause

E. Martin

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Implicit, underlying imagery in medical descriptions of menstruation and menopause is exposed, beginning with 19th century views. Contemporary medical texts and teaching reveal two fundamental assumptions about women's bodies. First, they assume that female reproductive organs are organized as if they form a hierarchical, bureaucratic organization under centralized control. Given this assumption, menopause comes to be described negatively, as a process involving breakdown of central control. Second, they assume that women's bodies are predominantly for the purpose of production of desirable substances, primarily babies. Given this assumption, menstruation comes to be seen negatively, as a process involving failed production, waste products, and debris. Alternative imagery that works from our current understanding of physiology, but avoids denigration of women's bodies, is suggested.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)237-254
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1988

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health Policy


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