‘Out of Order’: the double burden of menstrual etiquette and the subtle exclusion of women from public space in Scotland

Pickering, L. and Moffat, N. (2019) ‘Out of Order’: the double burden of menstrual etiquette and the subtle exclusion of women from public space in Scotland. Sociological Review, 67(4), pp. 766-787. (doi:10.1177/0038026119854253)

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Abstract

This article examines the double burden of ‘menstrual etiquette’ and the implications for women’s inclusion in public spaces in Scotland today. Beginning from Laws’ work on ‘menstrual etiquette’, we explore how menstrual etiquette is characterised primarily by the burden of rendering menstruation invisible, both discursively and practically. However, women not only work to ensure that others remain unaware that they are menstruating; they depend on technologies, such as menstrual product dispensers and bins, to facilitate this process of rendering menstruation invisible. When these technologies are absent or poorly maintained, women experience a double burden: not only must they maintain the social invisibility of menstruation but do so without social or infrastructural support or drawing attention to this absence (for fear of breaching the discursive silence demanded of menstrual etiquette). We locate poor maintenance of facilities within the very same ‘civilising process’ that has pushed women’s bodily management to the furthest reaches of the private sphere. Socially invisible, these infrastructural supports are granted low status and poorly maintained. The pressure to maintain conceptual silence around menstruation limits women’s capacity to contest this neglect and, in turn, perpetuates their exclusion from public space. This article, then, exposes the nature and the compounding temporal and affective burden of menstrual etiquette and advocates for breaking discursive silences to facilitate much needed social change.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Special issue 'Down the Pan: New Directions in the Sociology of Dirt' co-edited by Lucy Pickering and Phillippa Wiseman
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy
Authors: Pickering, L., and Moffat, N.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Sociological Review
Publisher:SAGE
ISSN:0038-0261
ISSN (Online):1467-954X
Published Online:12 July 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Authors 2019
First Published:First published in Sociological Review 67(4):766-787
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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