Introducing The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies

July 29, 2020
Introducing The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies

It has been said so often it is now cliché—“menstruation is having its moment!” But what is this moment actually about? What are we talking about when we talk about menstruation?

The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies invites the reader to explore menstruation from nearly every possible angle, including dimensions that you might not yet have considered: the historical, political, embodied, cultural, religious, social, health, economic, artistic, literary and many more. With 72 chapters on more than 1000 pages, the Handbook–the first of its kind–establishes Critical Menstruation Studies as a rich field of research.

The editors, Chris Bobel, Inga Winkler, Breanne Fahs, Katie Ann Hasson, Elizabeth Arveda Kissling, and Tomi-Ann Roberts together bring almost a century of expertise in studying menstruation. Over the last three years, they have sought out 134 contributors in more than 30 countries to address a wide range of menstrual matters in the Handbook.



Timely & Critical Scholarship: The time for this Handbook is now, at a moment when menstrual health moves from margin to center as a subject of urgent concern and enthusiastic exploration. The Handbook fills a crucial gap. It exposes myths, fallacies, and false claims. And while it advances the knowledge of the field, it acknowledges that there is a lot we don’t know yet. It is the critical companion for anyone interested in menstruation.

Deliberate Diversity: The coherence of the Handbook lies in its deliberate diversity—in content, experiences, formats, and authors representing diverse forms of knowledge and expertise. From traditional research chapters to policy and practice notes, menstrual art, personal narratives, and “Transnational Engagements” across cultures and countries, the Handbook seeks to engage a wide range of readers.

Menstruation as a Lens for Gender Justice: The Handbook establishes Critical Menstruation Studies as a robust and multifaceted category of analysis and a potent lens that reveals, complicates and unpacks inequalities across social, cultural, embodied, and historical dimensions. Through the Handbook we aim to demonstrate the richness of Critical Menstruation Studies, a field that is finally coming into its own.

Across this diverse content, the varied questions asked and answered address menstrual health over the life course from menarche to menopause:

  • Do you want to understand how menstrual stigma prompts us to conceal any sign of menstruation? Are you curious how stigma limits the understanding of menstruation of young people around the world and can lead to delays in reproductive health diagnosis and care?
  • Do you want to learn about efforts to improve menstrual education, including for men and boys, through films, apps, and other innovative means?
  • Have you thought about how culture shapes the experience of menstruation and how menstruators engage with religious practices in diverse ways?
  • Do you want to read about the first-hand experiences of trans and non-binary persons, menstruators with disabilities, menstruators with autism, migrants and refugees, girls forced into early marriage, or Dalits?
  • Are you curious about menstrual advocacy efforts–past and present–, the pushback activists face, and their successes, including efforts to include menstruation in national policy, in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and in the context of human rights?
  • Are you among the millions of users of menstrual tracking apps and want to learn more about the role of technology, social entrepreneurs, and menstrual advertising in shaping our understanding of menstruation?
  • Do you want to see how menstruation is represented on Twitter, on YouTube, on TV, in films, and in visual art?
  • Are you interested in the unique challenges menstruators face in diverse settings such as prisons or jails, humanitarian crises and refugee camps, informal settlements, and conditions of homelessness?

The Handbook addresses all these questions and many more. But it doesn’t seek to provide definitive answers. Whether contributors address religious rituals, menstrual leave, or menstrual sex, they defy easy answers and avoid monolithic views. The Handbook invites the reader into the conversation by considering different perspectives and engaging with apparent contradictions and tensions. It aims to stimulate dialogue and further inquiry and to leverage that knowledge to effect meaningful change.


The Handbook is available for free here.

Handbook graphic


Contributed by the Menstrual Health and Gender Justice workin group