Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Open Access


Degree Name

MA in Women's History

First Advisor

Rachelle Rumph

Second Advisor

Priscilla Murolo


My thesis investigates the origins and tactics of the menstrual health movement; examines contemporary representations of menarche (the onset of menstruation) in TV programs; and postulates how these two streams of discourse could and should form a more symbiotic relationship. My first chapter defines menstrual activism, which seeks to destigmatize menstruation, using two different frameworks. Menstrual humor is frequently utilized across efforts of destigmatizing menstruation. I argue that menstrual humor can advance the menstrual activism movement depending on the punchline.

Chapter Two assesses the menstrual status quo according to television. I analyze thirteen media portrayals of menarche that aired from 2001-2019. My research is focused on menarche narratives because first periods are more prominently featured than any other period, and I narrow my analysis to television because it is arguably the most pervasive form of popular culture. Menstrual humor is prevalent across these representations. I also discovered that there are more instances of menstrual activism in episodes written by women compared to those written by men.

My conclusion urges menstrual activists to engage in popular culture discourses. I highlight the urgency of this matter by relating the implications and consequences of the stigmatized status of menstruation. I do not pretend that empathetic portrayals of periods on TV will totally upend taboos; after all, as famously theorized by cultural theorist Stuart Hall, people engage with the media in uncontrollable ways. But we have the opportunity to shape the intended message of these narratives. This can move the needle towards normalizing menstruation.

Submission Agreement