The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South

The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South

by Chris Bobel

Paperback(Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2019)

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The Managed Body productively complicates ‘menstrual hygiene management’ (MHM)—a growing social movement to support menstruating girls in the Global South. Bobel offers an invested critique of the complicated discourses of MHM including its conceptual and practical links with the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) development sector, human rights and ‘the girling of development.’ Drawing on analysis of in-depth interviews, participant observations and the digital materials of NGOs and social businesses, Bobel shows how MHM frames problems and solutions to capture attention and direct resources to this highly-tabooed topic. She asserts that MHM organizations often inadvertently rely upon weak evidence and spectacularized representations to make the claim of a ‘hygienic crisis’ that authorizes rescue. And, she argues, the largely product-based solutions that follow fail to challenge the social construction of the menstrual body as dirty and in need of concealment. While cast as fundamental to preserving girls’ dignity, MHM prioritizes ‘technological fixes’ that teach girls to discipline their developing bodies vis a vis consumer culture, a move that actually accommodates more than it resists the core problem of menstrual stigma.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9783030077648
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
Publication date: 12/20/2018
Edition description: Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2019
Pages: 351
Product dimensions: 5.83(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.03(d)

About the Author

Chris Bobel is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and past president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. She is the author of The Paradox of Natural Mothering, New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation and co-editor of Embodied Resistance: Challenging the Norms, Breaking the Rules and Body Battlegrounds: Transgressions, Tensions, Transformations.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: What a Girl Needs….- Part I: Context.- Chapter 2: The Girling of Development.- Chapter 3: Making Menstruation Matter in the Global South: Mapping a Critical History of the Menstrual Hygiene Management Movement.- Part II: Framing the Problem: Stories of Risk, Risk of Stories.- Chapter 4: “Can You Imagine?” Making the Case for a Bloody Crisis.- Chapter 5: The Spectacle of the ‘Third World Girl’ and the Politics of Rescue.- Part III.Framing the Solution: Developing the ‘Good Body’.- Chapter 6: “Dignity Can’t Wait”: Building a Bridge to Human Rights.- Chapter 7: Disciplining Girls through the Technological Fix: Modernity, Markets, Materials.- Chapter 8: Beyond the Managed Body: Putting Menstrual Literacy at the Center.- Appendix A: Methods.- Appendix B: Notes on Language.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A skilled, articulate, and sensitive feminist researcher, Chris Bobel helps us understand the complex web of issues surrounding menstruation. Using careful and compassionate language that avoids oversimplification, she offers a detailed analysis of the many interrelated challenges girls and women face in order to achieve gender equity. In the end, Bobel insists on evidence-based policies and community-derived interventions that ensure girls rightful access to a good education, decent jobs free from harassment, and eventually to an acceptance of themselves and their powers.” (Judy Norsigian and Jane Pincus, Co-Founders of Our Bodies Ourselves, USA)

The Managed Body artfully captures the complexities, possibilities, and pitfalls of the global players invested in managing the business of menstruation. More subtly, however, Bobel puts on the boxing gloves to battle the bigger and more insidious stories attached to menstruating bodies: the selfishness of capitalism, the curious lack of self-reflexivity of neoliberalism, the blindspots in global activism, and the ever-intensifying ways that women’s and girls’ bodies are a battleground for sexist and racist stories about ‘cleanliness’, ‘dignity’, and ‘hygiene’. As a writer, Bobel brilliantly straddles that difficult line between compassion and criticality, careful analysis and radical reimagining.” (Breanne Fahs, author of Out for Blood and Firebrand Feminism)

The Managed Body is a much-needed contribution to contemporary discussions about menstruation, and the meanings of menstrual hygiene management in the Global South. Bobel interrogates the “menstrual mandate” of shame and invisibility and how it leverages products to hide stigma while perpetuating systems of inequality. Yet, there is hope! Bobel offers the antidote of menstrual literacy as a means to change attitudes about menstruation and thus improve the lives of women and girls.” (Sharra L. Vostral, Purdue University, and Author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology and Toxic Shock: A Social History)

“Chris Bobel offers a brilliant feminist critique of ‘menstrual hygiene management’ in regions of the Global South where the menstrual products industry is only beginning to install ‘the modern way to menstruate’. Bobel’s meticulous and well-grounded analysis exposes how remnants of cultural colonization and reductionist assumptions dilute the complex realities girls face as they mature. This book is essential reading for those who care about building a stronger movement for menstrual justice as a means to resist gender inequality.” (Eugenia Tarzibachi, Author of Cosa de Mujeres: Menstruación, Género y Poder (Women’s Thing: Menstruation, Gender and Power)

“Menstruation matters. But perhaps we have fallen for a shortsighted view of how and why. Here feminist scholar Chris Bobel refocuses the lens from menstrual care and management to stigma, and in so doing reveals how global efforts at enabling girls to manage their menstruation leave unquestioned the misogynist assumption that their bodies are burdens. By promoting educational efforts that address the problem of stigma, not blood, Bobel imagines a world in full appreciation of girls’ bodies as good enough just the way they are. This book should be required reading for all who seek to live in respectful dignity with menstruating bodies, which, if you think about it, is all of us.” (Tomi-Ann Roberts, Colorado College and President, The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, USA)

“When a topic suddenly takes on massive attention from the development community—as is the case with MHM--we should ask why. Because that is precisely when we tend to get caught between that Scylla and Charybdis of women’s and girls’ empowerment: neoliberal market-based “modern” solutions and traditionally oppressive roles. Of course we want practical progress that enables girls and women to free themselves from immobility and seclusion, but, as Bobel aptly points out in this lively and engaging book, gender subordination does not get resolved by menstrual products. Rather, substantive change requires a revision of norms and the promotion of inclusive health systems that resist rather than reproduce discrimination.” (Alicia Ely Yamin, Georgetown University and Harvard University, Author of Power, Suffering, and the Struggle for Dignity: Human Rights Frameworks for Health and Why They Matter)

“I have been ‘waiting’, no, ‘wanting’, no, ‘longing’ for the arrival of such a book in the increasingly cluttered marketplace of menstruation studies. This book represents a mighty long leap in bringing a critical feminist perspective to thinking about menstruation, menstruation activism and interventions. This book will rescue menstruation studies from the onslaughts of ‘technical fix’, ‘product mania’, and the ‘girl effect’ (where the bodies of young girls are presented as a new category for useful intervention) perpetuated by the global development industry.” (Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, The Australian National University, Australia)

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