So, turns out I am crap at updating blogs.
So after my first year as a PhD student, how is it going?
I wrote “very well” and then deleted it as I am a natural pessimist, but, you know, it’s actually going OK.
My research has covered lots of fascinating ground, from menstrual taboos to witches, with a huge encompassing framework of psychoanalysis and endocrinology. I have touched on menstruation in law, sexual difference, sexual education, female education, homosexuality, feminism, gender theory, anthropology, medical research, physiology, psychology, eugenics and the birth control movement.
Chronologically my research has it’s roots in nineteenth century nerve concepts of menstruation and female health, before moving into the world of zoological comparison at the fin de siècle and finishing triumphantly in the health obsessed, hormone driven 1930s.
Menstruation is key to discussions about female health, about sexual difference, about mental stability, female capability and mood. If you tell women that they have to take to their bed once a month (middle class and upper class women only, of course) because otherwise their present and future mental/physical health and the health of any future children they might have, relies on it, it limits them and gives them bigger hurdles to climb.
It’s also about the power of the female body over the children it carries. The womb is a mysterious place where a child can get birthmarks or deformities from its mother’s behaviour. A woman needs to behave and stay calm whilst carrying her precious cargo, because even her moods can affect the baby. I even came across one account from 1917 that said that the negative behaviour of a girl as a child could affect the eggs inside her, thus causing problems for a future baby. If a girl isn’t ‘glad and good’ as a child, then her baby won’t be either. This was from a very progressive child training series called ‘Practical Child Training’. (I’m not going to footnote because the books are downstairs and I am eating biscuits in bed, but happy to pass on details if anyone wants them).
I will come back and write more. I’ll try not to leave it so long.