Upcoming Seminar | Black Box: The reduction and mystification of menstrual physiology in school and medical education

Speaker – Dr Sally King

Dr Sally King is a research specialist in menstrual health and associated human rights topics. She founded the Menstrual Matters website in 2016, which remains the only evidence-based information hub on this topic (www.menstrual-matters.com). Before specialising in menstrual health, Sally spent nearly a decade evaluating human rights-based policies and interventions. She has a master’s degree in research methods (qualitative and quantitative) and a PhD in Medical Sociology. Sally is currently the Sociological Review (Journal) Fellow 2022/23.


A review of 16 of the most commonly used UK school biology, general medical, and gynaecological physiology textbooks revealed that the menstrual cycle is almost universally depicted as ‘fluctuations in hormone levels’ only. This highly abstract and reductive biomedical model omits key information about the purpose and physiology of the three main processes involved in the cycle (ovulation, spontaneous decidualization, and menstruation). By doing so, alternative physiological factors in embodied cyclical experiences are obscured (e.g., muscular contractions, inflammation, blood loss, iron deficiency), resulting in a tendency to attribute causation to reproductive hormones, despite ample contradictory evidence. 

This reductive model also erroneously positions the female body as inherently mysterious and needlessly limits clinical research and practice regarding the diagnosis and treatment of menstrual health issues. Plus, the hormonal model unintentionally reproduces persistent gender myths regarding women’s health, role, and status in society (the hysterical/ hormonal/ irrational female who exaggerates, invents, or imagines symptoms/ experiences). It is, therefore, crucially important that more comprehensive menstrual physiology be taught across all educational contexts, in order to improve menstrual health and wellbeing, clinical research and practice, and to counter persistent sexist beliefs, discourses, and practices. 


The seminar will take place online via zoom on Monday March 27th, 13:30 – 14:30 (GMT). As with all our talks in this seminar series, it’s FREE for anyone to join! Register to attend the seminar here.

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