Working Group faculty fellow Chris Bobel recently published The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South through Palgrave Macmillan.
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.
Chris Bobel is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the author of New Blood:Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation and The Paradox of Natural Mothering, as well as co-editor of Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules, Challenging the Norms.