Teaching the Taboo: Menstruation Education in England and Wales
This report is a snapshot into how menstrual taboos can manifest in menstrual education through examining current practices and attitudes. The report proposes ways in which educators can approach menstruation education to interrupt the transmission of taboo.
Menstrual taboo frames menstruation as dirty and secretive, and this view is exacerbated by media, education, society and advertising. Teacher attitudes, subject coverage and classroom resources reported in this and other recent studies leads us to believe that the current provision of menstrual education in schools perpetuates negative stereotypes of menstruators and menstruation. A number of past studies have indicated that these stereotypes can negatively impact menstruators, who may feel ashamed or stigmatized by their experiences.
Based on our analysis of our questionnaire results and on the growing body of work by education practitioners and action researchers in the UK and abroad, we recommend measures that can be taken to ensure a positive menstrual education. Educators need to be adequately trained and confident in the topic of menstruation; there needs to be a standardized curriculum to ensure consistent and positive education for all learners; menstrual education needs to be inclusive of all genders to lessen the secrecy around menstruation; a wider variety of sanitary products need to be made explicit; and menstrual education needs to be provided without influence from third parties with a pecuniary interest in selling menstrual products. These measures can help to counter the negative experiences faced by menstruators, better prepare them for menarche, and lessen the stigma around menstruation.
This paper was written by a team of Oxford University Students for OxPolicy, in collaboration with Chella Quint for #periodpositive, in association with, and support from, DECSY’s Gender Respect Project. Cassandra Cardiff served as the Research Coordinator for this report and her team consisted of Haley Lemieux, Anna Mowbray, Chella Quint, Alethea Osborne, Rebecca Redding and Chi Chi Shi who researched and wrote the report. Additional support and research was provided by Rachael Midlen, Isobel Wilson and Angel Wong. Operational support was provided by the Research Director Natascha Eichinger and committee members, Cristian Leata and Rachael Midlen.
In addition, we thank the Oxford Hub for their continued support of OxPolicy.
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