Dissertation Abstracts

Menstruation, Menopause, and ‘Being a Woman’: Greek Cypriot Women Talk about their Experiences

Author: Christoforou, Andri , A.Christoforou@euc.ac.cy
Department: Centre for Women's Studies
University: University of York, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof. Stevi Jackson
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: body , menstruation , menopause , sociology of the body
Areas of Research: Body in the Social Sciences , Health , Women in Society

Abstract

The aim of this research was to explore and examine the multiple and diverse meanings Greek Cypriot women of different generations attribute to the embodied experiences of menstruation and menopause. Through in-depth interviews with 20 women between the ages of 23 and 73 living in Cyprus, I explore the ways through which women construct meaning, interpret their experiences, and negotiate the cultural and medical representations of the
female body in the context of the everyday. At the same time, I examine the context in which women’s experiences are embedded, analysing the dominant menstruation and menopause discourses, as well as the socio-cultural meanings attributed to sexuality, womanhood, reproduction, health, illness, and aging. Drawing on sociological and feminist scholarship on the body, I approach the female reproductive body as a subject (a lived body), but also as an object that is socially regulated by external discourses. Specifically, I discuss menstruation as ‘matter out of place’ (Douglas 1966) and menopause as loss of embodied control, arguing that the symbolic association of the female body with social order in Greek culture and the privileged status of the ‘civilized body’ in contemporary western societies (Elias 1994) constitute
menstruation and menopause as stigma (Goffman 1963) that requires extensive management in social interactions. My findings broadly concur with other literature, and particularly with empirical studies on other female reproductive experiences such as pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding: the female reproductive body becomes an object to be managed, quietly,
‘behind the scenes’ and it is often experienced as separate from the self, highlighting the pervasiveness of the mind-body dualism at the experiential level on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the lack of control over the material/biological body. Paying particular attention to women’s agency, I discuss the cultural understandings of what it means to be a woman and to
‘have a woman’s body’ in the context under investigation and the implications for the women’s everyday lived experience.

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