Girls in Power

Gender, Body, and Menstruation in Adolescence

By Laura Fingerson

Subjects: Education
Paperback : 9780791469002, 200 pages, August 2006
Hardcover : 9780791468999, 200 pages, August 2006

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

                        Menstruation is . . .     
                        Salient Body Experiences        
                        The Teen Participants 
                        The Interviewers         
                        Analysis of the Data    
                        Organization of This Book      

2. Negative and Ambivalent Experiences

                        Concealment and Shame        
                        The Horrors of Leaking           
                        “Why I Never Carry a Purse”  
                        The Body as Actor      
                        What If It Gets Stuck?
                        Tampax Ads in a Room Full of Boys  
                        The Checkout Boy     
                        “Surfin’ the Crimson Wave”    
                        “It’s Not a Big Deal”   

3. Cultural Contexts

                        Cultural History of Menstruation        
                        Concealment and Hygiene     
                        Contemporary Views and Advice       
                        Historical Context of Health and Medicine    
                        The Family     
                        Media, Advertising, and Merchandising          

4. Medicalization and Gender Politics of the Body

                        Medicalization of Menstruation           
                        Fifth-Grade Health Class        
                        Menstruation as a Reproductive Issue 
                        What About the Blood?          
                        Every Single Month Forever and Ever 
                        Menstrual Suppression?           
                        The Value of Female Bodies   
                        What If Men Could Menstruate?         
                        Understanding Gender           
                        Living in Our Bodies   

5. Girls in Power

                        Agency and Power      
                        Creatively Responding to Dominant Social Norms          
                        Forging Connections   
                        “I Don’t Think Boys Could Handle It”
                        Menstruation Is Social
                        Getting “It”     
                        Stories and Supportive Talk   
                        What’s Normal           
                        How Embarrassing!     
                        But Adults Don’t Talk This Way!       
                        Interviewing in Community Groups   
                        Isn’t Menstruation a Personal Event?   
                        “We Should Just Create a Women’s Store”     

6. Boys’ Responses       

                        Knowledge Is Power    
                        Blaming Menstruation 
                        “Grossing Them Out” 
                        Menstruation as a Sexual Issue
                        Boys’ Jokes      
                        Who Has the Power?   
                        Embarrassing and Teasing Girls           
                        Girls’ Advantages       
                        Expressing Power: Second and Third Wave Feminism     
                        Potential for Manipulation      
                        Alternate Responses by Boys  
                        “My Friend Kristin Explained . . .”      
                        Beef Jerky       

7. Conclusion: Bodies in Interaction

                        The Teens’ Concluding Thoughts       
                        Different Interpretations         
                        Social Interactions and Gendered Power        
                        Menstrual Celebrations           
                        Reflections on Research Methods       

Appendix A:    Participants in Individual and Group Interviews


Appendix B:    Interview Guides

                        Individual Interviews  
                        Group Interviews        


A consideration of menstruation in the lives of teenage girls—and in the lives of teenage boys.


Girls in Power offers a fascinating and unique look at the social aspects of menstruation in the lives of adolescent girls—and also in the lives of adolescent boys. Although there has been much research on other aspects of gender and the body, this is one of the few books to examine menstruation and the first to explore how it plays a part in power interactions between boys and girls. Talking openly in single- and mixed-gender settings, individuals and groups of high school–age girls and boys share their interpretations and experiences of menstruation. Author Laura Fingerson reveals that while teens have negative feelings about menstruation, teen girls use their experiences of menstruation as a source of embodied power in their interactions with other girls and with boys. She also explores how boys deal with their own reduced power. The book extends our theoretical and analytical understanding of youth, gender, power, and embodiment by providing a more balanced view of adolescent social life.

Laura Fingerson is an independent scholar, who received her PhD in Sociology from Indiana University.