If Men Could Menstruate …

The Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) current exhibit, Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects, in New York, concerns itself with the communication between people and things, featuring objects that have a “direct interaction” with their users.

One object with a very direct interaction should be particularly intriguing to feminists: the Menstruation Machine.

The aluminum/acrylic/electrical device, created by British/Japanese artist Sputniko! (Hiromi Ozaki), includes a blood-dispensing mechanism and electrodes that stimulate the lower abdomen, simulating the pain and bleeding women experience with their period. “It is designed to be worn by men, children, postmenopausal women or whoever else wants to experience menstruation,” reads the online description.

A music video accompanying the machine shows an androgynous young man named Takashi putting on makeup, a wig and the chastity belt-like device before going to a mall with a girlfriend.

So is the machine just a way for men to experience menstruation? Actually, no, it’s also a way to address the question of why, given all sorts of hormonal advances, women are still menstruating. Sputniko! elaborates on her website, arguing that menstruation is now unnecessary and pointing out that the original birth control pill did not do away with it completely only because its absence might have worried potential consumers. New Continuous Birth Control pills such as Seasonale, Seasonique, and Yaz reduce the number of periods a year to just four. Lybrel suppresses menstruation altogether.

Is menstruation still a necessary part of identifying as a woman? Should it be? Are we afraid that if we decide not to menstruate we will be looked on as lesser women by society? Do we, like Takashi, consider menstruation to be a “female experience,” and as such, one that we should go through every month?

Or is menstruation punishing and restricting women by telling biological females that it is our duty to menstruate to prove our femininity–but then ostracizing from the sisterhood transwomen, post-menopausal women and other women who are unable or unwilling to menstruate?

Please, tell us what you think–is menstruation a necessary or unnecessary part of femalehood?

Photo of empty pill packet by flickr user M.Markus under Creative Commons 2.0


Hey y’all! My name is Mimi Seldner, and I’m a 22 year old Ms. Magazine intern, writer, activist, artist, and English major at the University of Florida. My concentration is in Queer Theory, and this, as well as feminist theory and politics, human rights, and social justice issues inform my entire life, from my politics, to my art, to my writing (the three of which are usually interrelated). These issues, and my stubborn, assertive, and feet-dug-in, oil-striking stand on them also govern the ways in which I live my life. I’m wordy, witty, and willful, to say the least (a habit that I am not in, accordingly). I recently relocated from one sunshine state to the other (Florida to California), in order to pursue this amazing opportunity to intern at the feminist-force-to-be-reckoned-with, Ms. Magazine, in all her glory, and I am looking forward to inspired collaborations, and to creating many things imperatively worth creating. Also, there are free sticky notes.