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Seeing Red

Seeing Red : Meaning-Making and Resistance in Menstrual Culture

 Sarah Lawrance

Limitations & Further Questions

This study is limited in many ways-primarily because of its size. There was limited time and even more limited resources for carrying out the project, so some concessions were made regarding the methodology. The respondents were only women, they were all white Quebec or Ontario residents, and they were all people with whom I have a personal acquaintance. As such, the results do not reflect cultural or gender-based variations in responses. I will admit that it is rather hypocritical, though, to use a feminist methodology to account for traditionally marginalized people’s experiences, and yet only consider five relatively privileged respondents in the actual study.

One potential slip-up I have been dealing with cautiously is that this paper focuses on only two particular sets of truth discourses within a larger régime of truth. To be clear, I want to emphasize that these represent only two of many possible sites of power that play a role in the process of negotiating meaning, and in no way are they intended to construct a binary or dichotomous division of power’s many possible forms. Even throughout the process of focusing on just two, a third-personal experience-demonstrated itself to play an incredibly valuable role in the meaning-making process.

Some questions for further research might ask what this all means in the context of non-documentary media, such as news or fictional genres. Also, it would be worthwhile to further explore the impacts of many diverse positionalities on people’s meaning-making processes, including those of men, transgendered, and racialized subjects.


In this essay I argued that the audience’s reception of documentary media does not occur passively or in isolation, but rather constitutes an active process of negotiation between the film’s imposed “truth” and the normative “truths” about menstruation at this specific cultural and historical moment. This project took into account the fact that negotiations with normative truths constitute a lifelong process of continuously positioning and repositioning oneself with respect to these truths, and that these processes are different for everyone. I demonstrated how these processes of negotiating between competing truth discourses that constitute what I call “tactics of resistance,” since these processes involve a degree of resistance that produces the new spaces within which audience members are continuously (re)positioning themselves, and I outlined a preliminary sketch of what such tactics of resistance might look like.

De Certeau explains that one purpose of the tactic is to deflect the influence of a strategy. Thus the argument I am building throughout this paper becomes evident : that interpretive processes are inherently power struggles between individuals and the power-that-be with the aim of dismantling such power structures. Perhaps this exercise is a microcosm for tactical processes that take place in everyday power struggles, where resistance is not always apparent though it is always present, and that there is in fact the potential for resistance in all of us.

Sarah Lawrance December 20, 2007


-  de Certeau, Michel. 1990. L’invention du quotidien, I : Arts de faire. Saint-Amand, France : Gallimard.

-  Douglas, Mary. 1970. Purity and Danger : An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New York : Praeger Publishers.

-  Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge : Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. Colin Gordon (Ed). New York : Pantheon Books.

-  MacInnes, Teresa (Dir). 1998. Under Wraps. DVD. National Film Board of Canada.

-  Moine, Raphaëlle. 2002. “Chapitre 3 : À quoi servent les genres ?” Les genres du cinema. Paris : Nathan, 60-85.

-  Roberts, Tomi-Ann, Jamie L. Goldenberg, Cathleen Power, & Tom Pyszczynski. 2002. “‘Feminine Protection’ : The Effects of Menstruation on Attitudes Towards Women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly26 : 131-139.

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