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A ‘Discreet Dance’: technologies of menstrual management in Australian public toilets during the twentieth century


Pascoe Leahy, C, A Discreet Dance': technologies of menstrual management in Australian public toilets during the twentieth century, Women'S History Review, 24, (2) pp. 234-251. ISSN 0961-2025 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Taylor & Francis

DOI: doi:10.1080/09612025.2014.948274


Across the twentieth century, the technologies available to Australian women for managing menstruation were transformed. Products for staunching blood flow changed from bulky, re-usable rags to ‘invisible’, disposable pads and tampons. Disposal facilities changed from the humble waste bin, through to incinerators, and eventually to specialised, antibacterial ‘sanitary disposal units’. The greatest impact of these shifts was felt in public toilets: places where women must deal with private bodily functions in semi-public, communal environments. Promotional materials for menstrual products and disposal facilities promised that use of their technologies would obviate age-old menstrual taboos, emancipating women from the anxiety and mortification long associated with menstruation. This paper draws upon oral histories to argue that by the close of the twentieth century the reverse was true. Increasingly efficacious and convenient menstrual products meant that Australian women could more convincingly maintain ‘menstrual etiquette’ by keeping their monthly bleeding almost completely concealed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:history, Australia, menstruation, toilet
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Pascoe Leahy, C (Dr Carla Pascoe Leahy)
ID Code:148740
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:History and Classics
Deposited On:2022-02-04
Last Modified:2022-03-17

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