- The Menstrual Cycle:Feminist Analyses from the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research
As guest editors for the following special cluster of articles, we are pleased to present the work of several of our colleagues in the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR). The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research was founded in 1977 by a group of multidisciplinary feminist scholars who understood the centrality of the menstrual cycle in women's health. When we incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1979, we were the first multidisciplinary group to advocate for research on women's health. Today our membership crosses international boundaries and, in addition to researchers, includes health care providers, policymakers, scholars from the humanities and sciences, students, artists, and activists who share an interest in women's lives and health needs as they relate to the menstrual cycle.
Since 1977 the society has held biennial conferences, yielding more than a dozen published volumes on menstruation, menopause, and related women's health topics. The papers selected for inclusion in this special cluster were among those presented at our 15th biennial conference, held in Pittsburgh, PA, in June 2003. As a group, they offer readers some insight into the nature of our organization, and the importance of a feminist orientation within our investigations and analyses of cycle-related women's health issues.
The first paper in the cluster is written by Alice Dan, Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, SMCR past president and member of our board of directors. Dan provides a brief history of the society's work and highlights significant contributions made by society members concerning key cycle-related health topics such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), toxic shock syndrome, premenstrual symptoms (contemporarily known as premenstrual syndrome [PMS]), and a currently controversial topic, menstrual suppression. Providing a context for the papers that follow, Dan's paper looks both backward across the broad scope of our members' prior work as well as forward to continued efforts to counter the negative views of menstruation that make this aspect of women's lives an easy target for new drugs and the further medicalization of women's bodies.
Our next author is Nancy Worcester, a long-time feminist health activist in both England and the United States, current SMCR board member, and professor of Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is co-editor, with Mariamne H. Whatley, of four editions [End Page 42] of Women's Health: Readings on Social, Economic, and Political Issues (Worcester and Whatley, 2004), and one of the authors of the National Women's Health Network's The Truth about Hormone Replacement Theory: How to Break Free of the Medical Myths of Menopause (National Women's Health Network, 2002). Drawing on her extensive expertise, Worcester provides an in-depth discussion of how HRT became the treatment of choice for menopausal "ills" but has now fallen out of favor because of findings from the Women's Health Initiative (Writing Group for the Women's Health Initiative Investigators, 2002), which indicated that the risks of taking estrogen plus progestin outweigh the benefits. She challenges readers to consider the resulting dilemma confronting contemporary HRT users who must reconcile their HRT use against the new evidence as a catalyst for moving from a personal to a political perspective on the marketing of untested products to healthy women.
Our last cluster paper is co-written by SMCR member Margaret Moloney, an associate (clinical) professor at the School of Nursing at Emory University, and her colleagues Ora Strickland, Alexa Dietrich, and Stuart Myerburg. This paper first presents a discussion of online data collection as an important new methodology for feminist researchers of women's health. In addition, the authors present results from an application of this methodology in their qualitative investigation of perimenopausal women's experience of migraines. This qualitative study employs only one of a number of methodologies used by SMCR researchers (other methodologies include quantitative and mixed methods), but as such, offers readers a glimpse of the empirical work that our members regularly undertake.
We are grateful for the opportunity to extend our communication to NWSA Journal readers...