“Dignity Can’t Wait”: Building a Bridge to Human Rights

  • Chris Bobel


With this chapter, I shift to examine how solutions are framed in MHM. Many MHM proponents draw on discourses of human rights to conceptualize a menstrual-friendly world as one where every girl is enabled to care for her menstruating body with “dignity.” In this chapter, I explore this frame by analyzing the materials of MHM organizations as well as the gray and scholarly literature to reveal how the MHM-human rights link relies on a fundamental social construction of (female) bodies as dirty and, thus, shameful. My complaint is not with this general deployment of the human rights frame, but with how MHM’s human rights discourse rests upon a unidimensional notion of dignity that subscribes to a standard of cleanliness rife with gendered, racialized, and classed meanings. And so, the quest for the means of menstrual care becomes a quest for “protection”—against the body that, if not contained, invites ridicule, a frame that fails to challenge institutions (both material and cultural) to imagine a view of the body that is truly agentic and profoundly liberatory.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Bobel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality StudiesUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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