“We Did Not Have Menstruation, We Had ‘Stomach Aches’”
Norwegian Menstrual Experiences from the Twentieth Century
By Camilla Mørk Røstvik
Menstruation has historically been considered a taboo, also in Norway. Recently, a new international wave of menstrual activists, medical professionals, and advertising has argued that it is important to fight this taboo to counteract shame, embarrassment and pain. As part of this shift, menstrual history has been explored in many countries and cultures, including Scandinavia. This article expands upon these histories, by presenting a biography of Norwegian menstruation in the twentieth century. It draws on women’s stories from 1900 to 1980 from the Norwegian Ethnological Survey, and tracks their experiences in the years before, during and after commercially available products changed the menstrual experience for most Norwegian women and girls from 1945. Placing this in an international capitalist context, the article explores what this history can tell us about menstruation as a commercial, personal and important topic.
Keywords: Menstruation, women’s history, 20th century, Norwegian Ethnological Survey (NEG)
What Girls Need to Know: Kristiane Skjerve, Sundhetslæren and Girls’ Sexuality
By Øystein Skundberg
This article will attempt to answer how Norwegian educator Kristiane Skjerve’s book on sexual education Sundhetslære for unge kvinder (1916) [Health studies for young women] can be considered a break with the traditions of its genre,and will offer explanations for its dissemination in the book market of its day. The book was commissioned by the central committee of Norwegian Women’s organizations, on the initiative of mothers’ rights pioneer Katti Anker Møller. Møller’s work for maternal rights presumed that in addition to legal rights for mothers of children born out of wedlock, young girls needed clear and frank knowledge about their own bodies. This principle of knowledge as protection was central to the social hygiene ideology and was in itself a departure from a traditional concern with protecting girls’ modesty and innocence by obfuscating the facts of life until marriage, based on the assumption that women had a softer and more fragile sexuality. It will be claimed that the book’s innovation lies in how it unified the medical objectivity of social hygiene, the values and didactics of pedagogy and the social and political goals of the women’s movement.
Keywords: Gender, sexuality, discourse, education, parenting, body, children, history, feminism
Invisible Lesbians and Controversial Gays
Representation of Lesbian and Gay Characters in Video Games
By Guro Torget
This article explores representation of lesbian and gay characters in four different video games. By analyzing the character design and narrative of two lesbian and two gay characters, I identify a divide in how the gay and the lesbian characters are represented. The lesbian characters are portrayed as a part of the majority, while the gay characters are portrayed as «the other» in a society that is skeptical of homosexuality. The gay characters have their identities as gay anchored in themselves as individuals, while the lesbian characters’ sexuality is defined by their relationship with another woman.
Keywords: video games, representation, LGBTQ, game studies, queer theory, game culture
Intersectionality, Work Knowledge and Ruling Relations
Institutional ethnography and the social organization of everyday life
By Rebecca Lund and May-Linda Magnussen
Institutional Ethnography – a method-of-inquiry developed by the feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith (2005) – provides a particularly useful framework and tools for doing intersectional analysis. Institutional Ethnography focuses analysis on explicating the social organizing that generates different outcomes and opportunities for different people. We contend that Institutional Ethnography unpacks how categories are a result and expression of historical material processes that shape people’s opportunities. Institutional Ethnography avoids problematic tendencies, which can result from social constructionist and post-structural analysis, to draw a direct line from identity category to social experience. In this article we go through the central concepts of Institutional Ethnography and show how these were developed by Dorothy Smith in response to objectifying processes within research and other institutional processes. We show how Institutional Ethnography – rooted in a particular ontology of the social and feminist standpoint epistemology – always takes point of entry in experience and moves from there to identify how it is shaped in wider textual processes. The concrete everyday experience remains central in the process of inquiry, and as a result gender, class, race and other intersecting relations are not reduced to ‘discrete variables’, that gloss over and hide actual people, their actions, interactions and relations.
Keywords: Institutional Ethnography, Dorothy Smith, intersectionality, categories, experience, ruling relations
Read more about the article by Camilla Mørk Røstvik i our newsmagazine: Still embarrassing to talk about menstruation.