Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) has been added to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Well, this is progress! Way back in 1843, Dr. William DeWees of University of Pennsylvania lamented what he called the “melancholies of menstruation” and argued “that the uterus exerts a power over every body system.” Around the same time, it was believed that a quarter of all women suffered from “hysteria,” a fuzzily defined womb-related ailment whose symptoms could include anything from to irritability to trouble-making to pathological sexual desire. Today, many fear that PMDD is just another way to medicalize women’s bodies and make a killing on pinkwashed pharmaceuticals. Granted, the official recognition of PMDD may allow certain women to access treatments they want–and indeed, may resonate with their own experience of their bodies. But wouldn’t it be amazing to recognize the social, cultural, and political context of menstrual distress rather than just pathologizing the bodies and minds of individual women?
Here’s an awesome blog piece from our friends at The F Word about the cultural history of menstruation–and the author’s feminist vision for a more liberating way to treat and understand female bodies. Choice excerpt: ” If we actually had the space to do the things our bodies are asking for during [our periods] (instead of working in offices or factories or taking care of children), we likely wouldn’t feel grumpy or anxious or sad. We might actually stop feeling negativity towards a bodily ritual that so profoundly and routinely reinforces how spectacular the human body is and its power to make life.”