“Feminine Protection”: The Effects of Menstruation on Attitudes Towards Women

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An experiment tested the hypothesis that reminders of a woman's menstrual status lead to more negative reactions to her and increased objectification of women in general. Participants interacted with a female confederate who ostensibly accidentally dropped either a tampon or hair clip out of her handbag. Dropping the tampon led to lower evaluations of the confederate's competence, decreased liking for her, and a marginal tendency to avoid sitting close to her. Furthermore, gender schematic participants responded to the reminder of menstruation with increased objectification of women in general, an effect we view as an effort to “protect” culturally sanitized views of the feminine. These findings are discussed from the perspective of feminist theory and a terror management perspective on the role of ambivalence about the human body in the objectification of women.

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, v. 26, issue 2, p. 131-139.