amendments to thesis proposal – feminine hygiene industry is the new focus!

I will be looking at the Feminine Hygiene Industry and its representation of menstruation through its advertising. The rhetoric and language of the advertising as well as the visual aspects and design will be examined, starting from the 1920s, with the first advertised feminine hygiene product, up to today’s alternative methods, particularly those endorsed by third-wave feminists and menstrual activists. The mythologies created in culture will be examined along with their relation to the industry – which comes first culture or commodity? Focus will be on the 60s and 70s onwards, with a glance at historical texts for background information.

The commercialization of these myths through the creation of the Feminine Hygiene Industry created the term and idea of “Feminine Hygiene” for its own existence and to make money off of women’s bodies. When does the industry stop providing needed products and instead creates “needs”? The menstrual cycle is something that affects most women with female reproductive systems. The cycle is just as natural and occurs just as automatically as excretion. Ironically, toilet paper, soap, and toilet covers are provided for free in most public toilets, while feminine hygiene products remain inaccessible or are cooped up in a small box that accepts only cash in exchange.

Accordingly, of particular interest will be third-wave feminism and movements that are advocating display and pride in menstrual cycles (i.e. making it fashionable to have a stain) rather than shame, and menstrual anarchy which involves leaving free Feminine Hygiene products in public toilets. Additionally, I am interested in making this thesis interdisciplinary by including a visual essay, an exhibit, and a campaign component.


  1. Introduction: background info + myths, explore how advertising creates culture and vice versa.
  2. The Feminine Hygiene Industry
  3. Rhetoric of ads: from the 20s – today.
  4. Ad design and visuals: 20s-today.
  5. Visual Essay
  6. Menstrual Activism and Third-Wave Feminism
  7. Conclusion

Central hypothesis :

What comes first: advertising, art, literature, or life? These components of culture play a significant role in the lives of people and vice versa. With the commercial interests of the Feminine Hygiene Industry and its advertising it is difficult to argue that its representations of the menstrual cycle are always accurate as is proven through the development of recent alternative products that are reusable and more cost-efficient, and its inherent necessity to capitalize on women’s bodies.

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