The Curse by Karen Houppert
Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo, Menstruation

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Synopsis

A provocative look at the way our culture deals with menstruation.


The Curse examines the culture of concealment that surrounds menstruation and the devastating impact such secrecy has on women's physical and psychological health. Karen Houppert combines reporting on the potential safety problems of sanitary products--such as dioxin-laced tampons--with an analysis of the way ads, movies, young-adult novels, and women's magazines foster a "menstrual etiquette" that leaves women more likely to tell their male colleagues about an affair than brazenly carry an unopened tampon down the hall to the bathroom. From the very beginning, industry-generated instructional films sketch out the parameters of acceptable behavior and teach young girls that bleeding is naughty, irrepressible evidence of sexuality. In the process, confident girls learn to be self-conscious teens.


And the secrecy has even broader implications. Houppert argues that industry ad campaigns have effectively stymied consumer debate, research, and safety monitoring of the sanitary-protection industry. By telling girls and women how to think and talk about menstruation, the mostly male-dominated media have set a tone that shapes women's experiences for them, defining what they are allowed to feel about their periods, their bodies, and their sexuality.

 

About Karen Houppert

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Karen Houppert was a contributing writer at the Washington Post Magazine for many years. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Newsday, the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Village Voice, Salon, and many other publications. She is the author of two other books: Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military-for Better or Worse and The Curse: Confronting the Last Taboo, Menstruation. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she teaches in the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University and is on the journalism faculty of Morgan State University.
 
Published May 24, 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 278 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Curse

Publishers Weekly

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In this history of the culture of concealment surrounding menstruation and the effect of that secrecy on American women, Houppert presents medical, historical, literary, religious and anecdotal ma

Jan 04 1999 | Read Full Review of The Curse: Confronting the La...

Publishers Weekly

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In this history of ""the culture of concealment"" surrounding menstruation and the effect of that secrecy on American women, Houppert presents medical, historical, literary, religious and anecdotal material documenting attitudes toward menstruation dating back to the Bible.

| Read Full Review of The Curse: Confronting the La...

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