series event

'The Painters are In' - The Visual Culture of Menstruation from 1970

Menstruation is visual by nature and closely related to public health and wellbeing. Yet, at the onset of menarche, most menstruators learn to hide their blood, symptoms and concerns. From school-age, this secret is wrapped up in ‘silent’ paper, ‘discrete’ packaging, ‘feminine’ products, or masked entirely by hormonal contraception.

In this seminar, Camilla will explore how without understanding the continued visual taboo of menstruation, current policy efforts in the UK and elsewhere to combat menstrual pain, shame and poverty will be slow. In contrast, the recent growth of menstrual health activism has relied heavily on visual depictions of the menstrual cycle in order to start conversations and dismantle stigma. Specifically, visual artists such as Sarah Maple, Rupi Kaur, Zanele Muholi, Bee Hughes, and Sarah Levy have drawn on a longer tradition of menstrual art begun in the 1970s to address contemporary challenges. In turn, their art has been censored, gone viral, been celebrated by activists, shunned by the art world, and appropriated by new and old menstrual product companies to sell to a new generation.

This talk will examine the work, reception and legacy of some of the most controversial artworks in this genre, and will analyse the arts’ role in changing attitudes towards menstruation since 1970.      


Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. She is the PI on the Wellcome Trust-funded UK Menstruation Research Network.          


Please note that this session will NOT be live-streamed/recorded



LSHTM Centre for History in Public Health


No registration required. Seats available on first come, first served basis.