Showing 11 - 20 of 34 annotations tagged with the keyword "Menstruation"

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Shute, Jenefer

Last Updated: Aug-30-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is a harrowing story, told in the first person, of an obsession with food and body image. "One day I will be thin enough", says Josie, the 25 year old anorectic woman who has been hospitalized for life-threatening self-starvation. "Just the bones, . . . the pure, clear shape of me." "One day I will be pure consciousness." The narration spins out in painful detail the pattern of compulsive behavior which pervades Josie’s existence. Her pitifully barren emotional life is revealed as well.

How did it all begin? Flashbacks of significant events invade Josie’s attempts to stop thinking. A shy, awkward adolescent, overly sensitive to casual comments about excess flesh, decides to diet. Josie stumbles non-communicatively through a teen-age sexual initiation to a later affair with her married professor, retreating ever further from her bewildered family.

But why do events take such an extreme turn? The mystery of anorexia nervosa remains. In the hospital, a nurse who has seen everything seems to strike some responsive cord, and Josie begins eating to gain weight. At the end of the novel she’ll soon be released , under supervision, but the outcome is in doubt. "Can I learn to be so present? Can I learn to be so full?" ". . . if I were a body, what would I be?"

 

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Mercury

Montgomery, Judith

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

"Mercury" is a 41-line, free-verse poem divided into three stanzas. Although the narrative is filled with highly personal images, the poem's story is told from a third person point of view which serves to universalize the poem's theme: the often mechanical struggle of a couple to achieve pregnancy, and the fragility and innate sadness of that struggle.

In the first stanza, the poet sets the scene--a couple who rely on the daily reading of the thermometer that "measures their mornings / against a brimming point" (p. 44). When the thermometer indicates that "seed / and egg might meet and link" (p. 44) the man and woman have intercourse, but all sensuality has been "banished, by this elusive / goal: the child they lack" (44).

The second stanza, which is the briefest, gives us the likewise brief coupling of this man and woman, a stanza devoid--like the compulsive act--of spontaneous love or passion. A calculated sex-cry--"Baby, / Baby"--seems to be a cry both of their present desire and of their memory of a once--passionate relationship (44). The final lines leave the woman lying rigidly in the position her doctor has prescribed.

The final stanza brings a surprise. Suddenly there is the "crack" of a bird hitting their sliding glass door--"a spray of feathers splays / it's fist on glass" (p.44). Forgetting for now the need to lie still, to enhance her own chance for pregnancy, the woman rushes to the door, remembering the house finches that have nested in their yard--a gestation perhaps at first more successful than hers. "Seed seeping / down her thighs, the woman gathers / feather by feather / the splattered down, / cupping fragments tight inside / her empty fist" (45). The bird's death, in the midst of the promise of parenthood, parallels the nothingness inside the woman's fist, the perfect metaphor (as the non--gravid uterus is the size of a woman's clenched hand) for the emptiness of her womb.

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A Girl's Story

Bambara, Toni Cade

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This short story is an examination of a young African- American girl’s first encounter with her own menstruation. She is totally ignorant about this natural biological event, thus is very frightened and believes that she is sick, even dying. She has no one to turn to, having been raised by her grandmother who has kept her ignorant. When she is discovered in the bathroom, bloody and afraid, her grandmother accuses her of having an abortion, which we learn was the cause of her own mother’s death. The story is a wonderful exemplar of how many women come to believe that female biology is something secretive yet powerful, natural yet mysterious, exalted yet slightly shameful.

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First Menstruation

Bass, Ellen

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem describes the first period of a girl who has been waiting what seems "like a lifetime" for her period to start, only to find herself emotionally disconnected to her mother at this important rite of passage.

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Our Menstruation

Zelman, Cynthia

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is the story of Vicky, a metaphorical figure, who was both outsider and larger-than-life, and who was first on her junior high school softball team to start her period. She does so in the midst of a game, with boys and girls looking on, bases loaded, Vicky herself at bat. When she lifts her left leg during a swing, a large patch, a "sea of red" is visible in her crotch. Made aware of what has happened by the urgent cries of some of her girlfriends, Vicky looks down, shrugs, and continues her run around the bases: a home run. Vicky, big as an earthquake, comes to symbolize womanhood for these girls, moving them to some slightly higher plateau of understanding about being women, and being together.

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Something to Look Forward To

Piercy, Marge

Last Updated: May-17-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is a cynical yet earthy account of menstruation and the ambivalence many women feel toward it. The narrative voice is a middle-aged woman recounting how periods have interrupted her life in various ways, some quite dramatically, others humorously. The final verse, however, provides the sardonic twist of the poem: when twelve-year-old Penny is handed a pad the "size of an ironing board cover," she cries out "Do I have to do this from now till I die?" The answer is, of course, no, at which point she replies, quite relieved, that there is something "to look forward to."

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The Body Beautiful

Onwurah, Ngozi

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary, narrated alternately by the daughter-filmmaker and mother whose stories it tells, focuses on how two women move apart and together while experiencing, respectively, adolescence and mid-life. The mother has cancer, a mastectomy, and then rheumatoid arthritis, and these experiences intertwine thematically and structurally with the narrative of the mother-daughter relationship.

Another provocative juxtaposition cross-cuts scenes from the daughter's modeling career (and the social and erotic body that context constructs for her) with scenes of the mother's illness, stigmatization, and erotic daydreams. Both women come to a new awareness of the social meaning of mastectomy within heterosexual and same-sex contexts by the documentary's end; they also come to a place of recognition of the mother's personal and social value and the nature of their relationship.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Among animals only humans have difficulty giving birth. While other primates deliver their babies with little fuss, women experience painful labor and childbirth. The explanation for this discrepancy lies in the size of the human head at birth. As hominids evolved ever larger and larger brains, the fetal head had to increase in size at birth. Eventually the head almost outstripped the female pelvis's ability to expand enough to allow it through the birth canal. This delicate balance between fetus and pelvis accounts for human fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality.

As a response to the growing threat of childbirth, human females evolved away from estrus (i.e. sexual receptivity only when ovulating) to the menstrual cycle and continuous sexual receptivity. The mysterious moon-related cycle led women to formulate the concept of "time" and make the connection between sex and pregnancy. It also allowed them to refuse sex when they were ovulating.

Women then taught time consciousness to men, and men used their growing self-consciousness to begin to establish control over nature (and women). The sense of being-in-time led inevitably to awareness of mortality. This, in turn, stimulated humans to create gods and religion in order to ward off death anxiety.

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Middlesex

Eugenides, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The narrator of this fictional autobiography is Cal Stephanides, an American of Greek descent with a hereditary 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that gives her the prepubertal anatomy (and thus the social upbringing) of a girl, but at puberty begins her transformation into ambiguity, then maleness, and then, gradually, masculinity.

The novel is a kind of biography, not just of Cal, but also of the mutant gene that causes her/his condition. It is transmitted from a small village in Smyrna, through his grandparents, who were also brother and sister and who married on the ship to America, apparently leaving behind family as well as national identity. Their Greekness and the gene come with them, and the consequences of their incest haunts Cal's grandmother, Desdemona, until the very end of the novel.

The family settles in Detroit, and a third biographical strand is the story of the Greek immigrant community in 20th century America, from Ford's assembly lines to bootlegging during the prohibition, through Detroit race riots and then to affluent suburbia.

Cal's family settles in the suburb of Middlesex, and the focus narrows to the individual. Calliope is raised as a girl, but in adolescence, Callie learns about hermaphroditism, narrowly escapes sex-assignment surgery, becomes a performer in a seventies sex show in San Francisco, and finally returns home to Middlesex, Grosse Point, Michigan, as a male. The story is framed by Cal's much later adult life as a man in Berlin, and his successful romance with a woman he meets there.

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Buying Dad

Aizley, Harlyn

Last Updated: Nov-16-2003
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this memoir, subtitled "One Woman's Search for the Perfect Sperm Donor," lesbian author and academic Harlyn Aizley confronts her approaching fortieth birthday by deciding to have a child. She and her partner, Faith, begin the process of choosing its biological father. The first major decision: a known or unknown sperm donor? Eventually they choose an unknown one, from a sperm bank with an identity-release program that will allow their child the option of meeting her biological father after she turns eighteen.

Aizley narrates, in absorbing and often very funny detail, the eight months it takes her to conceive, and then the nine months of pregnancy culminating in the birth of a daughter. Sad but telling counterpoints to this narrative are the terrorist attacks in September 2001, which occur during Aizley's pregnancy, and the experience of her mother, who dies three months after the baby's birth, of ovarian cancer.

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