A Comparative Analysis of the Attitudes Towards Menstrual Cycle in Middle-Eastern and Western Societies

Ahmadi Vostakolaee, Mana
King, Barry
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis compared attitudes to the menstrual cycle held by men and women in New Zealand, as representative of Western, modern and secular countries and Iranians, as representative of Eastern, developing and religious driven countries. The required data was gathered through qualitative interviews and subjected to a Thematic Analysis technique. The data gathered provided evidence of the spread and variability of attitudes to menstruation from a cross-cultural perspective. Because of the potentially sensitive and publicly embarrassing nature of the topic, it was decided to gather the required data by personal face to face interview, a form which would better protect the participants’ anonymity and privacy and thereby provide a better range of qualitative data. Interviews were able to conclude the ways mainstream media influence audience perceptions and provide a comparative analysis of Western and Eastern societies to menstruation. In summary, the data collected in this research revealed that Iranian and Kiwi respondents share a narrow view of the physical aspects of the menstrual cycle, but differ in their interpretation of its cultural and spiritual meaning. For the Kiwis it is just a fact of life, for Iranians it is seen as a threat to personal and social identity. Moreover, females and males of the same cultures, retain relatively similar points of view on the menstrual cycle although background, culture, media and education are significant factors in the way individuals perceive it. Also, females despite being the ones who experience the menstrual cycle, do not necessarily understand it or see it as fair. Males by contrast are less involved in the experience and to that extent take a more complacent attitude towards it. The findings of this research were both stark and nuanced, exhibiting a clear outcome emerging through tiny shades of meaning buried under the surface. Especially when some of the things that the participants think are perceived, they seem very monochrome, very one colour, very uncritical about life and who they are. Yet the data does not only reveal a stark contrast, but multi-layered details which are rooted in social and cultural values and beliefs and something of the processes through which the participants navigate their way.

Menstrual Cycle , Media , Taboo , Attitude
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