Martin, M. H. (1999). “Postmodern Periods: Menstruation Media in the 1990s.” The Lion and the Unicorn 23(3), 395-414. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from Project MUSE database.
In this work, Michelle Martin seeks a shift in the practices of visually presenting menstruation education to audiences of young girls before and after 1990, with her objects of study being what she classifies as “menstruation media”. What had previously been delineated message demarcations between public and private narratives within media that focused on menstruation specifically for entertainment or education have recently been eroding. She notes that the private is becoming more heterogeneous and open to the public arena in menstruation media, and the openness of visual depiction is creating that paradigm shift.
Informed by discourse analysis and culture studies, Martin solidifies her assertions by focusing on an analysis of texts that vary from young adult literary fiction, popular television programs targeted at younger audiences, as well as educational videos aimed at young girls seeking frank answers about their body processes. She keeps a sharp eye towards audience and purpose in her review of these materials, with a methodological framework that involves locating postmodern markers in contemporary texts to find a turn that is absent in these media productions before 1990s. One major locus of development is the use of open narratives that move away from silencing or demeaning menstruation. The ways in which these products are marketed is also a primary area of analysis for Martin, wherein educational products tend to avoid controversial topics so as to appeal to the widest accepting audience while entertainment products are more frank and biographical in nature.
This privileging of personal narration is another postmodern hallmark that Martin locates, wherein telling ones own story conveys individualism to young female viewers who are seeking relatable answers. It is a clear departure from earlier materials. Greater diversity presented in menstruation media artifacts also “helps foster tolerance” and multicultural perspectives for young girls curious about menstruation facts versus fictions (397). Martin draws on Linda Hutcheon to validate the female body as constructed both historically and socially, with an eye to the past to uncover what was “previously silenced or ignored" (398). There are disruptions she finds between child consumer and adult creator of these media materials, wherein she asks if the postmodern personal narrative (or “lore”) speaks more to experience while master narratives involve silencing and marginalization. The shift now moves from expository objective visual information distributed before the 1990s to more relatable subjective autobiographical narratives being produced and disseminated currently, with Martin pointing out that the master narratives disallow fears and concerns that newer polyphony can overturn.
Though rhetorical appeals are not overtly approached, this piece works as an excellent foundational conversation for my own analysis of menstruation product advertising in that Martin posits a radical change in narrative structure that I am also seeking in my own study of visual rhetoric at work in menstruation media compositions. Her framework is a successful asset to asking if these visual artifacts are attempting to inform, educate, entertain, or simply mask our real needs as women.