This study examines what happens when a defined normal, in the sociocultural context of western civilization, does not align with women’s diverse experiences of their bodies throughout their reproductive lifespan. The study explores women’s frequent negative affects surrounding their reproductive bodies driven by western culture’s societal definition of normal. Using modified interview questions from Emily Martin’s 1987 study: The Woman in the Body, which help examine women’s perception of achieving womanhood through their corporeal experiences including menarche, menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy, this study strives to explore questions that women have about their bodies during their reproductive lifespan: How does my experience of womanhood compare to others? Is my body doing its job? What is my perception of my body? The answers to these questions, explored in this study, revolve around women's most fundamental corporeal processes and investigate the observable disconnect in how a woman feels about the physiology of her body, and what she thinks more psychologically about her body. In addition to updating Martin’s study, this project also addresses gaps in existing literature such as considering more than one corporeal event within a women’s lifespan. A qualitative research approach was used with a semi-structured interview style. Twenty women ages 40 to 86 years were recruited from the Spirituality and Healing Conference hosted in Rochester, Minnesota, USA, in 2018. The interviews included approximately fifty questions during a 30-minute individual session. Interviews were then coded for emergent and parallel themes as it related to Martin’s original research. Using quotes and stories from the women interviewed, this study explores what happens when women don’t feel normal, and how feelings of abnormality lead to frequent denial of individual experience, even when those experiences are impactful. Although some existing theories of femininity help illuminate some of the subjects’ experiences, they do not encompass this behavior fully when investigated. To better describe the self-alienation exhibited by these women, this paper posits that the behavior might best be termed self-objectification. Following justification for self-objectification theory, the paper highlights interviewees central proposal for change—that both men and women participate in communication-based education on the reproductive lifespan.
Anderson, Lauren and Nichols, Marcia D.
"A Qualitative Exploration of Women’s Self-knowledge and Perception Surrounding their Reproductive Bodies,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
5, Article 17.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss5/17