Embodying gender: Menstruation as a container of female suffering

Mie Kusk Søndergaard*, Rikke Sand Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearch


A vast number of women suffering from endometriosis, a chronic and often painful gynecological condition that may result in infertility, experience prolonged diagnostic delays. Based on fieldwork among Danish gymnasium students without endometriosis and interviews with women who suffers from endometriosis, this paper explores women’s experiences with care seeking concerning embodied experiences related to their reproductive organs. Women who present in the clinic with menstrual problems, including not only menstrual pain but also menorrhagia, spotting, and vomiting during menstruation, express how such embodied sensations are often naturalized with reference to “the functioning of the female body”. Often reference to menstruation becomes a vessel for female sufferings, discouraging clinical exams and tests. Further, we discuss how a prominent clinical discourse of “menstrual problems” is tied to gendered notions of the female body being ‘more natural’ and ‘unruly’ in the sense that it produces more symptoms. Our paper thus engages in academic conversation with literature that points out how an association of the female body with nature – in medical and scientific discourse – is strengthened by a paradigm, that defines the female body according to her reproductive physiology. We also suggest that these perceptions of female bodies exacerbate suffering of endometriosis patients by contributing to delays in the diagnosis of endometriosis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date6. Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6. Mar 2021
EventChronic Living: Quality, Vitality and Health in the 21st Century - University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 4. Mar 20216. Mar 2021


ConferenceChronic Living
LocationUniversity of Copenhagen


  • Menstruation
  • Endometriosis
  • Symptoms
  • Healthcare seeking
  • Gender


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