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Men and Menstruation

A Social Transaction

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David Linton

What’s with the men in menstruation? This is the question Men in Menstruation: A Social Transaction sets out to answer. From earliest times men have been puzzled and perplexed by the menstrual cycle and have constructed elaborate taboos, superstitions, and practices attempting to explain why women have a periodical emission of a fluid that resembles blood but is not the result of an injury or affliction. In other words, men want to know why it is possible to bleed and not die. In order to understand what goes on between men and women in the presence of menstruation,  this book examines a variety of encounters, referred to as "menstrual transactions." From the three women in the Bible who are identified as menstruating to contemporary films, advertising, TV programs and literature, the book explores a wide range of transactions, even including Prince Charles’s close encounter of a menstrual kind. The book will appeal to anyone interested in gaining insights into the mystery of menstruation as well as students of gender and women’s studies or media theory and history.

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Chapter Five: Seeing Red on TV: Archie Bunker’s Dilemma

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CHAPTER   FIVE

Seeing Red on TV

Archie Bunker’s Dilemma

 

In a 1972 episode of All in the Family Archie was faced with an unfamiliar experience, his wife’s menopause. He is flummoxed and complains, “This change of life is a lousy thing, y’ know. A man ain’t got any say in it at all.” At all other times—and on all other topics—Archie feels free to hold forth without restraint. But Archie is in this regard an “Everyman” whose understanding of the menstrual cycle and ability to talk about it are severely muted or strained.

Before Archie Bunker, as far as TV representations were concerned, there were no dads or husbands who had ever had a menstrual encounter. Neither Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners nor The Life of Riley’s Riley nor The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’s Ozzie Nelson nor Father Knows Best’s Jim Anderson seemed to know a thing about the period. Perry Mason won court trials but never bought a box of tampons. Sgt. Joe Friday investigated missing persons and missing purses but never a missed period. For decades of television history the women on the air from Della Street and Margo Lane to Alice Kramden and Lucy Ricardo were period-free. That began to change once All in the Family arrived.

Aside from the occasional announcement of pregnancy, in effect an implied mention that a period has not appeared, the earliest fully...

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