Period: The End of Menstruation

16mm, 54min, 2006
Distributed by Cinema Guild, NYC

Press

"It explores the idea of suppressing the menstrual period but leaves the viewer to make up her own mind." New York Times

"The debate here is rich and varied. ... An interesting documentary on that time of the month that is definitely recommended." - Video Librarian

"Chesler offers a dialogue here that is relentlessly intelligent, ecumenical, and profoundly sensitive to the varying perspectives of women and girls who must ultimately make their own menstrual choices." - Bust Magazine

"There is often a cloud of shame and guilt shading menstruation that prevents
open dialogue. Chesler has lifted that cloud..."
Sex Roles

Synopsis

As millions of women and girls take shots and pills to stop their periods, the meaning of menstruation changes. The current marketing trend in hormonal birth control (Depo-Provera, Seasonale, Seasonique, Lybrel, Anya), is to attract customers by promising freedom from monthly periods. For many consumers, menstrual suppression eliminates painful monthly flow, giving them more control in their lives. For others, menstrual suppression represents a frightening shift in thinking about the human body and another dangerous experiment on woman’s health. Period: The End of Menstruation? interrogates the cultural and medical side effects of suppression before 'the curse' disappears.

Director / Producer Giovanna Chesler utilizes methods of direct cinema, cinema verite, and poetic construction to construct her 16mm film. Giovanna and her crew met with over 50 participants around the United States to understand the variety of viewpoints on this complex topic. Period highlights these health practitioners, cultural critics, artists, activists. Several of these individuals impact the future of menstruation trends while others are directly affected by these trends. Some see menstruation as an essential element of the female body and experience. Others believe that menstruation is not necessary. One doctor extols the benefits of Seasonale, a pill designed to allow only four bleeding episodes each year (which generated $50 million in sales in one year.) Another participant explains that hormonal suppressants can lead to loss of bone density and osteoporosis in young women. Side effects include depression, cardiac ailments, blood clots, break through bleeding and loss of libido.

Period equates the experiences and opinions of every day Americans to medical knowledge. Women and men of diverse ethnic communities, of varying sexual orientations are included in the film alongside the health practitioners and theorists. We meet an African American woman in San Diego who was so troubled by her period that she chose to have a hysterectomy at age 33, We see a white urban professional in her late 20’s getting a shot of Depo Provera. She tells us that she has not menstruated in three years. However, a transman living in New York City chooses to keep his period and claims it as part of his masculinity, and an artist in San Francisco paints with her menstrual blood.

What is healthy and normal? What is female and private? What is natural?

Period addresses these complex questions and more. Period: The End of Menstruation? makes a taboo subject visible and audible, serving as a beginning to much needed public conversation and bringing attention to a pressing women’s health issue that affects millions of menstruators on a national and global scale.

Rent full film on Vimeo - $4.50
Purchase full film on Vimeo - $10.99
Purchase DVD through Cinema Guild NYC

Crew

Director, Producer, Editor - Giovanna Chesler
Producer - Marina Shoupe
Cinematography - Giovanna Chesler & Nancy Morita
Re Recording Mixer - Kadet Kuhne
Composer - Hannah Guggenheim
Title artwork - Geneva Kachman
Title design - Adriene Hughes

Screenings

Unmentionables Film Festival at Maysles Cinema, New York City, June 2015
Doc Watchers in Harlem, New York City, March 09
Connecticut NOW's Annual Convention, Connecticut College, New London, November 08
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, October 08
Ladyfest Cork, Ireland, April 08
Dundee Women's Film Festival, United Kingdom, March 08
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, January 08
Marymount Manhattan College, New York City, December 07
Red Tent Sisters in their Feminist Cinema Circle, Toronto, Canada, November 07
University of Victoria, Sex Ed Exchange, November 07
Fertility Awareness Charting Circle, Edmonton, Canada, November 07
SUNY at Fredonia, Women Take Aim Film Series, November 07
American University, October 2007
University of Southern California, October 2007
National Museum of Women in the Arts, September 2007
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, June 2007
Art Beat Portland, May 2007
Bluestockings Bookstore, New York, April 2007
Arts Picturehouse Cambridge UK- March 2007
Women Without Borders Film Festival, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - March 2007
Sexual Health Access, Alberta Canada - November 2006 / Feb 07
University of California, San Diego Women's Center - Fall 2006
Mess Hall Reproductive Health Video Screening, Chicago - August 2006
Gene Siskel Theatre, Chicago - July 2006
National Womens Studies Association Conference, Oakland, CA - June 2006
Malcolm X Library, San Diego - May 20, 2006
Concordia University, Montreal - March 22, 2006
California State University, San Marcos - March 14, 2006
San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts - November 5, 2005 - Photos!
UMass Boston - Thursday, October 27, 2005
Chatham College - Thursday, October 20, 2005
Pennsylvania State University - Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Univ. of Pittsburgh @ Greensburg, Pennslyvania - Tuesday, October 18, 2005
University of Indiana, Pennsylvania - October 17, 2005
Union College, New York - October 2005
University Film & Video Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois - August 2005
M.I.T., Camgridge, MA, Menstrual Identites -- Cultural Biomedical Inventions - May 2005
Pennsylvania State University - February 2004 (work in progress screening)
Binacom Research & Production Symposium, San Diego, CA - January 2004 (excerpts only)


Period Participants

The Students of Cesar Chavez Elementary: Welcome to this 5th grade classroom in San Diego where young girls are learning about their periods for the first time. Barbara Kernan, the nurse at Cesar Chavez, teaches these girls about their bodies with enthusiasm and warmth that encourages questions and positive feelings towards menstruation and menarche.

Women’s Wisdom Weekend: Nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains, women from the ages of 20 to 70 are led by herbalist Kami McBride of the Living Awareness Institute. They are taught to appreciate and celebrate their cycles. McBride warns us against menstrual suppression and the experimentation that is taking place in the health care industry at the expense of women.
http://www.livingawareness.com

Dr. Andrew Kaunitz: A physician from Florida and site tester of Seasonale, a new birth control method touted as a good option for menstrual suppression, speaks to us at the Association for Reproductive Health Professionals conference in La Jolla, CA. He is one of the most outspoken individuals on the burdens and maladies associated with menstruation. His article, Choosing Whether -- and When -- to Menstrute, has been widely read and cited in the fields of gynecology and contraception hormonal.

Makeda Tudor at Vagina Fest: Celebrate lesbian women’s health in San Diego, CA with Julie-Marie and Makeda, two musical performers who would give up their periods if given the choice. We meet up with Makeda a year after our first interview as she undergoes a hysterectomy to end her periods.
http://vaginasd.org/

Vanessa Tiegs: This artist carefully considers the meaning of menstruation in our discussion with her. She began painting with her menstrual blood several years ago, and now has 80 paintings which she shares. Her motivation - to produce a positive image of menstruation and consider, through the act of painting, the meanings of menstruation.
http://www.livejournal.com/users/spiralingmoon/

Geneva Kachman: This menstrual artist founded menstrual Monday and has made over 2000 kits complete with UFO’s (uterine flying objects) and menstrual bubbles. Kachman desires to bring a smile to the face of any woman in the process of changing her pad or tampon through her menstrual museum , currently in development in Detroit . The museum is filled with delightful and surprising menstrual creations (including a chocolate tampon dispenser!) Geneva lent her talents to the production of Period by participating through interviews, but also by drawing the logo of the film, a play on the uterus from the 1918 edition of Gray's anatomy . http://www.moltx.org

Society for Menstrual Cycle Research: At their conference in Pittsburgh, PA physicians and psychologists debate about menstrual suppression. We catch snippets of their arguments and witness the diversity of opinions and issues related to menstrual suppression. The Society has a long history of advocating for women’s health issues around menstruation – they were involved in tampon safety warnings and were early opponents of hormone replacement therapies. Presently, they are wary of the hype around menstrual suppression and call for more research in the area. http://www.menstruationresearch.org (for more on SMCR go to Period links.)

Red Hot Mamas: Chapters of the Red Hot Mamas abound throughout the United States. These groups of menopausal and peri-menopausal women offer support and information to for those in any stage of menopause. (http://www.primeplus.com) The women of this chapter in Ft. Wayne Indiana have many humorous and informed opinions on hot flashes, the change, and menstruation.

Dr. Susan Rako: This psychiatrist and author of The Blessings of the Curse: No More Periods?, is one of the most significant voices denouncing menstrual suppression. We interview her, listen in on a conversation with a patient who is deciding whether or not to stop menstruating, and follow Dr. Rako to the Harvard Medical library where she conducts her research.
http://www.susanrako.com/

Jennifer: Follow this 28 year old urban professional to her doctor’s appointment where she receives a shot of Depo–Provera, a birth control medication that prevents her from menstruating. Her physician, Dr. Leslie Kardos, tells us how the medication works and she explains why menstruating is not necessary. Jen reveals her motivations for taking this drug: she was hospitalized at a young age because of excessive menstrual bleeding.

Morty Diamond: A self proclaimed ‘dude who bleeds’, Morty spins the issue of menstruation on its head. By limiting the typical dose of hormones taken by female to male transgendered folks, Morty continues to get his period. His lived experience around menstruation and masculinity is truly fascinating and enlightening.
http://www.myyearinpink.com/

Truong Sisters: Darlene, Helen and Susie are three sisters who have some amusing and heartfelt ideas on what it means to bleed. We visit them in their Ft. Lauderdale, FL home on the day of Chinese New Years as they prepare a feast for their family and candidly discuss menstruation and cultural taboos around menses.


More Information on Period: The End of Menstruation?
Review in Signs: Films for Feminist Classroom
Article & Video on Period in the New York Times
Full press list at www.g6pictures.com

Blogs on Menstruation:
re:Cycling, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, http://www.menstruationreserach.org/blog
Adventures in Menstruating by Chella Quint, http://www.chartyourcycle.co.uk/

Recommended Links Challenging Menstrual Suppression (Our recommended links are compiled through research. We do not gain monetarily from these suggestions.)

Want to go off hormonal birth control?
Read this book by Justisse Healthworks for women "Coming Off the Pill, the Patch, the Shot and other Hormonal Contraceptives: Learning How to Restore Menstrual Cycle Health"

Non-hormonal birthcontrol options
Natural Contracteptive Methods at Sexuality and U - your link to sexual well-being.
Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research :"Manipulating Menstruation with the use of Hormonal Contraception - what does the Science Say?" and other informative articles.
Fertility Awareness Network - learn how to track your cycle and practice methods of contraception without hormones.
Justisse: Fertility Awareness Education - connect to a health pracitioner with information on non-hormonal birth control options.
Laughing Sage Wellness: New York based group interested in helping women have happy hormones!

Organizations devoted to Menstruation Research & Activism
Society for Menstrual Cycle Research: non profit, interdisciplinary research organization interested in the role of the menstrual cycle in women's health and well-being.
Museum of Menstruation & Women’s Health: documents the "rich history of menstruation and women's health" and a great jumping off point for most everything menses related.
Holy Hormones, Honey! (or the greatest story never told), a radio show on the benefits of tracking and studying the hormonal cycle.
Red Tent Sisters: Toronto based business dedicated to serving the reproductive and sexual health needs of women across the life-cycle.
The Red Web Foundation: Creates "Lifelong Menstrual Health through community and education" and provides a wealth of links to books and classes around menstrual education.

Recommendations on Menstrual Suppression
The Well Timed Period, blog by Author / Dr. Diana Kroi
Seasonale Extended Use Oral Contraceptives which allow for four bleeding episodes each year instead of the usual twelve.
Recent Article on Menstrual Suppression, "Period: Full Stop", Washington Post 6/6/06
Depo Provera Horror Stories to hear from those who have tried and have an experience to share

Gina Sucato, in attendance at Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference, author of:
Sucato GS, Gold MA. Extended cycling of oral contraceptive pills for adolescents. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2002;15(5):325-27. and
Sucato GS, Gershultz, K. Extended cycle hormonal contraception in adolescents. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2005:17(5):461-5.

Coutinho, Elsimar Is Menstruation Obsolete? (translated by Sheldon J. Segal), Oxford University Press, New York, 1999 and a review of the book by Kathleen O'Grady, Director Canadian Women's Health Network

Recommended Links for Alternative Menstrual Products
Luna Pads - natural menstrual products and more
Reddy's Pads are made by a participant in Period and include in panty and panty free designs
Jade and Pearl Sea Sponges instead of tampons
Glad Rags for all types of alternative menstrual related products
Lunette Menstrual Cup, UK and other products.

Good Reads
New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation by Chris Bobel (Rutgers Univ Press, 2010)
Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation by Elizabeth Kissling (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007)
Girls in Power: Gender, Body and Menstruation in Adolescence by Laura Fingerson (SUNY Press, 2006)
The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo, Menstruation by Karen Houppert (Farrar Starus Giroux, 1999)
Blessings of the Curse: No More Periods? by Susan Rako (Backinprint.com, 2006)
Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum by Terri Kapsalis (Duke University Press, 1997)
My Little Red Book edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, 2008

Reviews

New York Times Feature Article - April 20, 2007

Signs review, Fall 2010

UK Guardian, Oct 2, 2009

Afterimage, Nov-Dec 2008

USA Today, Life Section, June 11, 2007

Spoiler Alert Radio Interview, May 2007

Canadia Women's Health Network, Sp/Smr 07

Rue 89, May 5, 2007 (French)

El Mundo , April 23, 2007 (Spanish)

KUSI Inside San Diego, April 23, 2007

Bust Magazine, The guide:Movies p.100, Dec/Jan06/07

Video Librarian gives Period 3 stars!

"Period talk" in Citybeat San Diego by Kinsee Morlan

Interview with Giovanna Chesler in vagina verite

Our Bodies Ourselves 2005 edition recommends Period: The End of Menstruation?