Stigma, sustainability, and capitals: a case study on the menstrual cup

Lara Owen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper develops theory on stigma, capitals, and the female reproductive body, explored through analysis of empirical research on the uptake of menstrual cups, a reusable menstrual technology. Conventional menstrual products are single-use disposables increasingly made of plastic and often disposed of by flushing, adding a significant load to marine pollution. Uptake of reusable products such as cloth pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups is increasing, but so far little is known about the effects of using such products on menstruators and on menstrual organization more broadly. My empirical research studied menstrual cup use in a small cohort of undergraduates in Melbourne, using a dual diary and interview technique. “Sustainability” as a key value was primary in participants' desire to try the cup, which most then found to be more convenient than other methods. These factors contributed to increased cultural capital surrounding menstruation, to the point where the cup and its use were described as “cool”. This new status facilitated articulation of menstrual experience with partners, peers, and families, rendering users greater agency and community in what has normatively been constructed as a solitary, silenced experience. Using the cup detached users from the menstrual disposability market economy, and therefore to some extent from its stigmatizing narrative and symbolic violence. Yet the cup had a significant paradoxical effect, in that users were able to “forget” they were menstruating during the day and in organizational settings, while encountering menstrual blood more intensely when they got home, differently enclosing the female reproductive body.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1095-1112
Number of pages18
JournalGender Work and Organisation
Issue number4
Early online date24 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Sustainability
  • Feminist theory
  • Menstrual cup
  • Menstruation
  • Stigma


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