In this exciting interview, The Keeper, Inc.’s Marketing Director, Julia Schopick interviews Harry Finley about his wonderful online Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health.
Listen to the interview:
SHOW NOTES: The numbers on the left refer to minutes. So “0-4:00” means that this segment occurs for 4 minutes, from the beginning of the audio.
0 – 4:00 – Introduction. How the Museum of Menstruation was started. Includes Harry Finley’s background, his interest in the topics of menstruation and women’s health, and how his work involves research into many fascinating topics: medicine, anthropology, sociology, history and art, and how it allows him to utilize his research and language abilities.
4:00 to 6:90 – A discussion of cultures that are more – and less – open to the topic of menstruation. For instance, he believes that the Scandinavian countries are more open, while the Latin American countries, Spain, Japan and many Asian countries are not. The United States is somewhere in between, but leans toward the conservative side. A short discussion of an exhibit in the 1990s in a town outside of Oslo, Norway to celebrate the anniversary of a menstrual products company.
6:90 to 8:00 – A discussion of the fact that there is some humor on the MUM site – for instance, a description of some of the funny contraptions relating to menstruation that have been patented, including a 19th century patent for suspenders to hold up menstrual pads.
8:00 to 9:00 – Several advertisements on the site tell the story about how taboo the subject of menstruation really is. These ads are a reflection of society’s attitudes. Even recent US ads show the secrecy that surrounds the topic.
11:00 to 12:30 – A discussion of how Harry locates all this information – a combination of his own efforts, and people sending him information.
12:30 to 13:30 – the hush-hush nature of the topic of menstruation.
13:30 to 14:30 – the huge number of terms and phrases throughout the world, other than “the curse,” that are used to refer to menstruation.
14:30 to 15:30 – Many Asian countries have not “announced themselves” to Harry. In other words, no one from these countries has yet contacted him. Is this because people in these countries are not interested in the topic of menstruation? Could it be that they are embarrassed? Or do they just not know about the website yet?
15:30 to 18:40 – Harry has been criticized for finding this topic interesting – and for even using the word “interesting,” when discussing it! How people’s attitudes toward menstruation affect their level of interest in it.
18:40 to 22:40 – Are tampons dangerous? Harry doesn’t think so – if women do not keep them in too long. Tampons should probably be of concern to some women who are more susceptible to the staphylococcus aureus that can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome. Dr. Philip Tierno — tampon researcher from New York University, and one of the researchers who helped to get Rely Tampons off the market — told Harry about a blood test, an antibody test (anti-TSST-1) that can determine a person’s susceptibility to the staphylococcus aureus. According to Dr. Tierno, If a person has antibodies “at a titer of 1:100 or higher,” she is “usually protected against TSS development.” Unfortunately, Harry doubts that most gynecologists know about this blood test.
22:40 to 27:22 – A discussion of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and her bill, the Tampon Research and Safety Act, that would require the government to provide independent testing of menstrual products. How negative attitudes toward menstruation have made it difficult for Rep. Maloney to get the bill passed. Harry believes that it is highly likely that the men in Congress are just as afraid of the topic of menstruation as most other men are!
27:22 to 37:30 – Harry’s dream for his Museum. He wants to have a free-standing public Museum that will be open to the public and will house permanent exhibits on the history of menstruation and the ways different cultures deal with the topic. The Museum would include a “menstrual hut,” like those that are used in some cultures, and there would be exhibits on the history of other aspects of women’s health. He has turned down one offer from a prestigious university (and another from the Smithsonian) to house his collection because he does not want it to be a private collection that is not readily available to the general public – i.e., where the general public will have to make an appointment to view it. He wants the Museum to be a place that will encourage communication on the topic and will make people more comfortable with it, so that they will leave the Museum with an altered, more open-minded view of menstruation.