Founded in 2017, the Menstruation Museum Amsterdam is a museum collection entirely dedicated to menstruation. The goal of the collection is to educate about menstruation and challenge menstruation taboos. We believe that through educating and encouraging our visitor’s curiosity about menstruation, we improve their menstrual health literacy.
Widespread stigmas, taboos, and large knowledge gaps are the reasons behind poor menstrual health around the world. Therefore, we work towards a society where no person suffers unnecessarily from poor menstrual health due to lack of access to information.
This can only be made possible by making scientifically accurate information about menstruation readily accessible to individuals and decision-makers. Filling the knowledge gaps empowers both menstruants and non-menstruants to make well-informed menstrual health-related decisions.
Inspired by Harry Finley’s Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health (mum.org), the current collection boasts an assortment of antiques, historical facsimiles, and contemporary period products. It is only thanks to such predecessors that the foundation of this collection has been made possible. While the collection is currently being exhibited in a travelling pop-up format, the long-term goal is to establish a permanent museum in the heart of Amsterdam.
Frequently asked questions
Why is it necessary to have a museum about menstruation?
Very little is known about menstruation, because it has been systematically suppressed topic for at least the past two hundred years. Since history is always being interpreted and re-interpreted by contemporary historians, it is also always being rewritten. Therefore, many accounts of menstruation has been lost forever.
Consequently, there is a huge research gap on menstruation across all scientific disciplines. If the field of medicine is only now beginning to research the effect menstrual cycles has on medical treatments, one can only begin to imagine how far behind art historians, archaeologists, biologists, school teachers, philosophers, lawmakers, and politicians are.
How can you justify dedicating a museum entirely to menstruation, women, and other menstruators? Isn’t that discriminatory towards men and other non-menstruants?
As above mentioned, menstruation has been largely ignored across all disciplines for the past couple of centuries. On the other hand, male reproductive health issues, such as nocturnal ejaculation, impotence, and low sperm count has been very well researched. Not to mention the fact that men are overrepresented in most clinical studies determining the efficiency of medical treatments, whereas women are often excluded due to fears of interference from the menstrual cycle. Lastly, there already exists a Phallological Museum dedicated to penises, in Iceland.
While we are very appreciative of the scientific progress which has already been made in the field of male reproductive health, we cannot continue to ignore the research gap between menstruators’ and non-menstruators’ health. For the past two centuries, menstruation has been seen and treated as an insignificant health flaw, to be disguised and ignored.
Menstruation is a natural, healthy process which affects everyone, menstruants and non-menstruants alike. Without menstruating women and other menstruants, there would never be any children born. In their daily life, non-menstruants will inevitably have to interact with people who are currently menstruating, as friends, co-workers, partners, or neighbours. Yet, disinformation surrounding the topic persists to this day, across cultures and languages. This is why a menstruation museum is needed, and we invite and encourage non-menstruants to visit us too.
Why do you use the word “menstruant” instead of “woman”?
The answer is very simple: not all women menstruate, and not all who menstruate are women. Womanhood is not defined solely by menstruation. For instance, “menstruants” does not include post-menopausal women, post-hysterectomy women, or trans women. Similarly, “menstruants” includes trans men, intersex persons, and non-binary persons who menstruate. We wanted to find a word which specifically denotes those who menstruate, and “menstruants” is our preferred term.
We prefer “menstruants” over “menstruators”. Our supporter Renée Janssen and Eszti Besenyei-Merger have contributed extensively to this topic. Besenyei-Merger was quick to point out that menstruation is an autonomic bodily process which occurs irrespective of the menstruating person’s wishes and intentions. Janssen added that while the suffix “-tor” generally indicates a more active subject (actor, doctor, reactor, raptor, terminator, etc.) the suffix “-ant” is more commonly used for a passive subject (tenant, applicant, defendant, etc.). That is why we consider the more passive “menstruant” to be the most appropriate word.