Women, females, menstruators - when to use which term?


  • Elisabeth
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  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
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Women, females, menstruators - when to use which term?

Have you also noticed that the term "menstruator" is popping up more and more in publications about menstrual health and hygiene? How do you feel about that? Well, I was a bit confused so I did a bit of reading and thinking. Once I felt that I have figured it out (more or less), I put it in Wikipedia to summarise my learnings and to help others in their journey.

See here:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstruation#Menstruator

A publication in 2020 makes the case for using the term "menstruator" instead of "menstruating women", stating that this term has been in use at least since 2010. [21] :950 The term menstruator is used by activists in order to “express solidarity with women who do not menstruate, transgender men who do, and intersexual and genderqueer individuals”. [21] :950 However, referring to people who menstruate as "menstruators" has also been criticized, and this is related to a more general debate within  feminism . [21] :950

Further up on the article we now also have this information:

Who menstruates
In general, women may menstruate after they have started menarche and until the time of menopause. Women who do not menstruate include:  trans women postmenopausal  women,  pregnant  women, and those experiencing  amenorrhea . [21] :950 During  pregnancy  and for some time  after childbirth , menstruation does not occur. The average length of postpartum  amenorrhoea  is longer when  breastfeeding ; this is termed  lactational amenorrhoea .

I'd be happy if others could add to that by suggesting other references which explain the concept even better. The way I understand it now is that "not all women menstruate (all the time in their lives)" and not all people who menstruate are women.

I am wondering how this discussion sits with you? Would you say "fair enough" or do you find it liberal & PC talk? Also I am wondering how menstruator could be translated into other languages. For example in German we don't have an equivalent term, and would probably say "menstruierende Person" (= menstruating person) which seems a bit of a mouthful. 

Is this important or unimportant for your work on menstrual health? What are your thoughts?


P.S. We also had a previous short discussion about it here (with Daphne):  forum.susana.org/24-menstrual-hygiene-ma...amps-in-greece#31899
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  • Britta
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  • Britta Wiebe is the Co-Founder of Vulvani, a bilingual educational online platform about periods, female health and sexuality. The main focus lies in menstrual education. The Vulvani Academy provides educational, yet entertaining online courses for all age groups, within a private and business context.
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Re: Women, females, menstruators - when to use which term?

We at Vulvani try to be as inclusive and gender-sensitive with our language as possible and thus prefer using terms like menstruators, menstruating people or depending on the context people with vulva / uterus. From our perspective, inclusion is important for everyone, but above all for people who find themselves outside the binary gender system. Our vision at Vulvani is to create a safe space for everyone who is experiencing menstruation at some point in their life and to learn about their own body - independent of gender identities. 
Here are two articles we've published on Vulvani about the topic, if you want to learn more about our perspective: 
-  Why are we using the term ‘menstruating people’?
Including the Men in Menstruation: Trans Periods & Branding 
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