This Essay reviews and places into theoretical contexts Bridget Crawford and Emily Waldman’s invaluable book Menstruation Matters. Although the authors themselves do not explicitly label the theoretical approach that undergirds their work, much of Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods falls within the liberal feminist legal tradition typical of post-civil rights second-wave feminism. Their work also embodies aspects of critical feminist approaches to law. Crawford & Waldman expose the discriminatory effects of facially neutral laws, the limits of formal equality, and the pitfalls of essentializing or making universal claims about categories of individuals—including women and menstruators. In addition to exploring the theoretical lenses employed by the authors, this Essay suggests that other critical perspectives, including critical and global critical race feminism, might further elucidate the nature of the menstrual injustices the authors expose. This Essay posits that Menstruation Matters convincingly illustrates that feminist legal theory—comprising a whole variety of perspectives and approaches—is as relevant as ever.
Crawford & Waldman emphasize that menstrual equity is necessary to facilitate menstruators’ full participation in public life. The Essay suggests that this instrumental conception of menstrual equity may insufficiently recognize the inherent dignity of menstruators, irrespective of whether and how that equity enables their societal contributions. It suggests instead that menstrual equity is necessary and justified, not principally for any instrumental purpose, but simply because it affords menstruators the dignity to which they are entitled as full and equal members of society.