Talk About Men and Sidelining! The "Other" Text in a Memory-Work Study About Menstruation

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This paper draws from a project that used Haug’s (1987) theory and method of memory-work to study menstrual experiences of eight Australian women. As memory-workers, we wrote memories about menstruation and we discussed and analyzed them in relation to each other: we glimpsed pride and wonderment and we unmasked anger and shame. We argued about theory, about research style, and about politics, especially feminism. And we told stories. We told them about others and we told them about ourselves. Sometimes we cried when telling these stories and sometimes, perhaps even many times, we laughed. Then we told more stories. This telling of stories, or “narrativization” (see Reismann, 1993) occurred because the memory-work process evolved in such a way that permitted this to happen. Whereas some of these narratives could be found threaded through the discussion and analysis of the written memories, many stood as an ‘adjunct’ to the memories yielded, for example, after a deliberate call by one group member for participants to tell stories about sex and menstruation. Whether we are cast as a group of unrestrained storytellers prone to excess of which Haug (1987) speaks, beyond this label there are wider consequences for memory-workers to consider. This paper argues that because memory-work has a principal interest in the written record of the memory and the accompanying collective analysis, ‘Other’ forms of the spoken text such as stories/narrative and conversation generated through the course of memory-work produce certain sorts of problems. These are explained as issues of voice and representation.
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