Bleeding Frustration

September 19, 2018




Amidst a few grills, each effusing different distinctive smells, a half-empty bike hire station and a glass entrance to a parking garage, sits a recognisible, yet quite rare, green structure. It is located in a rather appropriate setting, with the metro around the corner and several bus stops adjacent to it, ready for service for the commuters and others passing by. However, while the public toilet by Medborgarplatsen materialises the attempted initiative of public sanitation access in Stockholm, it also represents the skewed image of the body of uterine carriers.

In ‘Becoming-Infrastructural,’ Ross Exo Adams outlines the development of the view of the human body throughout history, as a way of finding form and organising space. He describes ancient traditions, where the body sought ‘its reflection in the perfection of the divine’, to more contemporary history where the body has been seen ‘as constantly in need of correction’. One might find (somewhat literal) correlations between what Adams describes in his essay and the problematic attitude across the globe regarding the menstruating body.

While the degree of abomination in regards to the menstruating body varies a great deal around the world, one could argue that there is still a maintained taboo in the Western society. The reality for many menstruators is clenched fists hiding what is being pressed against the palm of the hand on the way to a restroom. It is avoiding white trousers when the cycle begins. It is desperately trying to find a toilet when the cup hasn’t been emptied or the tampon needs to be changed. It is the undefined blue fluid in ads.

Although many uterine carriers have adequate access to sanitation in the West, many do not. The homeless or the displaced are often faced with additional challenges associated with menstrual hygiene. This bears implications for the access of public toilets and sanitary products. Menstruation carries a distorted cultural societal image, resulting in inadequate access of the above. Sanitary products are often regarded as luxury and taxed accordingly. Public toilets are seldom free of charge and the cleanliness is often questionable.  The toilet by Medborgarplatsen may be a target of frustration, but it arguably manifests all the issues concerning the menstruating body.


01_Gendered_ Infrastructures_Sara Sako

Public sanitation access in Stockholm


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