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International Journal of Psychology, 2013

DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12028
Ambivalent sexism, attitudes towards menstruation
and menstrual cycle-related symptoms
Ma. Luisa Marv an
1
, Roco V azquez-Toboada
2
, and Joan C. Chrisler
3
1
Institute of Psychological Research, Universidad Veracruzana, Veracruz, Mexico
2
Department of Psychology, Universidad de las Am ericas-Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
3
Department of Psychology, Connecticut College, New London, CT, USA
T
he objective of the present study was to investigate the relationship between ambivalent sexism and beliefs and
attitudes towards menstruation, and, in turn, to study the inuence of these variables on menstrual cycle-related
symptoms. One hundred and six Mexican women completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, the Beliefs about and
Attitudes toward Menstruation Questionnaire and the Menstrual Distress Questionnaire. The higher scores on benevolent
sexism were associated with the most positive attitudes towards menstruation and also with the belief that a menstruating
woman should or should not do some activities and that menstruation keeps women from their daily activities. The higher
scores on hostile sexismwere associated with rejection of menstruation as well as with feelings of embarrassment about it.
Beliefs about and attitudes towards menstruation predicted menstrual cycle-related symptoms related to negative affect,
impaired concentration and behavioural changes, but did not predict somatic symptoms. These results will be useful to
health professionals and advocates who want to change the negative expectations and stereotypes of premenstrual and
menstrual women and reduce the sexism and negative attitudes towards women that are evident in Mexican culture.
Keywords: Ambivalent sexism; Beliefs about menstruation; Attitudes towards menstruation; Menstrual cycle-related
symptoms; Premenstrual syndrome.
Stereotypes of menstruating and premenstrual women
as tearful, tense, weak, physically ill, mentally unstable,
easily enraged, out of control and potentially violent
are reected in popular culture to various degrees in
cultures around the world (Chrisler, 2000; Marv an &
Cort es-Iniestra, 2008). Researchers have documented a
variety of practices to protect women (and to protect
others from women) by prescribing certain behaviours
(e.g., rest and solitude) and proscribing others (e.g.,
avoid growing plants, cooking and eating certain foods)
(Marv an, Ramrez-Esparza, Cort es-Iniestra, & Chrisler,
2006). Beliefs that menstruating and premenstrual women
are ill, weak and debilitated may trigger a tendency
to care for and protect them during this vulnerable
time, whereas beliefs that women are erratic, and even
dangerous, may trigger a tendency to try to restrict their
social, political and vocational opportunities and keep
them in traditional roles. Attitudes towards menstruation
and stereotypes of menstrual and premenstrual women
may contribute to sexism and negative attitudes towards
women. Furthermore, sexism may also contribute to
Correspondence should be addressed to Ma. Luisa Marv an, PhD, Instituto de Investigaciones Psicol ogicas, Universidad Veracruzana, Av. Dr. Luis
Castelazo Ayala s/n, Col. Industrial

Animas, Xalapa, Ver., 91190, Mexico. (E-mail: mlmarvan@gmail.com).
negative attitudes towards menstruating and premenstrual
women. Because the menstrual cycle provides such
a clear distinction between women and men, its
correlates, concomitants, accompaniments, ramications,
and implications have become intrinsically bound up with
issues of gender equality (Sommer, 1983, p. 53) and
absorbed into a collection of beliefs about womens
nature, that requires medical management and the
protection of men, who are believed to be stronger and
healthier than menstruating women (Zita, 1988).
Contrary to traditional sexism, Glick and Fiske (1996,
1997, 2001) have described sexism as a multidimensional
construct that encompasses both unfavourable and
favourable beliefs about women, and they developed the
Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI) to measure those
beliefs. According to their theory, there are two sets of
sexist attitudes: Hostile sexism (HS), which expresses a
negative evaluation of women and misogynistic attitudes,
and Benevolent sexism (BS), which is positive in tone
but considers women stereotypically and expects them
to remain in restricted roles; it expresses beliefs that men
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should treat women with affection and tenderness and
that they should protect and care for them. Both types of
sexism function together to maintain gender inequality.
For example, some women deserve benevolent
treatment as a reward for conforming to traditional
gender roles, whereas those women who do not conform
to traditional gender roles (e.g., irritable menstruating
women) should be treated with hostility.
Two previous studies used the ASI to examine
attitudes towards and beliefs about menstruation and
menstruating women. Forbes, Adams-Curtis, White, and
Holmgren (2003) asked American undergraduate stu-
dents to answer the ASI, and then to rate a woman during
her period (compared with the average woman) on 40
different adjectives. Impressions of the menstruating
woman were generally negative, and the highest scores on
HS were associated with the most negative perceptions.
In a more recent study (Chrisler, Gorman, Marv an, &
Johnston-Robledo, in press), both Mexican and American
undergraduates completed the ASI and used a semantic
differential scale with 43 pairs of adjectives to rate women
in different stages of reproductive life. A premenstrual
woman was rated as valuable, young, sensitive and
feminine, but she was also rated as tense and changeable.
A menstruating woman was rated as brave, sharp,
valuable, young, sensitive and feminine, but she was also
rated as bitter, tense, angry and changeable. Mexicans
scored signicantly higher than Americans on both BS
and HS. Furthermore, the participants with the highest
scores on BS were the most likely to show positive
impressions of a premenstrual and a menstruating woman.
As far as we know, no researchers have examined the
relationship between HS and BS and womens reports
of menstrual cycle-related symptoms, although BS has
been shown to affect womens self-construal in other
areas (Dumont, Sarlet, & Dardenne, 2010; Shepherd
et al., 2011) and symptom reports have been shown to
be affected by cognitive and situational variables (Ruble,
1977).
Menstrual cycle-related symptoms
A variety of physical and psychological symptoms have
been associated with the premenstrual and menstrual
phases of menstrual cycle. The beliefs that most
women experience menstrual symptoms and that the
menstrual cycle inuences womens behaviour, emotions
and intellectual abilities have gained wide endorsement
in popular culture. For example, it is believed that
menstruating and premenstrual women have lower work
or school performance than other women do (Chrisler,
2000, 2008a). Walker (1992) asked undergraduate
students to read a story about a female student who had
obtained a borderline mark on an exam, and then asked
themto decide whether she should pass or fail. There were
three forms of the story, which varied in the students
menstrual status at the time of the exam. Participants
believed that being in the menstrual or premenstrual phase
might account for poor exam performance. However,
the evidence does not support these beliefs (Marv an &
Cort es-Iniestra, 2008).
The World Health Organization (1981) conducted a
survey of more than 5000 women from 10 different
countries. Women in all countries said they experienced
mood changes and/or physical discomfort associated
with menstruation. Those who perceived menstruation
as an illness also experienced menstrual discomfort and
avoided work while menstruating. Around the same time,
Tampax Inc. surveyed more than 1000 people in the US.
There were many people who thought that women could
not function normally at work while menstruating and that
the menses affected a womans thinking ability (Tampax
Report, 1981). Although these studies were conducted
30 years ago, stereotypical expectations concerning
premenstrual and menstruating women remain prevalent
in contemporary societies (Chrisler, 2008a; Marv an &
Cort es-Iniestra, 2008) and may contribute to sexist
stereotypes. Womens negative attitudes could be a result,
at least in part, of their own cycle-related symptoms, but
that direction is not well supported, as negative attitudes
are rampant, and most womens experience is moderate
or mild (Di Giulio & Reissing, 2006).
Women who believe that the menstrual cycle has
a particular effect on moods are more likely to report
menstrual cycle-related mood changes. The pioneer study
of this issue was conducted by Ruble (1977), who led a
group of women to believe that they were either premen-
strual or intermenstrual (around ovulation) when they
were all actually intermenstrual. Women reported more
negative symptoms when they believed they were pre-
menstrual. One could argue that the women, when asked
to describe their experience, simply fullled a stereotype
that society prescribes for them by listing the expected
symptoms. Indeed, menstrual cycle-related symptoms
are largely related to womens expectations and attitudes
towards menstruation (Marv an & Cort es-Iniestra, 2008).
The belief that menstruation affects the performance of
women not only may cause many women to self-handicap
or to detach themselves from their responsibilities and
activities but can also lead to a restriction of womens
opportunities in society (Chrisler & Caplan, 2002), and
could be an important source of discrimination against
women. Furthermore, women who report attitudes that
reect BS may be more likely to believe that they need
special care and treatment during menstruation and that
their symptoms are difcult to manage.
The present study
The objective of the present study was to investigate the
relationship between ambivalent sexism and beliefs and
2013 International Union of Psychological Science
AMBIVALENT SEXISM AND MENSTRUATION 3
attitudes towards menstruation, and, in turn, to study the
inuence of these variables on menstrual cycle-related
symptoms in Mexican women. We expected that women
who score higher on BS would be more likely than
those who score lower to believe that menstruation
has prescriptions and proscriptions. That is, women
high on BS expect others to have benevolent attitudes
towards them, to take care of them and to treat them
especially gently when they are menstruating. They may
also believe that any negative or unfeminine behaviour
they commit during their menstrual periods (e.g., anger
and irritability) is justied by their physical condition.
Furthermore, if women believe that they should be
treated gently during the premenstrual and menstrual
phases, then they might also endorse more positive
or pleasant aspects of menstruation than other women
do because they look forward to special treatment, or
the opportunity to speak their minds, or the chance to
rest and relax. Although women generally score lower
on HS than men do, if any high-scoring women were
found in our sample, we expected them to be less likely
than other women to believe that there is anything good
about menstruation. Finally, we expected that beliefs and
attitudes towards menstruation would predict menstrual
cycle-related symptom reports.
METHOD
Participants
The sample included 106 middle- to upper-class Mexican
women living in the city of Puebla. They ranged in age
from 19 to 46 years (M=29.08 years, SD=7.97 years).
Thirty-ve percent had studied for a technical career or
had a high school degree, 39% were undergraduates from
a private university and the rest had a college degree. Of
the women who were not students, 62% were employed,
26% were merchants and the rest were self-employed
professionals.
The students were recruited by direct solicitation at
places of congregation at the university. The other women
were recruited by direct solicitation in their workplaces.
Only women with regular menstrual cycles who were not
taking oral contraceptives were included in the sample.
Instruments
The ASI (Glick & Fiske, 1996) is a 6-point scale ranging
from 0 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). It
includes 22 items in two subscales: HS (e.g., Most
women fail to appreciate fully all that men do for them)
and BS (e.g., Women should be cherished and protected
by men). Glick and Fiske conducted six studies to
develop and validate the ASI, and the Cronbachs alpha
coefcients ranked from .83 to .92. The translation to
Spanish was done in Spain (Yolanda Rodriguez-Castro,
personal communication, November 2008), and we
made minor changes to account for language differences
between Mexico and Spain. Cronbachs alpha was .82
for HS scale and .88 for BS scale.
The Beliefs about and Attitudes toward Menstruation
Questionnaire (BATM) was developed in Mexico and
validated in the US by Marv an et al. (2006). It is a 5-point
scale (from 1disagree strongly to 5agree strongly)
that includes four subscales: annoyance, proscriptions
and prescriptions, secrecy and pleasant. The annoyance
factor refers to the menses as a bothersome event, and
includes items that suggest a desire to reject menstruation
(e.g., Men have a great advantage not having the annoy-
ance of the period). The proscriptions and prescriptions
factor includes some activities that women should not do
and others that they should do while menstruating (e.g.,
Women must take showers with hot water while we are
having our periods, Women must avoid carrying heavy
things when we are having our periods) or that reect
the belief that menstruation keeps women from their
daily activities (e.g., The period affects the performance
of women at work). The secrecy factor evaluates the
importance of keeping menstruation a secret and feelings
of embarrassment about menstruation (e.g., It is uncom-
fortable for us women to talk about our periods). The
items that comprise the pleasant factor include possible
feelings of well-being and pride (e.g., Women are proud
when we start having our period). The total BATMrelia-
bility in the original study was .86. The Cronbachs alphas
in the present study were: annoyance .86, proscriptions
and prescriptions .93, secrecy .80 and pleasant .68.
The Menstrual Distress Questionnaire (MDQ) was
developed by Moos (1968) in order to assess menstrual
cycle-related symptomatology. It was translated into
Spanish and adapted to Mexico by Ramrez de Lara, Lara
Tapia, and Vargas (1972). Neither Moos nor Ramrez de
Lara et al. reported a reliability coefcient, but the rst
study in which the Mexican version of the MDQwas used
reported a Cronbachs alpha of .95 (Ramrez-Esparza &
Marv an, 1998). The Mexican version of the MDQrequires
women to rate the degree to which they experience 33
symptoms on a 6-point scale that ranges from 0 (no
experience of the symptom) to 5 (acute or partially
disabling). The symptoms are grouped in somatic
symptom scales and mood/behaviour change scales.
The somatic symptom scales are pain (e.g., headache),
water retention (e.g., swelling) and autonomic reactions
(e.g., dizziness). The mood/behaviour change scales are
negative affect (e.g., depression), impaired concentration
(e.g., distractible) and behaviour change (e.g., decreased
efciency). The women were asked to respond to the
MDQ based on symptoms that they typically experience
within the days before their menstrual period and that
disappear as soon as, or a fewdays after, the period begins.
The Cronbachs alpha in the present study was .91.
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Procedure
The research protocol for this study was approved by
the institutional review board of the Universidad de las
Am ericas-Puebla. Signed informed consent was obtained
from all participants.
Womenwere surveyedindividuallyat their workplaces
or at the university. A female researcher collected all
data. Participation was voluntary. When women gave
their consent to take part in the study, they were asked to
answer a few questions to determine if they fullled the
criteria for participating in the study. If the criteria were
fullled, participants set up a time and a place with the
researcher to answer the questionnaires. Women were told
that the survey was anonymous, and they were instructed
not to put identifying marks on the questionnaires.
The questionnaires were presented in counterbalanced
order. After a volunteer completed her questionnaires,
the researcher immediately put them inside an envelope
that contained other surveys, so the participants could see
howall questionnaires were combined. It took participants
2050 minutes to complete the questionnaires.
RESULTS
We adopted a signicance level of .05 in all analyses
reported in this article.
There was no signicant difference in the scores
on the questionnaires based upon the order in which
the participants answered them, BS: F(5,100) =1.53,
p =.19,
2
=.07; HS: F(5,100) =0.28, p =.92,
2
=.01;
BATM-annoyance: F(5,100) =1.58, p =.17,
2
=.07;
BATM-proscriptions and prescriptions: F(5,100) =0.29,
p =.92,
2
=.01; BATM-secrecy: F(5,100) =0.55,
p =.74,
2
=.03; BATM-pleasant: F(5,100) =1.44,
p =.22,
2
=.07; MDQ (total): F(5,100) =0.61, p =.69,

2
=.03.
Pearson product moment correlations were calculated
between ASI, BATM and MDQ scores, which are shown
in Table 1.
There were signicant positive correlations between
womens BS and endorsement of proscriptions and
prescriptions as well as pleasant items. These correla-
tions indicated that women with higher BS also believed
more strongly that there are activities that women should
do or should not do while menstruating, as well as that
menstruation keeps women from their daily activities.
These women also held more feelings of well-being
and pride associated with menstruation. Furthermore,
there was a positive correlation between BS and
menstrual-related symptoms associated with impaired
concentration.
The womens HS scores correlated positively with
endorsement of the annoyance and secrecy items.
That is, the greater the HS, the stronger the rejection
of menstruation and the more embarrassment about it.
Moreover, there was a positive correlation between HS
and negative affect scores.
In order to test whether ambivalent sexism and beliefs
about and attitudes towards menstruation predicted
reports of menstrual cycle-related symptomatology, we
conducted six linear regression analyses. Each factor of
the MDQ was entered as a dependent variable in each
regression, and, in all cases, both the subscales of the
ASI and the subscales of the BATM were the inde-
pendent variables (Table 2). According to the variance
ination factor (VIF) test, there were no collinearity
problems in our data, as all VIF scores were less than 3
(Kennedy, 2003).
When we analysed negative affect as the dependent
variable, the BATMs subscales annoyance and
proscriptions and prescriptions, as well as HS, were
signicant predictor variables, F(6,99) =5.39, p <.0001,
R
2
=.245; R
2
corrected =.20. Thus, we found that:
(1) higher scores of agreement that the menses are
bothersome predicted higher scores on the symptoms
that comprise the MDQ subscale negative affect; (2)
higher scores of agreement with the belief that there
are some activities that women should do or should not
do while menstruating were also predictive of higher
scores on the symptoms that comprise the subscale
negative affect; and (3) higher scores on HS predicted
negative affect.
Regardingbehavioural change as the dependent vari-
able, the BATMs subscales proscriptions and prescrip-
tions and secrecy were signicant predictor variables,
F(6,99) =6.25, p <.0001, R
2
=.28; R
2
corrected =.23.
Thus, (1) higher scores of agreement with the belief that
there are some activities that women should do or should
not do while menstruating were predictive of higher
scores on the symptoms that comprise the MDQ subscale
behavioural change and (2) higher scores of agreement
with the idea that menstruation should be kept a secret
were predictive of higher scores on the symptoms that
comprise behavioural change.
Concerning impaired concentration as the depen-
dent variable, the BATMs subscale proscriptions
and prescriptions was a signicant predictor variable,
F(6,99) =3.38, p <.005, R
2
=.17; R
2
corrected =.12.
That is, higher scores of agreement with the belief that
there are some activities that women should or should
not do while menstruating predicted higher scores on
the symptoms that comprise the subscale impaired
concentration.
Neither the BATM nor the ASI subscales was a
predictor variable when we entered the MDQs somatic
symptom subscales pain, F(6,99) =.94, R
2
=.05;
R
2
corrected =.003, water retention, F(6,99) =1.01,
R
2
=.06; R
2
corrected =.00 and autonomic reactions,
F(6,99) =1.26, R
2
=.07; R
2
corrected =.02.
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AMBIVALENT SEXISM AND MENSTRUATION 5
TABLE 1
Intercorrelations between ASI, BATM and MDQ
ASI BATM MDQ
Benevolent
sexism
Hostile
sexism Annoyance Pleasant P&p Secrecy
Negative
affect
Behavioural
change
Impaired
concentration Pain
Water
retention
Hostile sexism .17
Annoyance .02 .31
***
Pleasant .27
**
.07 .03
P&p .34
***
.18 .24 .08
Secrecy .06 .23 .27
**
.12 .33
***
Negative affect .04 .31
***
.39
***
.03 .34
***
.05
Behavioural change .14 .18 .24 .14 .27
**
.30
**
.39
***
Concentration .23 .18 .17 .01 .37
***
.02 .42
***
.29
**
Pain .06 .04 .21 .03 .14 .01 .44
***
.10 .35
***
Water retention .06 .11 .04 .07 .13 .11 .42
***
.03 .17 .35
***
Autonomic reactions .02 .19 .15 .06 .18 .00 .36
***
.02 .13 .34
**
.32
***
Note: P&p =proscriptions and prescriptions.
*p <.05, **p <.01, ***p <.001.
TABLE 2
Linear regression analyses for variables predicting menstrual cycle-related symptoms
Menstrual cycle-related symptoms
Negative affect Behavioural change Impaired concentration
Independent variables B SE B B SE B B SE B
ASI
Hostile sexism .22 .12 .18
*
.29 .10 .28 .06 .07 .08
Benevolent sexism .07 .10 .07 .02 .08 .03 .07 .06 .13
BATM
Annoyance .31 .11 .26
**
.06 .10 .06 .04 .07 .06
Pleasant .02 .13 .01 .18 .12 .14 .05 .08 .06
Proscriptions and prescriptions .34 .12 .27
**
.26 .11 .23
**
.22 .07 .31
**
Secrecy .00 .15 .00 .35 .13 .25
**
.02 .09 .02
Note: Only signicant factors of MDQ are presented.
*p <.05, **p <.01.
DISCUSSION
The results of this study indicate that there is a relationship
between ambivalent sexism and beliefs about and
attitudes towards menstruation and that these variables
could inuence reports of some menstrual cycle-related
symptoms.
The higher scores on BS were associated with the
higher scores on the proscriptions and prescriptions
and pleasant subscales of the BATM. That is, the
participants who showed the most positive but restrictive
attitudes towards women were the most likely to hold
the most positive attitudes towards menstruation, but also
to believe that a menstruating woman should or should
not do some daily activities and that menstruation keeps
women from their daily activities. These results might
be because BS suggests that women should be protected
and cared for because they are vulnerable and weak
and that women ought to be placed on a pedestal, but
only if they conform to womens traditional roles. For
traditionally oriented women, menstruation is a vital part
of a womans life (Marv an & Lama, 2009), and it is
consistent with, and perhaps necessary to, their concept
of themselves as wives and mothers (Miller & Smith,
1975). If we put these ideas together, one might assume
that a woman who agrees with BS statements holds the
stereotypical belief that the premenstrual and menstrual
phases are characterized by weakness and disability;
therefore, she might also believe that a menstruating or
premenstrual woman needs protection from some daily
activities and stresses. In fact, it has been demonstrated
that when women are confronted by BS in an occupational
or academic context, they report intrusive thoughts and
worries about their abilities to performwell on a cognitive
task. Such thoughts consist of preoccupations with the
performance of the task, general self-doubts and low
performance self-esteem. This confrontation also leads
to autobiographical memories of situations in which
women have felt themselves to be incompetent. In
addition, women show impairment in the performance
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of the cognitive task (Dardenne, Dumont, & Bollier,
2007; Dumont et al., 2010) and report higher levels
of body shame and body surveillance (Shepherd et al.,
2011), which have been associated with negative attitudes
towards menstruation (Johnston-Robledo, Ball, Lauta, &
Zekoll, 2003).
Another of our results was that higher scores on HS
were associated with higher scores on the annoyance
and secrecy subscales of the BATM. These ndings
are consistent with the study by Forbes et al. (2003),
who found a signicant association between HS and
a negative impression of a menstruating woman. This
result is not surprising because HS disparages all aspects
of femininity, and menstruation is not only part of
being female, but, as Sommer (1983, p. 53) noted, it
is intrinsically bound up with gender inequity and
discrimination against women.
The results also indicate that beliefs about and attitudes
towards menstruation predict some menstrual cycle-
related symptoms. The symptoms that were predicted
by beliefs about and attitudes towards menstruation
were those that are grouped in mood/behaviour change
scales, which are most associated with cycle-related
negativity and stereotypes. The somatic symptoms were
not predicted by beliefs and attitudes.
The symptoms that comprise the MDQ subscale
negative affect were predicted by the belief that the
menses are annoying and that there are some activities that
women should or should not do while menstruating. These
data suggest that women perceive emotional lability to be
the most bothersome and debilitating symptom cluster.
The stereotype of menstruating and premenstrual women,
as exhibited in popular culture, focuses on negative affect,
especially anger, anxiety, tension and depression, and it
indicates that these emotions are debilitating and upsetting
for both women and those around them. The stereotype
may be a reection of womens concerns, or it may shape
their concerns and cause them to notice and emphasize
emotional change, or bothin a dynamic process.
Higher scores on HS also predicted higher scores on
negative affect. Perhaps, belief in the negative stereotypes
about menstruating and premenstrual women increases
hostility towards women because those stereotypical
women are not exhibiting the traits associated with
womens traditional roles (e.g., nurturance, kindness
and approachability). Belief in the stereotype might
also become a self-fullling prophecy; if women expect
to experience negative affect, they, in a sense, give
themselves permission to exhibit traits and emotions that
they would usually suppress (Chrisler, 2008b).
Symptoms that comprise the MDQ subscales
behaviour change and impaired concentration were
predicted by the highest scores of agreement with the
belief that there are some activities that women should
or should not do while menstruating and that menstrua-
tion keeps women from their daily activities. Moreover,
the subscale behaviour change was also predicted by
higher endorsement of the idea that it is important to
keep menstruation a secret. It is logical to assume that if
a woman believes that women should change their daily
activities while menstruating, and she must to take care
so that people do not know that she is menstruating, then
she expects herself to change her own behaviour. In the
same way, if a woman believes that menstruation is a
source of disability and incompetence, then she may limit
behaviours and tasks that require concentration. In this
respect, it has been demonstrated that, if women expect
that the menstrual cycle has a particular effect on them,
they will be more likely to experience the cyclic changes
they expect (Marv an & Cort es-Iniestra, 2008). Higher
HS scores also predicted higher scores on behaviour
change, which may be related to the belief that women
ought not to embarrass or inconvenience others by men-
tioning menstruation or using it as an explanation for not
performing their traditional roles and duties as expected.
Some of the items on the behaviour change
MDQ subscale are tasks that require concentration
(e.g., lowered school or work performance and
decreased efciency). In fact, there was a signicant
positive correlation between the behaviour change
and impaired concentration subscales of the MDQ
(r =.288, p =.003). Moreover, some accidents may
occur if a woman does activities that are prohibited
while menstruating according to the proscriptions and
prescriptions subscale of the BATM, and, if such
accidents occur, they could be due to poor concentration
(e.g., while swimming, exercising or carrying heavy
things). Perhaps, people (e.g., high scorers on BS
and proscriptions and prescriptions) who believe that
women should take special care of themselves during
the premenstrual and menstrual phases of the cycle think
that special care is needed because of negative affect and
lowered concentration. They may think, Oh, you poor
thing! You had better rest and drink some hot tea until
this passes and you feel like your old self again.
Finally, our results must be interpreted in the context
of the studys limitations. All the participants were urban
middle- to upper-class women who had middle to high
educational levels. Mexicans with low income, living in
rural areas or with a limited education have different
attitudes and beliefs related to natural events in womens
lives, and these include menstruation. Moreover, lower-
class women are usually encouraged to play the most
traditional feminine roles (Garca &Oliveira, 1994); thus,
their levels of sexist beliefs are likely to differ from those
reported in the present study. Future researchers might
want to include a measure of traditional gender roles and
recruit a sample of women with more diverse sociocultural
characteristics in order to generalize the results.
Despite this caution, our results indicate that beliefs
about and attitudes towards menstruation are related to
womens reports of menstrual cycle-related symptoms.
2013 International Union of Psychological Science
AMBIVALENT SEXISM AND MENSTRUATION 7
Severe symptoms may have a negative impact on daily
life (e.g., Choi et al., 2010), and, of course, they can
also lead to negative attitudes towards menstruation.
However, negative expectations and stereotypes (e.g.,
Ruble, 1977; Walker, 1992) can clearly lead to reports of
particular symptoms and general distress. For example,
expectations of distress might cause women to take note of
and emphasize changes in affect, cognition or physiology
that might otherwise be overlooked or easily coped with.
Thus, one way to assist women in coping with men-
strual cycle-related changes is to portray menstruation
more positively and less negatively. For example, if
the media and nursing, medical and health education
professionals would contribute to changing the negative
expectations and stereotypes of premenstrual and
menstrual women, then fewer women might report
moderate-to-severe menstrual cycle-related symptoms,
and that could help to reduce sexism and negative
attitudes towards women.
Manuscript received September 2012
Revised manuscript accepted August 2013
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