PMS and the Adonis Complex

Sarah Wills

In Joan C. Chrisler’s article, PMS as a Culture-Bound Syndrome, she discusses the realities of PMS. Just as Chrisler states, PMS is a very hard illness to diagnose. We lack tangible evidence that PMS is in fact a real syndrome. Whether or not PMS is diagnosable, culturally, PMS has a strong presence in our culture. Chrisler mentions how women must follow a certain status quo to maintain their role in society. Women must never raise their voice or act out of line. However, PMS gives women an excuse to act out of character. Being able to say “she’s just PMSing” completely writes off the legitimacy of her actions and emotions. The stigmas attached to PMS completely invalidate a woman’s emotions and actions. It also creates the notion that women are unstable. If two weeks out of every month a woman acts irrationally due to her menstrual cycle, then this portrays women as lacking control and stability. This is the reason as to why some women do not like the idea of PMS because it inherently implies that women lack control.

Not only has PMS created this stereotype for women, but it has also become a source of humor for society.  Just as Chrisler mentioned, there are greeting cards, t-shirts, etc that poke fun at PMS. Sayings such as, “It’s not PMS, I’m psychotic” or “Some special advice for the birthday girl-never cut the cake during PMS”. Sayings such as these contribute to the illegitimacy of PMS. An interesting point that Chrisler makes is that she feels that PMS is a culture bound syndrome. She suggests that PMS can only exist in an industrialized society where there are strong negative attitudes towards menstruation. Industrialization creates order and routine. The negative attitudes towards menstruation contribute to the negative effects that is supposedly has on women’s personality.

The article, The rise of the Adonis Complex: Roots of Male Body Obsession, discusses how the pressures for men to live up to a certain body ideal has greatly increased in recent decades. Now, boys and men are trying harder and harder to maintain a specific body complex, known as the Adonis complex. The need for this “perfect” physique has led to desperate measures among men. In order to achieve this body type, many men turn to eating disorders, steroids, and strict diets. Rather than just lifting to build muscle, men have begun working out just as a means of weight control. While weight loss programs and advertisements have mostly targeted women over the years, there is a fairly recent industry targeting men. The ideal body for men has changed overtime to being leaner and more muscular. While reading this article, it reminded me of the movie we watched in class where is showed the progression of superheroes’ bodies in film. Overtime, the actors playing superheroes have become bigger, stronger, and leaner in order to match up with the cultural ideals of the male body.

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5 thoughts on “PMS and the Adonis Complex

  1. The movie industry has seen multiple actors lose and gain weight for roles. Christian Bale for example has gotten far too skinny for The Machinist, then muscular for his role as Batman, and most recently fat for American Hustle. This is just one of many examples of actors getting deep into their role and achieving a completely new body image. But the most prevalent issue has been the building of muscle for action movies. Considering that these movies have dominated the box office over the past decades this is a serious issue. With the target audience for these movies being males from about 12-30 they have a legitimate influence over our society.

  2. Carly Ozarowski

    It is just another double bind women face on a daily basis. Women shouldn’t have PMS because it makes them “irrational” and writes off their normal emotions but yet for women that do have serious PMS symptoms it also writes off what they are feeling and dealing with medically. I believe it is more than just strong negative attitudes towards menstruation, but more rooted in a negative attitude towards women in general. It is often times forgotten that men face body image concerns as well, there is a subculture now referred to as gym rats. I think its interesting that this is a quietly done practice, and they do not address their body concerns.

  3. Sarah,

    I totally agree that defining a women’s actions by her “PMS” completely delegitimizes her actions and feelings. What’s sad though is that these characteristics are so out of the ordinary for women that they are defined as a mental illness. Why is it that men are allowed to visibly show and express their anger, but that it is so out of the question for women. Men are in a similar situation when it comes to concerns about their body. In reality, men and women both feel angry and have feelings of discontent with their bodies, but society has developed strict regulations about what men and women are allowed to express when it comes to these subjects.

  4. Sarah,

    I was thinking about your discussion on the stigmatization on menstruation when I remembered this commercial for tampons. What do you guys think about it? On one hand, I LOVE that this girl is so fascinated and excited to talk about the changes in adolescent women’s bodies. On the other hand, there are smaller parts like when she yells to a friend who has cramps “Suck it up and get over it!” that almost diminishes the fact that menstruating can be extremely painful. It’s spreading the message that women can’t be fazed by pain, which encourages women to be quiet even when they are in severe discomfort or even suffering.

    Emma Weisberg

  5. Luis Ramos:

    I’ve never understood why menstruation has always had a negative attitude. Females often describe it as a negative, scary, traumatizing, and somewhat “deadly” thing. Perhaps they could be overreacting or trying to scare us males, but what if they’re not? Going off of Emma’s post, I’ve never seen somewhat of an exciting and fascinated girl, like the one in the video, talk about the changes in adolescent women’s bodies. My girl friends have always describe these changes as something surreal and pretty terrifying. I recall when my mom tried talking about these things with my sister, and as our mother, I would have thought she would have been more sincere and honest. One of my closest friends brought up her experience when she tried informing her younger cousin about menstruation. Joking around, she informed her that she would die the day she had her first period. This scared her cousin and when the day came along, her cousin was freaking out. Why, why, why? Why do women joke around and try to scare us about this topic? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

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