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The Red Gown: Reflections on the In/Visibility of Menstruation in Scotland

Bee Hughes (2021) Photograph of University of St Andrews gown, digital photograph taken in artist’s home.

A newly-published article for the Open Library of Humanities collaboratively-written by Dr Camilla Mørk Røstvik (University of Aberdeen), Dr Bee Hughes (Liverpool John Moores) and Dr Catherine Spencer (University of St Andrews), The Red Gown: Reflections on the In/Visibility of Menstruation in Scotland, grows out of Hughes’ artist residency with the St Andrews Centre for Contemporary Art during 2020-2021 (which you can read past posts about here and here).

Although impacted by a university strike and the Covid-19 pandemic, our collaboration has explored collections of menstrual culture in Scotland and broader questions of menstrual representation, reflecting on how established symbols with other connotations (notably the ceremonial red gown at the University of St Andrews) might provide a way of thinking about menstrual in/visibility. In this article, we discuss how these histories might be both present (institutionalised) and absent (when not on display). This paper presents our findings, in which the artist documents their first visit to St Andrews prior to the strike and pandemic, in relation to historical and contextual materials we located together.

The essay is part of the special collection The Politics and History of Menstruation: Contextualising the Scottish campaign to End Period Poverty.

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