Growing up in a family of six sisters, JB Eyring (‘22) has never felt uncomfortable discussing women’s health. However, in high school, Eyring realized that his family’s open approach to these topics wasn’t common, with most people casually discussing strep throat or a broken arm but feeling uneasy bringing up the menstrual cycle.
“Nobody even wants to acknowledge that these issues are a thing,” he says. “That was troubling to me, how we get this lack of normalization around women’s health.”
Eyring is a public health major with a minor in human development. His classes on health and gender studies opened his eyes to the stigma around women’s health, particularly menstruation. Working with his mentor, public health professor Brianna Magnusson, he is researching to better understand negative attitudes surrounding menstruation, particularly those held by men.
Eyring and Magnusson created a 15-minute Qualtrics survey with questions measuring attitudes towards menstruation, knowledge of reproductive history, past and current relationships, and childhood experiences, along with scales measuring sexism and heteronormative attitudes. The survey received approximately 3,000 responses, of which about 400 women and 400 men were taken as samples.
Magnusson says the research confirmed what she and Eyring had already assumed; that males generally have less positive attitudes about menstruation than females. The survey results showed that men who have fathers present in their household tend to have more negative attitudes towards menstruation. Furthermore, those negative attitudes were compounded with every brother in the home. Eyring says that father figures have an integral role in their family’s attitudes towards menstruation and women’s health. Parents who have negative attitudes about sensitive topics tend to perpetuate their beliefs through their children.
“I think this tells us specifically that men need to be engaged in making the world a more equitable place for women, and more broadly, that all of us should be involved in making the world a more equitable place for all of humanity,” Magnusson says.
The survey also showed that, in general, married men have more negative attitudes towards menstruation than non-married men. Eyring believes open communication between partners is a significant factor in breaking down negative attitudes towards menstruation. "Men need a little bit more understanding…because they haven’t had the experience,” he says. “I think that’s why we see fewer men advocating for women.”
Eyring received a CURA (College Undergraduate Research Award) grant for his mentored research on men’s attitudes towards menstruation in 2021. Eyring and Magnusson will present their findings in the October American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting. “I’ve had a great experience working with JB,” Magnusson says. “He’s a very driven student who is very interested in the research process."
According to Eyring, informing men specifically of this research and the negative attitudes they can subconsciously perpetuate will help to destigmatize women’s health issues. He hopes to eliminate taboos in the future by opening a women’s health and fertility clinic in Utah. “One of the things I'm really intrigued by is using the physician as another point of access into adequate women’s health information and teaching,” Eyring says. He wants to continue educating people about women’s health, especially for those who don’t have positive home or school experiences addressing the topic.