________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 2 . . . . September 18, 1998

cover Under Wraps. A Film About Going With the Flow.

Teresa MacInnes (Director/Producer), Penny Wheelwright (Producer/Writer), Jennifer Torrance (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1996.
56 min, VHS, $26.95.
Order Number 9196 117

Subject Heading:
Menstruation-Social aspects.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

** /4

Under Wraps is a video documentary about the little talked about subject of menstruation. It is a subject which remains, according to the video notes," ... one of our last taboos." Award-winning director Teresa MacInnes, whose previous hard-hitti ng documentaries have included Teen Rebel/Teen Mom, in 1995, and Child Sexual Abuse: Both Sides of the Coin (1991) has once again teamed up with writer Penny Wheelwright to make a film which challenges the secrecy surrounding menstruation a nd the consequences of that secrecy. Beginning with artist Judy Chicago installing her Menstruation Bathroom and recalling audience outrage to her images of menstruation, the film moves to author Judy Blume reading from her young adult novel, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, which features 12-year-old Margaret who is dealing, among other issues, with the onset of menstruation. The film-makers visit a maverick biologist who ha s quite a different theory to explain monthly bleeding than the commonly accepted one. We see the male curator of a "Museum of Menstruation" who has gathered a collection of historical advertisements for sanitary protection which appear to prey on a desire for secrecy. We then move to a terrible side of society's reluctance to accept menstruation as a natural bodily function as we watch an interview with a victim of Toxic Shock Syndrome. We learn that, despite widespread publicity in the 1970's on th e danger of using tampons made of synthetic fibre, manufacturers have still not come up with an entirely safe tampon, and that as many as 10,000 American women contract TSS annually. Environmental pollution resulting from the use of the chlorinated pulp in pads, rayon in tampons and the huge volume of disposable plastic applicators is also explored in interviews with activists in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. The film wraps up at the opening night of the controversial New York art show, Enigma of Blood, by artist Wenda Gu who has put together a display of used tampons and pads, plus letters from women in all parts of the world dealing with their experience of menstruation.

      The purpose of this film appears to be to challenge the attitude of secrecy surrounding menstruation and to bring the subject out "from under wraps." Certainly Under Wraps accomplished this purpose. It is, however, unclear for what audience the film is intended. Apparently the filmmakers intend the viewers to "unlearn" certain attitudes which they may (or may not) have learned. Such an intention is fair enough for an adult audience but is somewhat suspect when aimed at adolescents and pre-adolescents. For such an audience, Under Wraps is far too sophisticated, too graphic. Using images from artists and activist s whose intent is to shock the public into changing attitudes is neither appropriate nor educational for children. Perhaps the film might be useful for Grade 11 or 12 students as a resource for research or debate on feminist topics. Educators should take care to follow the recommendation on the jacket of the video and preview this film before showing it. The same caution should be exercised before ordering it.

Not Recommended

Valerie Nielsen is a recently retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364