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‘It’s all in your head’: The life of ‘PMS’ in everyday talk-in-interaction

Hansen, S. (2004) ‘It’s all in your head’: The life of ‘PMS’ in everyday talk-in-interaction. In: Psychology of Women Section Annual Conference 2004, 7-9 July 2004, University of Brighton, UK


This paper examines the finer details of women’s avowals, ascriptions and disavowals of ‘having PMS’, as part of mundane conversation. The data examined is drawn from a corpus of publicly accessible weblog, newsgroup and chatlog transcripts. It is a delicate matter to attribute the ‘moodiness’, or ‘rudeness’ of another to PMS, just as it is to dismiss the claims of another to be ‘having PMS’. The agency conventionally attributed to PMS – as an underlying hormonal explanation for women’s excessive emotions, and capacity for rational behaviour – is often, in practice, actively contested by women so accused, whether these ascriptions form part of a ‘caring’ attribution by a partner, or are expressed in the form of an insult, or as an explanation for rude (or unpalatable) conduct. Indeed, the very possibility of encountering such an ascription – by which one’s control of oneself and one’s emotions is undermined by unruly hormones – may inform women’s ‘pre-emptive’ disavowal of their status as pre-menstrual. Attention to those instances where women avow their status as pre-menstrual shows that, when such assertions are made, they are often presented as pragmatic and considered explanations for mood or conduct, amongst other possible accounts.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Publisher: British Psychological Society
Copyright: British Psychological Society
Conference Website:
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