I remember when I first heard the term “menstrual equity.” It was in February of last year, while writing a feature for Broadly. At the time, New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland wanted to make tampons and pads free and accessible to public school students in the five boroughs. My article delved into her efforts, and why it’s vital that students who menstruate have easy access to personal hygiene products. And it was for that piece — one of the first in a series I would write Broadly on menstrual equity — that I first interviewed attorney Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. Just months before, Weiss-Wolf teamed up with Cosmopolitan for a scathing essay — and an accompanying petition — calling for the end of the tampon tax. And, in a way, you can say that Cosmo essay is the essay that launched a thousand ships in the battle for menstrual equity — a term coined by Weiss-Wolf herself. Now the advocate has put the movement’s fledgling history down on paper with Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity (October 10, Arcane Publishing).
Published this week, Periods Gone Public details the propulsion of menstruation into the mainstream. But it’s not just about an inequitable tax on menstrual products, or combating stigma; Periods Gone Public also recalls the tireless advocacy, innovative philanthropy, and audacious activism that broke the period taboo on a cultural, political, and policy level. The book is as much a history lesson and cultural critique as it is a thoughtful guidebook on how to shutdown opponents of gender equity. Where the Breitbarts of the world label menstrual products a “luxury,” Periods Gone Public proves their global necessity with research, statistics and anecdotal evidence. Where sexists of the world roll their eyes at this “women’s issue,” Periods Gone Public acknowledges that menstruation affects all gender identities (a topic I made a point of discussing during a panel last year). And where the conservatives of the world scoff at equitable menstrual policy, Periods Gone Public demonstrates how innovations in the public and private sectors have improved public health and well-being.
Of course, you may take issue with some of Weiss-Wolf’s advice on how to propel the movement forward. I know there are a few points I’m not fully aligned with. But Periods Gone Public is still necessary reading for anyone who wants to know how to achieve full menstrual equity — and what we need to do to get there.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kaldari
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