It is hard to believe that just a few years ago it was unheard of to talk periods in public. Now, period positive hashtags are all over Twitter, period protests are held on capitol steps without reservation or embarrassment, and mainstream TV shows and media outlets cover the topic with more and more regularity. Time to declare victory, right?! Well, not exactly. Although the menstrual movement has made a ton of progress in just a few short years, it is not only essential to understand how we got here, but even more so, to identify the obstacles that still exist. Periods Gone Public by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf does precisely that.
Half history lesson, half how-to manual, Periods Gone Public is a field guide to taking period positivity to the next level. A fast read but not short on information, this book offers a fantastic overview of the hows, whys, and whens of menstrual activism. In the first few chapters, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf outlines the deeply rooted stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation, highlights the work of menstrual activists from around the world, and shares some of the struggles and obstacles of menstruators right here in America.
Weiss-Wolf gets into some nitty gritty discussions of policy, business, and economics but by peppering in personal anecdotes and interviews, the narrative is anything but boring. As easy as it may be to view the progress of menstrual activism through rose-colored glasses, Weiss-Wolf is careful and deliberate in her discussion of the challenges of the movement, aking it very clear to readers that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this very complex problem.
In later chapters, the focus shifts to menstrual activists. Activists like Kiran Gandhi and Rupi Kaur, two women whose public displays of menstruation went viral, as well as activist Laura Shanley whose Twitter protest against Mike Pence highlighted his Draconian attempts to control women’s bodies through absurd legislation. Weiss-Wolf goes on to discuss how celebrity voices have helped menstrual activism go mainstream in places like sketch comedy bits, satirical newscasts, and red carpet interviews. She brings these examples up, not as fodder, but to highlight the importance of having menstrual conversations out in the open: via Twitter, the red carpet, or right here at Cycledork, because they help people feel more comfortable with the topic. And the more comfortable people are, the more likely they are to join and continue the conversation. Better yet, people may feel inspired to invent educational games, hold donation drives to collect menstrual products for homeless youth, and even write policy for period-friendly legislation.
Weiss-Wolf ends the book with an insightful declaration: how we treat menstruation—whether in political discourse, innovation, or mass media—it can be the stick upon which we measure equity. Meaning, if we can treat menstruation, and those who menstruate, with the respect and dignity they deserve, we can effectively establish a baseline for how we address, frame, and solve a myriad of cultural problems going forward. Periods Gone Public is a book that will agitate you, inspire you, and open your mind to the importance and influence of such a seemingly mundane event. It is a must-read for anyone interested in gaining in-depth knowledge of one of the most entertaining, controversial, and fastest growing movements in recent history.
Amy Sutherland is a period-positive advocate, educator and writer. She prefers tackling topics like reproductive health, fertility, sexuality, feminism, social justice issues and all those tricky subjects you avoid talking about at family gatherings. Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Health as well as a Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies. Read her full bio here.