Last week LOLA hosted the launch event for menstrual activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf’s new book Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand For Menstrual Equity.
Periods Gone Public is the first book to explore menstruation in the current cultural and political landscape and to investigate the new wave of period activism taking the world by storm. Dubbed one of the nation’s “badass menstrual activists” — Weiss-Wolf’s book explores why periods have become a prominent political issue. From eliminating the tampon tax, to enacting new laws ensuring access to affordable, safe products, menstruation is no longer something to whisper about.
Having hit shelves just one week ago, LOLA was proud to partner with her to host an evening of period-related fun at The Wing’s beautiful homebase for women. VIP guests enjoyed curated snacks and cocktails, a period polaroid station, a chance to decorate product boxes for homeless women in NYC, and a panel moderated by LOLA co-founder, Jordana Kier.
Check out a snippet from their discussion below and let us know your thoughts on menstrual equity in the comments section.
LOLA: Why did you create this notion of “menstrual equity”? How did you think of it, what is it, and how does this affect us all?
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf: When I first started thinking about menstrual access and affordability — and what it meant to be without those basic products — I found myself drawn to contemplating potential policy solutions. I thought about what might be the most successful way to frame a policy in order to inspire legislators to act. Health and human rights were one option; equity and participation were another. One doesn’t preclude the rest. But I ultimately decided that the latter were uniquely American democratic values and that they would be more persuasive in our current political environment. In order to have a fully equitable society, we need to have laws and policies that take into account the fact that half the population menstruates.
We have loads of government subsidized stuff that we just don’t think about because these things have been normalized as part of our culture. For example: we have multiple regulations that require the public bathrooms to be equipped with toilet paper and hand soap. For the same health reasons, menstrual products should be tax exempt, affordable and available for all, safe for our bodies and for the planet. Again, the equity angle makes the case that it is about the ability to participate, about civic engagement and democratic principles.
LOLA: Women have a complex relationship with menstruation over the course of their lives, and powerful stories exist throughout. Can you tell us about any stories that have stayed with you, either your own or from others?
JWW: My own stories run the gamut … from first period, to embarrassing scenarios, to managing pregnancy and miscarriages. And now that I’m almost 50, well there’s a whole new phase ahead! Among the stories I have heard as I do my advocacy and researched the book … they range from devastating to even deadly. People on the streets describing the dangers of shelters and public restrooms, where being alone makes a woman a target. Incarcerated women who are humiliated and degraded when they have to beg guards who have power over them for a pad. People who are trans and for whom periods implicate gender and identity in ways that are painful and exclusionary. There is not a single person who menstruates who does not have a powerful period story to share.
LOLA: During our fundraising process, it’s often such an educational process when it comes to teaching men about periods. How can we get even more men — and women — talking about these issues and understanding that periods are something half the world experiences?
JWW: It is actually easy … just do it! (Not promoting Nike here, but they do have a progressive menstrual leave policy!) Seriously, everyone knows about periods and knows people who have periods. What is the fear? The more we all talk, the more we invite others to do the same.
LOLA: With so many different issues at play (tampon tax, Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, etc.), there’s a lot dividing our attention as consumers and citizens. What’s most urgent? How do you decide and weigh the factors?
JWW: Each policy argument is uniquely important. One sets the stage for the next… and then the next. The tampon tax affects everyone and may be easiest to pass, but the reward is tiny. Access bills affect larger swath of population. Sometimes state and local government have bigger impact and reach than the federal government. For example more people are incarcerated in county jails and state prisons than in federal system. But they all matter. We need lots of points on the board. I have lots of energy, so keep many burners on simmer, even boil. I want to have wins at all levels, with bipartisan support, so we prove the vitality of this agenda.
LOLA: What’s your advice for people to get more personally involved specifically in the realm of legislation? How can the women in this audience and women in the world who care about this important cause get involved?
JWW: So many ways! Write, speak out, share on social media. Lobby your local school board and town council. If your state still has tampon tax, push your state representatives to act. Create and sign petitions. And read the book! Lots of advice there too!
LOLA: Where can The Broadcast readers find you and your book?
JWW: Catch me on tour (dates below) or order on Amazon today!
Austin, TX: Book Woman (10/19)
Brooklyn, NY: Books are Magic (10/24)
Madison, WI: A Room of One’s Own (10/25)
Ann Arbor, MI: Literati (10/26)
New York City: Brennan Center @ NYU (10/30)
Los Angeles: Skylight Books (11/1)
Los Angeles: Cycles + Sex (11/3 & 11/4)
Jersey City, NJ: Word (11/7)
Hoboken, NJ: Little City Books (11/9)
Vienna, VA: Bards Alley (11/28)
Washington, DC: Brennan Center (11/29)
Easton, PA: Lafayette College (11/30)
Maplewood, NJ: Words (12/7)