By Violet Kopp & Rachel Landis
It’s no question that there’s a period stigma in the Western world. We’ve grown up hearing phrases like “time of the month” and “Aunt Flow” as a substitute for “period”–a way to avoid using the term that we’ve been taught to see as dirty.
Let’s get one thing straight before diving in: periods are not dirty. Periods are a natural part of our lives, and something that we as teenagers experience regularly. Because periods are a part of so many people’s lives, we have to stop being ashamed of our bodies and the way they function. When we, as members of a society, learn to avoid talking about our periods, we put a lot at risk. By giving into this stigma, period-havers are taught at a young age not to talk about what’s going on, which can limit education about what’s going on in our bodies, and how to take care of ourselves. We also might not be aware of how necessary period supplies are–and how many people are in need of this basic health supply. We, as passionate feminists, decided it is time to finally put an end to period stigma, so that we can work to create positive change for those who need access to period supplies and information throughout the world.
Why do we say ‘period-havers’ instead of ‘women’? Not only do we think that all genders should be included in the conversation about periods, but we know that people of all genders get periods! As we continue the conversation about periods, let’s keep an open mind and understand that period-havers aren’t just women, and all women don’t get their periods!
Around the world and even in our own communities, 500 million period-havers do not have access to the sanitary supplies they need. Most of these people in need are minors. Without pads, tampons, and painkillers, these children are forced to miss school, greatly impacting their education.
Judaism places a strong emphasis on taking care of one’s self, which makes this issue both personal and political. We, as Jews, know that it is our duty to repair the world, which is easily done by helping each other stay happy and healthy. Periods are one thing that could be easily managed, and should not be a stress as they often are.
By refusing to talk about periods and ending the stigma, we are refusing to bring to light the struggles of period-havers who aren’t as fortunate as we are. If we reject talking about our bodies from a place of privilege, those with no privilege can’t ask for the help they need and we can’t provide it to them.
That’s why we’re so pleased to announce our very first #iwouldmiss day. On May 30th we will wear red and be conscious of how lucky we are to not have to miss school because of our bodies. After the day, you can post a #iwouldmiss photo on instagram, with all the things you would have missed that day had you been forced to stay home in the caption. We hope to raise awareness of a larger issue in the world while overcoming our own self-prejudices and fears of being open about our health. Remember to tag @periodprojectt in your #iwouldmiss photos & posts. Please join us in our first #iwouldmiss day!
Violet & Rachel are fellows in Kol Isha, NFTY-NAR’s NY Teen Feminist Fellowship. Their final project, @PERIODPROJECTT, is a movement to destigmatize period’s, raise awareness and give the world equal access to period supplies. Follow them on instagram!