Trump’s recent announcement to reinstate the ban on transgender people joining the military has shocked communities the world over. His flimsy reasons included the medical costs of transgender people (despite only being a small percentage of all costs) and disruption (Donald, are you serious?). Whilst Trump continues to instate harmful policies and share his offensive views (many in tweeted form) the rest of us persevere in standing up for the equal treatment and acceptance of everyone.

You may have already clocked the un-gendered language that Every Month uses when discussing periods. We are committed to providing free sanitary products for everyone who needs them; not just cis women. Along with other organisations such as Lunapad and Pyramid Seven, we want to open up conversations about menstruation without gender, giving everyone the opportunity to access products and support. If we can encourage other companies and campaigns to do the same, things will change.

Theo shared their experience of identifying as non-binary and menstruating:

“I’m an enby, or a non-binary person, who bleeds once a month. I was a late-bloomer in discovering my identity, but not when it came to puberty. When I started my period aged 12 I didn’t know what to do. I think my mum had briefly mentioned it, but there was so much blood I was ashamed. I threw my underwear in the bin and when I’d bled only a little onto the next pair, I went to my mum. She told me about tampons and sanitary towels and that was the end of it. I was horrified by the idea of shoving a tampon up there. I felt ashamed every time I bled. Every time I had to change my sanitary towel, I felt horrible. In the back of my head there was a tiny voice telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed by this bodily function, but I felt ashamed anyway. I felt a lot of guilt about being a “bad woman” because I didn’t like having periods or hips or boobs, but especially the periods.

As I grew up and spent more and more time on the Internet reading articles and blogs, feeling like a hypocrite was added to the guilt and “bad woman” thoughts. I began to join in with comments about how periods are natural and okay and nothing to be ashamed of. I got mad when boys made jokes about periods and angry women or laughed at tampons. I got frustrated at sanitary towel adverts boasting discrete packaging, because God forbid someone heard you opening a sanitary towel in a public toilet. It’s not a secret – some people bleed once a month. I’d shout from the rooftops that periods were natural and not something to keep hushed up. Then I would have my own period and be ashamed and embarrassed and hate myself and my body for what was happening.

When I realised I was non-binary, the thing I felt most relieved about was that this meant I wasn’t a bad woman for hating my periods. I just wasn’t a woman. And I hated my periods because I associated them with women/being a woman. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, assessing my ideas and where they came from. The result is that I am now comfortable in declaring that I am a non-binary person who menstruates. I’m not a woman but I do have periods, and I’m allowed to dislike having my own period whilst simultaneously declaring that periods aren’t horrible or shameful.”

Menstruation should not be a stressful experience but for many it is because having periods is so heavily associated with being female.  Not everyone who is a transgender or non binary person will menstruate. Not everyone who menstruates will feel affected by it in the same way or want to take hormones to stop them.Those who do menstruate and find it distressing, may experience Gender Dysphoria which occurs when a person’s gender identity and biological sex are mismatched. Culturally rooted perceptions of gendered periods is not only an internal battle. Visiting male toilets becomes more daunting without sanitary disposal bins in place and fewer cubicles. It makes many feel more inclined to use female toilets which could put them in a potentially dangerous or unpleasant situation.

“There’s nothing female about your body throwing out some unused baby juice. It’s                              merely society that’s long since confused menstruation with being somehow female or                       feminine”.

James St James for Everyday Feminism

The packaging of sanitary products is ridiculously gendered too.

Pink and floral boxes are championed by sanitary product manufacturers along with names like ‘discreet’ ‘radiant’ and ‘pearl’  – Y’know all those super ‘feminine’ feels? Companies add scents to  tampons and design the shape of their pads to fit perfectly into delicate female underwear.

Images and TV adverts portray a very specific two dimensional person on their period. Common themes include being perfectly made up, heterosexual, female and healthy. Even the supermarkets are buying into it by bunging all sanitary products in an aisle called  ‘Feminine Products’.

          “Sometimes I ask my girlfriend to buy them for me; sometimes I make a lot of jokes                               about it in my head. I remind myself that the cashier definitely does not care what I’m                        purchasing. If I’m feeling particularly fragile about it, I avoid stores where I might run into the same cashier again.”

Wiley Reading for Everyday Feminism

Things are starting to change and the need to degender menstruation is slowly being addressed. Here are a couple of examples of great people doing great things.

Pyramid Seven

Pyramid Seven make underwear ‘for periods not for gender’. Their range of boxer briefs offer inner support to attach a pad to – something that isn’t possible with normal boxers. Jarmon (they/them), co-creator of the company talked to Bustle about their personal and frustrating experience of having to switch to feminine underwear when menstruating.

MCalc

MCalc started as an Indigogo campaign recognising the need for a gender neutral menstrual calculator app called adding an alternative to ‘the overly feminised market place’.

#Bleedingwhiletrans

Cass Clemmer (they/them) is an Artist who identifies as non-binary. They posted this picture with the aim to raise awareness. Using their Instagram account @tonithetampon and #bleedingwhiletrans, Cass has created a space for people to discuss their own experiences and read about others .

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, shoes and outdoor

Finally conversations are happening about menstruation without it being tangled in gender -although we still have a long way to go. No-one should feel excluded from conversations about bodily functions they experience and people can help by using ungendered language when discussing menstruation, speaking up when someone refers to periods as a ‘women’s issue’, sharing stories like Theo’s and Cass’ and campaigning against those TERRIBLE pink, discreet, ladylike, pearl adverts.

Martha: Political Lobbying Coordinator

My name’s Martha, originally from sunny sunny Southend! I moved to Manchester a year ago to start work as a social worker and am slowly adjusting to the northern climate. You’ll find me watching trashy TV, at the theatre or cinema, nursing a gin and tonic or hunting down a good cup of coffee and some cake.

1.What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I’m the political lobbying co-ordinator for Every Month! I’ll be working on campaigns to mobilise our people power to create some change at a local and national level. I hope to get people influencing their MPs and councillors to put period justice on their agendas so that menstrual products are finally seen as a basic need rather than a luxury!

2. How did you find out about the campaign?

I came to Rosy’s talk at the Nexus Art Café (Bloody Marvellous- both in name and content!) and learnt all about the fab work she was doing to get the project started in Manchester.

3. What interested you about getting involved?

I was completely inspired by the period positivity of the campaign and wanted to work with a group of like-minded feminists to spread the word! I think periods are still a massively taboo subject so wanted to get involved with something that was showing women and girls that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, all whilst promoting social justice at the same time, what a combo.

4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I hope the campaign will have expanded its reach across Manchester, so that fewer women are being disadvantaged and discriminated against by a basic bodily function. As part of this, I’m hoping we’ll have the vocal support of MPs across Manchester that this issue needs to be addressed!

5. Who are you inspired by?

So many wonderful women! But I’m a huge fan of Alice Walker, she writes like an absolute dream and has given voices to so many women both in her fiction and her activism. And of course, she started off as a social worker… the list goes on!

6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

Documentaries- Blackfish, The Hunting Ground, Making a Murderer, Iris, Whores’ Glory, I’ve always got a new one I’m raving about

Books- Mrs Dalloway is my absolute favourite, anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I studied a lot of Elfriede Jelinek at uni and still haven’t quite lost my obsession with her

Films- I’ve spent the past year telling anyone who hasn’t seen Moonlight to watch it immediately!

7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I’d love to take all of those tampons and pads hidden up sleeves at work and school and get them proudly held up in the air! We need to speak openly and frankly about menstruation rather than using fluffy euphemisms.

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Stop worrying about not getting your period yet- enjoy those cramp-free days because there’s more to being a woman than just starting your period!

9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

A good old-fashioned hot water bottle and my bed, the comfiest place on earth. And a thousand episodes of whatever box set I’m obsessed with at the moment…

10. Anything you’d like to add?

I hope as many people as possible want to get involved in our campaign, we need people power! If you’d like to get involved or have any ideas for campaigns, drop me a line at everymonthlobby@gmail.com

NGOs and aid workers help women make clean and cheap sanitary napkins.

According to a 2011 study by AC Nielsen, only 12% of India’s 335 million adult women could afford sanitary products. Despite this, in July 2017, sanitary products were classed as non essential in India’s latest legislation; taxing them at 12% and making them even more unavailable to the people who need them.

The high costs of products are forcing people to use unsanitary means and causing irritation, discomfort and sometimes infection. Not only this, Indian people are being silenced by the negative and historic stigma associated with periods and not obtaining the information and care they need.

Ever since we were little girls, we have been taught to be embarrassed about our periods, to never speak about our monthly “curse,” to hide sanitary pads up our sleeves.
I know so many married men, who live with wives, mothers and daughters, yet have never seen a sanitary pad in their lives. This is not just their fault, it is also ours — for allowing ourselves to be part of a culture that punishes women for simply having their period.

Women of strict Hindi faith are prohibited to take part in day to day activities such as cooking and prayer whilst on their period. They can’t enter a temple or attend religious events.  Anything they touch whilst menstruating becomes contaminated. These beliefs are centuries old and deep rooted in culture and religion and passed down throughout generations. Although not as widely believed as they once were, these concepts are still having an impact on the relationship people have with their periods (check out this great article written by Anisha Bavnani for more information).

The good news is a number of Indian companies and campaigns are striving to change this perception of periods by tackling legislation, providing free education and promoting reusable sources.

Here are just a few examples of organisations leading the way:

1.  Saathi Pads

Saathi Pads was founded in 2015 with the aim to provide biodegradable, comfortable and hygienic pads. The pads are made with banana fibre from the stem of banana trees.  Saathi Pads pays local collectors for the stems which are usually discarded. They’re proud that their main production source takes up no extra land.

2. Eco Femme

Eco Femme are championing menstrual education and health with their reusable pads. They want to empower their buyers by choosing an economical and environmentally friendly product. The company run a number of schemes, encouraging buyers to gift free pads to teenagers (Pad for Pad)  and introducing cloth pads to marginalised women (Pads for Sisters).

3. Green the Red

Green the Red is a collective of companies and campaigns promoting healthy conversations about menstruation and environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable pads. They are determined to influence the current taxation of sanitary products to exclude reusable products. Their website is super informative on menstrual cups, washable clothes, inter-labia pads and period panties.

All of these companies are providing services to young people in India, encouraging them to speak up about their menstrual health and well being. Websites like Menstrupedia are reinventing the negative legacy of periods by providing literature to teenagers which explain the biology of menstruation.

Our need to speak up about periods is part of a worldwide conversation. We can help each other by signing campaigns, reading blogs, retweeting links and engaging in dialogues with organisations from all over the world.

Rosy: Founder of the Every Month campaign

1. When did you start the campaign?

I started the campaign in May 2016, when I was in my final months of uni.

2. What inspired you to start Every Month?

I’m not sure what inspired me exactly, but I think I just felt a NEEDED to do something. I had found out that there was no guaranteed way to access sanitary products if you couldn’t afford them and I guess I just thought I could give fixing that a go.

3. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I mean the absolute dream is for the campaign not to exist. I feel that we should be working towards the government providing access to sanitary products as they’re a NECESSITY and not everyone can afford them. So, hopefully in a years time we won’t exist! However, if we’re still going then I hope we’re expanding into other cities… ooo who knows!?

4. Who are you inspired by?

Is it really cringe if I say my mum? My mum is 100% my biggest inspiration because she gets shit done but also doesn’t get caught up in the little things. So, I will stress about the tiniest thing and my mum will just be like, “ahh fuck it, you’ll be ok.” I’m inspired by so many cool and amazing women but I have really really amazing friends, who are clever and funny and so kind. Obviously I would ride and die all day long for Sarah Silverman and Malala Yousafzai, in no particular order. They are equal queens in my eyes.

5. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

If you only read two books in your life then they must be Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Honestly, those books changed my life. I only really watch true crime documentaries, so I don’t know how great my recommendations are on that front – although if you have a need to really cry then watch Dear Zachary and DM me about it. I hear good things about the new film The Trip, and my all time fave film is Die Hard and I’m not even ashamed of it.

6. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I just want an open discussion and an honest dialogue. I want companies to stop using words like ‘whisper’ and ‘discrete’ and I want people to acknowledge that there are a million different experiences of menstruation.

7. What would you tell your younger self about periods?

I would tell myself that it doesn’t look like lip tint and that I wont ever leak onto my chair in class.

8. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

I cramp really badly and it aches all the way down into my ankles. I also have to poo constantly, to the point that it gets in the way of living my normal life.

9. Anything you’d like to add?

I am so grateful to have the team on board. We’re going to achieve amazing things together and everyone should WATCH THIS SPACE <3

 

 

Related image

Despite periods being a biological function since forever, sanitary products only started progressing in the 1920’s. Historical monthly menstruaters made their periods work however best they could – often keeping it very private to avoid being stigmatised. Over the eras, periods have been linked to sorcery, uncleanliness, impurity and hysteria. There was such lack of knowledge about menstruation, it wasn’t until the 19th century that doctors even made the link between periods and pregnancy.

So how did people cope? What did they use? Here’s a brief run down.

Ancient Romans: goose fat or dung

 As well as being used for tampon substitutes, some historians also believe they used goose fat and dung as contraceptive methods.

The Egyptians : softened papyrus/lint covered wood

As the Egyptians left us little info on  periods (although, there are some hieroglyphics referencing a god who didn’t like menstruation..!) there is some debate as to whether they above were actually used.

Medieval: material/rags/wool

Pads were made of scrap fabric or rags (actually where the phrase ‘on the rag’ comes from). They also used wool if they had to although itchy and less effective than cotton. They also had to find a way to keep the fabric in place as underwear wasn’t common then.

1800’s: fur/moss/cotton
Those who could afford it made their own pads from fur, linen or cotton. It was extremely common for the poorer to have bloody clothes because they had no means to make their own pads.

1890’s: the Sanitary Belt

If you haven’t seen one of these before, they look a lot like a chastity belt with cotton pinned on the inside. These were still available until the 1980’s before stick on sanitary pads were as widely available.

1914: cellulose bandages

French nurses during World War One realised that the cellulose bandages they were using on their patients were perfect disposable sanitary pads. They were also cheap enough and in so much surplus to be thrown away after one use.

1921: the sanitary pad

Shortly after the war, Johnson & Johnson picked up on the cellulose bandage idea and produced the sanitary pad en mass with a similar structure and material. They were expensive and many  were too embarrassed to buy them. Shops started putting boxes on the shelf for them to drop their money into so they wouldn’t have to talk to the Cashier.

1929: the tampon

The first Tampax tampons were made at home on a sewing machine by Dr Earle Haas. He patented them Tampax and sold it on to a company. There were many who disagreed with them, believing they could affect a girl’s virginity and break her hymen.

1987: the menstrual cup

So the first ever menstrual cups were actually made in 1937 but were widely unused. Originally they were made of rubber which made them uncomfortable and harder to insert. It wasn’t until 1987 that the silicon cup was created and widely produced. Even today they aren’t used as commonly as pads and tampons despite being more economical and environmental.