Grace is an anthropology student, a feminist, a gym lover and ‘that kid who’s obsessed with horses’. She’s keen to see EVERYONE be more open about periods, and our time of the month. She’s particularly interested in exploring PMS and how it effects mental health. 

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

I’m part of the blogging team – it’s a chance to be creative with a campaign i’m excited about. I’m especially keen on learning about mental health, so that’s my main topic of interest.

How did you find out about the campaign?

A friend sent me a link to EM’s Instagram saying she thought I’d be interested. The art content and sense of humour caught my eye.

What interested you about getting involved?

I can’t believe tampons and pads aren’t considered essential. It’s great we can pick up condoms for free, but surely the same should go for menstruation items? You don’t get to opt out of a period.

I find my time of the month exhausting, so I can’t imagine coping without access to tampons and pads.

It’s clear society still holds a stigma around menstrual blood, which is ridiculous. I think EM revolutionary; it’s educating everyone about period poverty, whilst smashing this taboo on menstrual blood.

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

I would love to see this campaign collaborate with many more influential speakers. EM is soon to be a registered charity, so that will open more doors!

Who are you inspired by?

I would recommend checking out Florence Given’s art. My room is slowly turning into a shrine of her work. As an intersectional-feminist, she’s stressing the point of always learning, and celebrating the women around you.

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

‘What a Time to be Alone’ by Chidera Eggerue as honestly changed my life. It’s challenging the assumption that you’re not ‘complete’ until you’ve met The One. Learning how to look after myself, like someone I love, has made my days so much fuller.

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

We need to get over it and talk in plain language! I’m not about to say ‘the painters are in’ or something like that. I’m bleeding out my vagina, give me a break.

What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Don’t underestimate how much they can affect your mental health! We’re encouraged to not make a fuss and get on with life. However, PMS/PMDD can have big impacts on body image, low mood, pain and exhaustion. That’s valid and you’re entitled to get help when you feel rough!

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

Iron tablets. It’s common for women to have alarmingly low iron levels whilst on our period. Having one a day helps energise me, make me feel more normal.

Period sex – having orgasms makes you feel better about life, and sex alleviates period cramps. Win-win.

An Interview with Natalie Byrne

Half the population have periods. Yet for some reason, we’ve been taught to hide it.

To be ashamed.

How many of you have hidden a box of tampons under something else in her
shopping basket? Or slipped one up your sleeve on the way to the toilet? As far as the
patriarchy are concerned, the less said about periods the better. So no one talks about periods.

We’ve even resorted to ridiculous code names to avoid saying the word:

time of the month, got the painters in, Aunt Flo’s visiting etc.

But, as Dumbledore so eloquently puts it, “fear ofthe name increases fear of the thing itself”.

No wonder starting your period is so traumatic for so many people.

So, if people aren’t talking about periods, they must be writing about them instead, right?

Wrong. Enter Natalie Byrne.

When illustrator Natalie Byrne was told there were NO books about periods, she couldn’t
believe it. She trawled through bookshops and libraries to no avail. There was only one
thing for it. She had to make one. This hard-hitting realisation, and several late late nights,
resulted in the birth of Period.

We had the absolute pleasure of interviewing her ahead of her book release on 1st November.

Natalie Byrne fell into illustration after realising her dreams of being a graphic designer weren’t so dreamy after all.

“I have always kind of been drawing, but I always thought I was going to be a
graphic designer in an agency.”

As many of you will relate to, Natalie was interning whilst working a retail job and trying to
figure out what she wanted from her career, when 2016 happened.

“Trump started gaining popularity and talks of Brexit starting happening. And I
had a lot of feelings about it.”

Drawing then became a way for her to reach out to her friends who, like her, were
struggling as the energy in England hit rock bottom. It became a way to really connect with
people and vent.

“My illustrations have always been a way that I can communicate what I think.”

It was in this way that her work naturally developed a feminist edge.

“Feminism was never a word I heard [and understood] until after I graduated.
When I was going through therapy towards the end of uni, I found the word
feminism and it really started to make sense to me. It became the closure on my
therapy, to really understand that certain situations might not necessarily have
been my fault and more a systemic problem of being a woman.”

Initially, merging feminism and her career was a daunting prospect. And her openness
about periods was something she feared might hold her back.

“I’d never been in a room with people who were having these conversations in a
professional environment.”

An understandable problem for a talented young woman being interviewed by men-only
panels. (But that’s a whole other topic for another time). Luckily for us, Natalie was getting
enough interest from the right kind of people. People who respected her openness and were
dying to work with her. People who’ve enabled her to create her own work full-time. People
such as NYX make up , The Washington Post and Break the Habit Press.
Break the Habit Press, who are publishing Period., are an independent publisher of feminist
non-fiction who want to give a platform to the unheard and under-represented.
So, what can we expect from Period.?

Period. is everything you need to know about periods. PERIOD.
A book for everyone – children and adults, mums and dads, womb-owners and
ex-womb-owners. Overflowing with practical tips and advice, from what a period actually is
to who does and who doesn’t have them, this inclusive book is a myth-busting must-read.

“Informative, funny. Like a sleepover where you talk about everything for the first
time.”

The answer to a LOT of girls’ questions, Period. is everything we wish we knew at 13. When
I asked Natalie what she would tell her younger self about menstruation she replied, “to
read this book”. But as someone who struggles with heavy and painful periods, it was the
fear and shame that hit her the hardest. Something education and open conversations
about periods can help tackle.

“Self love helps your relationship with your period.”

And as for the pain and discomfort, now she’s an advocate for exercise and a healthy diet as
a way to tackle those pesky pains.

“It’s okay to leak.”

The point of the book was always to help people, and help people it will. Not only will
Period. blow the conversation around periods wide open, ten percent of net profits for each
book sold will be donated to Bloody Good Period (an organisation providing menstrual
supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can’t afford them).

We applaud you.

Written by Aisling Holling, Every Month Blogger

In case you missed our exciting news, we’ve OVER THE MOON to announce we’re joining forces with the badasses at OHNE!

OHNE are calling time on toxic tampons, offering 100% organic tampons (with biodegradable applicators, if applicator tampons are your thing) and free delivery! They are also super-committed to ending period poverty, both through their support of the Girls Programme in Zambia and, now, through their support of Every Month!

Everyone who donates to Every Month on our GoFundMe page will get a special code to use at OHNE to receive a pack of OHNE tampons FOR FREE!

So, what are you waiting for? Your donation will help us to get more period packs to people in Greater Manchester experiencing poverty, AND  you’ll be rewarded with lovely organic tampons! Everyone’s a winner!

To learn more about OHNE, their tampons and their work in Zambia, why not pop over to https://ohne.co/ (after you’ve read this and donated, of course!)

By Emma Barratt, Every Month Blogger 

Emma is an Apprenticeship Programme Officer who has called Manchester home for the best part of 15 years. She love cooking, eating and taking terrible pictures of food for Instagram. Emma runs a feminist bookclub and also volunteers for Sister Supporter Manchester.

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

I’ve signed up to support with packing, campaigning and blogging. It’s a cause I feel really passionately about and I wanted to get involved as much as I could!

How did you find out about the campaign?

I work for the Co-op and I’m on the Steering Group of our Women’s Network. We worked with Beth McGlasson to arrange a collection for EM and I signed up to be one of the #100in100 fundraisers. When the opportunity to get involved came up, I couldn’t wait to get started!

What interested you about getting involved?

I just think it’s a disgrace that period poverty is even an issue in one of the world’s richest countries in this day and age.

I also really want to break down the ‘shame’ of periods. Around 50% of the population will have periods over roughly 40 years of their lives and yet there is a stigma around it. I took part in a 5 Live Radio programme about periods and the effect on my life and realised afterwards that I had downplayed how much I’m affected. If I can’t even talk about how rotten I feel every month, I imagine most people feel the same.

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

Ideally, this campaign wouldn’t exist. We would be in a place where period poverty doesn’t exist and periods aren’t taboo and shrouded in stigma. If I’m being extra wishful thinking, I’d love for there to be no need for food banks either!

Who are you inspired by?

Anyone who sees a problem and tries to do something about it. I can be really guilty of talking about the things that are wrong with the world (usually over a glass of wine!) but not doing much about it.

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

Animal, by Sara Pascoe is an amazing book. Of the books read in bookclub so far, this has been the most positively received. She’s writing a follow-up about men and I can’t wait to read it.

I love a good documentary! 13th by Ava DuVernay is really powerful and thought-provoking, it theorises that incarceration rates for men of colour in America are so high because America’s economy still requires slavery. The House I Live In looks at how class / race is a factor in how drugs are policed. Miss-Representation is a few years old now, but it’s still relevant. It looks at how women are portrayed in the media and how it mirrors sexism in wider society.

I always recommend the old Columbo films too because they are amazing!

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

I’d like to see two things change. Firstly, as something that impacts around half the population for around half their lives, I’d love conversations around periods to become more normalised. Some brands are doing work in this area – using red rather than blue liquid to show the efficiency of their products, for example. It’s telling that conversations around sanitary items for homeless people and people in police custody are only just starting, it’s like people have only realised that other people have periods.

Secondly, I’d like issues around menstruation to be taken more seriously. I don’t have a condition like endometriosis, but I do have a pretty horrible time once a month. I get run-down to the point of getting cold-like symptoms (I finally found someone else who gets this and I wanted to hug her!) and I get cramps so bad I’ve thrown up before. But I don’t feel like I would be able to call in sick at work for this.

Oh, and if I could change a third thing, I’d get rid of the phrase “on the rag”, it’s horrendous!

What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Your first period won’t run out of you like a river! Also, EVERYONE leaks.

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

Using an app to keep a track of things really helped when my periods were irregular. Now they’re more regular, I still use it. Sometimes I’ll feel a bit off and snippy with my partner and I’ll check when my period is due and it will all make sense!

Days one and two are horrible. I make sure I have a constant supply of paracetamol and ibuprofen going (seriously, every 4 hours like clockwork!) and I have to make sure I take some to bed with me – there is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night with cramps!

I tend to start my period over the weekend, I am lucky in that I have the luxury of being able to spend the day in bed should it get really bad. My friends know that I get hit hard so they’re forgiving if I cry off for a date in bed with some films!

The Every Month packing team descended upon Tribeca on Saturday 29 Septembert to kickstart the first session with our exciting new intake of volunteers, who were all ready and rearing to go.

We packed out the top floor, and our production line of pad packers, tampon counters, chocolate bar checkers and sticker stickers packed 800 packs in just an hour and a half! No easy feat on a Saturday.

Each pack consists of 10 pads, 5 applicator and 5 non-applicator tampons, with a chocolate bar thrown in each pack for good measure.

These packs get taken out to food banks, shelters and charities throughout Manchester by our volunteers (with very full cars!), and will make a huge difference to those experiencing period poverty, giving them products as well as reinforcing that these products are ESSENTIAL and not a luxury item (apart from maybe the KitKat chunky duos).

It was great to hear lots of ideas being thrown around, as well as some great discussions about how people want to get more involved as Every Month continues to rapidly grow as a community.

A massive thank you to everyone who came down to help, as well as everyone who donated sanitary products, and also to Tribeca for letting us overwhelm their floor space with bags of tampons and chocolate bars!

If you’d like to get involved in the upcoming packing parties, or would like to know more about Every Month in general, drop us a line at http://everymonthcampaign.org/contact-us/ and keep an eye on our instagram @everymonthmcr for more opportunities! If you’d also like to donate some sanitary products, hit us up on http://everymonthcampaign.org/donate/.

 

 

 

 

By Naomi Evans, Every Month Blogger