Final

Final "New Blood" BookPost!

August 31, 2017

Humbled and Hopeful: The Final Installation of PERIOD’s August Book of the Month Club

New Blood by Chris Bobel

Today, I finished this month’s PERIOD Book of the Month, Chris Bobel’s New Blood, and my head was left swirling with questions which will surely consume my thoughts beyond the last day of August.

These are reflections mostly about PERIOD’s work and the work of others in the menstrual sphere, but more than this, I was left with bigger questions about movements beyond the menstrual movement—how they form, whose voices are heard, whose are left out, and the fate of these movements in the mass-mediated cyberspaces of the future. Just small, mid-week ponderings. The usual.

One of Bobel’s greatest strengths lies in her ability to write as though she is the platform, rather than the director. The movements, activists, and scholars of the past, present, and future seem to speak through Bobel. The author thoughtfully pastes the disparate pieces together, revealing a complex yet wholly recognizable figure: The Menstrual Activist. Bobel seamlessly weaves her analysis with the chants, songs, and rallying cries from the different sectors of feminism. These voices intertwine to reveal the matrix of modern-day menstrual activists. Bobel rightly acknowledges that she is both privileged and constrained as a member of the dominant class of white female influencers in the menstrual sphere, and remains intensely aware of her place outside of the often less visible spheres of black and queer menstruators.

I borrow the term menstruators from Bobel herself, who introduces the radical potential of gender queering as a hallmark of the Third-Wave. New Blood is a study in battles between feminisms, movements, and disparate agendas. Even the title, a pun on menstruation as well as an endearing nod to the new generation of third-wave feminists, encapsulates Bobel’s far-reaching analysis of overlapping movements and histories. Bobel magically illuminates these muddled debates to reveal what the underlying similarities and differences say about the nature of feminism itself. Just as Bobel recognizes that the menstrual movement must make room for a variety of voices, she exemplifies this call to action.

New Blood has left me feeling both inspired and frustrated. Bobel blurs the boundaries of the binaristic debates that have driven major chasms into the menstrual movement and feminism more broadly. Yet, New Blood still leaves the reader wondering, whose side am I on? Am I a Judith Butler cult follower, advocating for complete gender instability and a rejection of categorical thinking? Or do I insist on sexual affirmation in order to draw upon my inherent mystical power as a distinctly female-bodied activist? Am I more political, or am I more personal?

To be clear, I believe Bobel fully intends to leave the reader swimming in an existential crisis (breathe, it’s only Wednesday). Bobel scrutinizes as much as she illuminates, drawing more questions than clear-cut conclusions. As the author asserts, “If race is an imperfect yet still necessary category, can we say the same for gender in the context of feminist activism? This question is much easier to entertain in the abstract, and that is precisely why I choose to pose it in the context of a social movement centered on the material body.” Bobel employs the menstrual movement as a lens rather than an ends. In an effort to view the greater spheres of feminism and activism, Bobel draws upon concrete examples from this real-time movement.

The Menstrual Activist, in all of his, hers, and their contradictions, stands as a symbol of these battles—the ahistoric, generational, sexualized, racialized, radical, and feminist-spiritual conflicts that rage within one movement, within one person. For example, the feminist-spirituals, who account for a little less than half of the menstrual activists, define their work as “a prayerful state, a time of inner activism.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, the radical menstrual activists focus on more outward systemic issues, deeming the feminist-spiritual’s “inner activism” a privileged and frivolous ideal.

And so we stand divided. Yet despite these seemingly endless battles, I am still left with a spark of inspiration. In fact, I am left feeling hopeful.

There was a point in Bobel’s book when I couldn’t take the tension any longer; as a menstrual activist and feminist, I felt the grip of frustration and helplessness tightening as Bobel dipped in and out of the endless challenges, contradictions, and conflicts in the menstrual sphere. But just as quickly as I fell into this abyss, Bobel lifted me to my feet with one simple revelation.

As a brutally honest and refreshingly self-reflexive scholar, Bobel unveils the elephant in the room: the overwhelming whiteness of the Menstrual Movement. Bobel goes further to complicate this picture by asking how and why the movement came to look so white. The author explains how the Menstrual Movement represents the challenges to raced dimensions of doing public activism around the body, and goes further to explore why the movement has simultaneously repelled black activists and somehow attracted queer activists. Bobel concludes, “If transgressing boundaries is, in Reitman’s words, ‘already accepted and expected’ in queer communities, it makes sense that the menstrual activism movement, itself rooted in transgression, would serve as a gateway of sorts for high numbers of queer activists. In contrast, the politics of sexual respectability may serve as a barrier to African American women’s access to the movement (and possibly to other women of color as well).” This conclusion exemplifies Bobel’s prowess as a researcher—she asks the tough questions and opens herself, and the reader, to the subtle answers that may escape the rest of us in our blind assumptions.

What is most intriguing about this conclusion is that Bobel notably does not attribute the menstrual movement’s racial homogeneity to the obvious answers: some sort of racialized “hierarchy of needs” or simply disparate racialized consciousnesses. These are certainly major factors that perpetuate the overwhelming whiteness of the menstrual movement. But the key in Bobel’s words is the enduring hope that whispers through the chasm. Bobel implies that despite the intra-movement fissions, menstruation, as a universal, embodied, natural bodily function, can somehow, someday, unite people. Although African American women experience a barrier to access the movement, this is notably not a barrier to the movement altogether.

A barrier to access implies opportunity. It implies room to invite, reform, and unite. Without a critical and self-reflexive moment of pause, the menstrual movement is destined to have, in Bobel’s determination, “little influence over even fewer people.”

As we continue listening and reflecting, we cannot lose sight of the one thing holding us all together: our experience of menstruation and our radical hope to change the world’s view on menstruation. And this, Bobel assures, is the glue holding both sides of the menstrual sphere, both waves of feminism, together. Menstruation is in no way a universalizable issue, but it certainly is a universal one. Perhaps then, the question is not, “Will you join us?” but rather, “Can we join you?”

Book Club Update #1

Book Club Update #1

August 17, 2017

What does it mean to be a “menstrual activist?”

    And what is UP with these “gynocentric-oriented feminist spirituals?”


According to Women and Gender Studies scholar Chris Bobel, it’s a struggle. “The menstrual activist struggle taps directly into the ongoing tug-of-war between feminists who embrace sexual difference theory and those who embrace gender theory,” Bobel writes in New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation.

It is exactly this complex, and at times even paradoxical, nature of menstrual activism that inspired Bobel to explore the Menstrual Activist as a case study for Third Wave Feminism--what Bobel calls her “quest for clarity and reconciliation.”


Third-Wave Feminism (n.): A movement that emerged in the mid-1990s following the Second-Wave of Feminism, aimed at inclusivity, intersectionality, and the embrace and celebration of individual definitions of feminism.

See also: Anyone Else’s Definition of Third-Wave Feminism Because Hey, It’s Third-Wave Feminism


Inclusion, as Bobel writes, is a “cornerstone of third-wave feminism.” This seems strange--how can a movement be truly inclusive of all experiences while maintaining cohesion and a clear mission? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it by what it is--third-wave feminisms?


For Bobel, and for us here at PERIOD, inclusion is not only necessary for the movement, it is the main ingredient.


“Inclusion is essential to building movement strength and solidarity,” Bobel writes. “A movement predicated on inclusion requires a reckoning with multiplicity that acknowledges human complexity.”


According to Bobel, not only is a movement built on inclusion, but inclusion is impossible without the attention to multiplicity.


That is, if we can make any generalization about third-wavers, it is that they embrace and celebrate a diversity of experiences, a multitude of identities, and view “fragmentation as a place of power.”


Fragmentation is a place of power.


The Menstrual Movement is in no way a new movement, but it is a momentous one. We are right where we need to be--riding a wave built on inclusion, surrounded by incredible and inspiring activists from all walks of life and experiences. In many ways, the Menstrual Movement was meant for the Third-Wave. It is a unique mix of the personal and the political, colored by 21st century gender-queering and by radical bleeding.

With so many voices shouting into cyberspace, it’s hard to feel heard, let alone, to feel that your experience, activism, and feminism is valid. Whether you are just arriving at the Menstrual Movement, or have been a mover and shaker for menstrual health for decades--welcome. We are so happy you’re here. Let’s ride this Wave together ~

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT, regarding events surrounding the “People Have Periods” video and launch.

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT, regarding events surrounding the “People Have Periods” video and launch.

June 30, 2017

On Tuesday, PERIOD posted a video announcing the launch of a campaign focused on gender inclusivity in the menstrual movement. We did this because, as actors in the menstrual movement, we realized how important it was for us to be gender inclusive in our own work, and wanted to encourage others to do the same. After receiving thorough feedback from many trans and nonbinary advocates, we have decided to remove that video from our online presence, and reevaluate our role on this subject.

PERIOD should have done more to reach out to people already doing work related to gender inclusivity in the menstrual movement, including Cass Clemmer (Toni the Tampon) and Jax Gonzalez (Menstrual Activist Research Collective). We also should have recognized that we do not have the tools, experiences, or skills to represent trans and nonbinary people or causes related to their liberation.

Several trans and nonbinary people have reached out to us, expressing interest in this issue and calling us in on how we can do better. We know that trans and nonbinary voices need to be at the center of this work. We have decided to take a step back and honor their voices as members of the community affected gendered menstrual language. We are as a team going to discuss how we can best conduct our menstrual health advocacy work in a way that is gender inclusive and supports the work of trans and nonbinary people, especially youth, who are working on this very important issue. We are also working with trans and non binary people to educate ourselves and make a plan moving forward for how we can support the education of others.

We are dedicated to celebrating periods by sharing stories about periods, including stories from endometriosis patients and homeless people with periods. This has always been part of PERIOD’s mission, because we care about normalizing periods and breaking the stigma. We are honored to continue producing video and text #periodstories that show a diversity of experiences with menstruation. We are grateful when people allow us to share videos or written copies of their stories with our social media network and following of excited supporters around the globe, and every story produced educates us, too, along with our followers. We really do welcome anyone interested in The Menstrual Movement to reach out, and appreciate the emotional work that goes into sharing experiences and expertise.

Moving forward, PERIOD will reevaluate the stance we have taken on in the movement for gender inclusivity in the menstrual conversation. We hope to highlight and engage trans and non binary voices to be leading the way, and hope to support them within our network and partners in pushing gender inclusivity forward. With humility, we greatly thank all who have caused us to rethink and reflect on what we have done and what we are planning on doing moving forward. We sincerely apologize to anyone who may have been triggered by the language in the video, or anyone whose work we disregarded in creating this campaign.

Warmly,

Nadya Okamoto — Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD.

Margaret Hassel

Anders Zhou

 

Arasha is coming to PERIOD!

Arasha is coming to PERIOD!

June 12, 2017

It’s hard to believe that I will be leaving home for a while to head off to a brand new place, surrounded by brand new people in one month. I feel nervous, but the fact that I get to be working alongside some of the most inspiring individuals on my computer screen makes the weight of my excitement heavier than my worry.

I started researching menstruation one year ago, when I had selected it as my topic for my Original Oratory in Speech & Debate. In Oratory, the competitor chooses a topic and hopes to convince or persuade the audience for or against something. Once I had learned about the menstrual taboo, I knew I couldn’t speak of anything else. The topic had spoke out to me. Its importance was in desperate need of being heard, and I felt that I could be the voice for it. Among my research for a solution under my cause and effect for women who could not maintain proper menstrual hygiene, I came across the organization PERIOD. (at the time, Camions of Care). I explored the entirety of the website and watched several videos from founder Nadya Okamoto. She was electric. The way she spoke about the taboo had heightened my excitement to speak about periods that much more. At such a young age, she created a nonprofit that stood for such a worthy cause. She became an icon and represented what I hoped to become.

After a year-long season of competing with my Original Oratory, I have accomplished so much more than what I could have dreamt with two national speech championships. Aside from the success of it all, I was able to spread my message. I created stickers with some period product icons I found online to distribute after my speech. It served as a solution for sparking conversation. I have passed out nearly 300 stickers to competitors, judges, and coaches. My favorite part of speaking about such a courageous topic is seeing the look on people’s faces when they realize that I am actually talking about periods! While my judges have told me that I am brave to be speaking about this topic, I feel even prouder to know that there is not one ounce of shame in me. This topic and this movement has been something that I have grown so passionate about, and this is why I am honored to be able to say that it is just the beginning.

Portland is going to be a brand new place for me. The team over at PERIOD. is going to be new for me. But the advocacy for proper menstrual awareness and hygiene will not be new at all. And I am ecstatic to be able to continue to fight in the menstrual movement.

Read More

Absorbing UnTabooed

April 28, 2017

As of today, Period has officially absorbed UnTabooed, a nonprofit committed to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual health education and reusable menstrual products to menstruators in need, and promoting the conversation among people everywhere. Since UnTabooed started in May 2015, it has educated over 600 menstruators with seven community and four college partners, and distributed over 1,000 reusable menstrual products for free to menstruators in need.

PERIOD will enable UnTabooed’s curriculum to grow nationally through their Campus Chapter Network, and UnTabooed will help grow PERIOD's support of sustainability in period product usage. Now, each PERIOD Campus Chapter is able to implement UnTabooed’s curriculum for their students, and in their community. We are doing this because we have felt too much in competition with fellow menstrual activists, and want to instead push forward as a more unified and amplified movement for social change. Together we can reach more menstruators through more channels in more areas locally and globally.

Here’s more about UnTabooed from its founder, Diandra Kalish:

Hi, I’m Diandra, the Founder and former Executive Director of UnTabooed.

I was inspired to start UnTabooed after reading an article from Al Jazeera about homeless women in my current home of New York City lacking adequate access to menstrual products. I was shocked, and also angered, that as a menstruating person myself, I had never even thought to donate menstrual products along with the bags of clothing and food I continuously donated.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how everyone should have access to this basic necessity, so I started to do research to learn more about the issue both in the US and abroad. I called around to shelters in New York City and the surrounding areas, and asked if they had enough menstrual products. Each one said they never had enough from donations. I also researched international organizations that provided both menstrual health education and menstrual products to girls around the world.

At this point I had been using a menstrual cup for about two years. Through my research, I learned of organizations that provided reusable menstrual products, both cups and cloth pads. I knew this was the solution I wanted to provide to women in need. Reusable products can be reused for five-10 years, are much more environmentally friendly, cost efficient, and have fewer health risks associated with them than disposable pads and tampons. Additionally, reusable menstrual products can help take the “ick factor” out of periods by helping people learn more about their bodies instead of automatically throwing away the products associated with periods. Instead of donating disposable products that would only last a cycle or two, it was important to me to offer a sustainable solution. By working with reusable products I would be able to give UnTabooed’s clients a product that helped the save hundreds of dollars, and diverted hundreds of pounds of menstrual product packaging and waste from landfills.  

In speaking with reusable menstrual product companies, I learned how important it was to educate about how to use and care for the products before distributing them. I realized that before you teach a person about a new product to help her manage her period, you should make sure she understands her period. It became clear that in addition to lacking products, many girls and women are also lacking crucial education about one of their bodies’ most natural functions.

UnTabooed was founded as an educational nonprofit, committed to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual health education and sustainable menstrual products to women in need, and promoting conversation among people everywhere. Our one of a kind educational workshops combine the facts and FAQs of the menstrual cycle and reusable menstrual products, specifically menstrual cups and cloth pads. Since our first workshop in August 2015, we have worked with over 600 menstruators (and some non-menstruators), 450 of whom are homeless or low income. UnTabooed partners directly with shelters and community centers in low income areas because reusable products require consistent water access, so they are not a good solution for women who are strictly street homeless.

In December 2016, Nadya and I were finally able to meet face to face after months and months of emailing. The timing could not have been more fortuitous. I had just submitted applications for graduate school to get my Masters in Arts and Teaching, and was looking for a way to transition out of UnTabooed, and Nadya was telling me how Camions of Care was to be reborn as Period, which would include an Education pillar. We both know very quickly that we had met the other’s need.

I am thrilled that Period is absorbing UnTabooed. I know that Nadya and her team have the credibility and passion to propel the menstrual movement forward, while also continuing to serve UnTabooed’s mission with integrity and increasing UnTabooed’s reach tenfold. UnTabooed will arm Period with unique curriculum to spread through their chapters, and a way to bring reusable menstrual products into the conversation. As I move onto my new life at Brown University, I’m excited to watch UnTabooed grow through the powerful menstrual movement that Period is pioneering.