How to Get Involved in Menstrual Equity Activism: Advice from Jennifer Weiss-Wolf

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The indominitable Jennifer Weiss-Wolf (previously profiled on Feminist Law Profs here) has published a book called Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity (Arcade Publishing, New York: 2017).  Here is the publisher’s description:

After centuries of being shrouded in taboo and superstition, periods have gone mainstream. Seemingly overnight, a new, high-profile movement has emerged—one dedicated to bold activism, creative product innovation, and smart policy advocacy—to address the centrality of menstruation in relation to core issues of gender equality and equity.

In Periods Gone Public, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf—the woman Bustle dubbed one of the nation’s “badass menstrual activists”—explores why periods have become a prominent political cause. From eliminating the tampon tax, to enacting new laws ensuring access to affordable, safe products, menstruation is no longer something to whisper about. Weiss-Wolf shares her firsthand account in the fight for “period equity” and introduces readers to the leaders, pioneers, and everyday people who are making change happen. From societal attitudes of periods throughout history—in the United States and around the world—to grassroots activism and product innovation, Weiss-Wolf challenges readers to face stigma head-on and elevate an agenda that recognizes both the power—and the absolute normalcy—of menstruation.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf; Photo (c) Jesse Torrey

Weiss-Wolf also gave an interview with the Toronto Star in which she was asked how people could get involved in menstrual activism.  Here was her smart advice:

The first step toward action is acknowledging that menstruation matters and is a viable political issue. Changing our law will improve the lives of many who are marginalized – the incarcerated and homeless – it’ll improve the lives of low-income people who struggle to afford these products, and it’ll improve the lives of all women when our bodies are treated as normal.

Activism takes many forms. Some people like to write, some are poets, some are musicians, some are athletes and some are just really good on Twitter. Everybody has something to contribute. It’s not hard to be an activist.

In terms of making policy change, it doesn’t have to involve speaking to your government officials. It can be as simple as going to your local school board, or your gym or your local library and saying, “Hey, you know if you provide menstrual products in your bathroom you’d make it more useful to half the people who use it.”

I’m going to go off on a slight tangent here, but it’s important: Bathroom laws sound sort of silly – how much social change happens in bathrooms? Well, right now public bathrooms provide certain products and we treat that as very normal. We expect there to be toilet paper, hand soap, some way to dry our hands after we wash them, not because we were born feeling entitled to toilet paper, but because our laws made that the norm. Who decides that toilet paper is free, but tampons are not? And to all those people saying “who’s gonna fund this? Just carry your own tampons.” It’s a fairly quick retort: “Yeah, well, what about all that government-funded toilet paper you’ve been wiping you’re a– with your whole life?”

The full interview is available here.

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