Since Emily Gold Waldman (Pace) and I embarked on researching and writing about the intersections of law and menstruation for our book Menstruation Matters: Challenging the Law’s Silence on Periods, I’ve become newly attuned to the ways that menstruation is relevant to many of the topics I teach. Apart from the tampon tax, there are issues of access to menstrual products in schools, workplaces, prisons, jails, and detention facilities, issues of corporate social responsibility, environmental issues, consumer health and safety, human rights. The list goes on.
This past semester, I found myself integrating discussion of menstruation into class, in places where there seemed like a fit. For example, the sales tax on menstrual products is a powerful example when talking about the regressive nature of sales taxes or even the expressive value of taxation.
Knowing my interest in the subject, several students also began to send me ads or video clips of TV shows, etc. where menstruation is discussed. One student had fantastic reflections on the new Disney movie, Turning Red. The student wrote up their thoughts which I share here with permission, but without attribution, at the student’s request.
The messaging that young people receive regarding menstruation is complex and contradictory. Persistent, self-perpetuating stigma and the barriers to menstrual equity associated with it has historically led to a loss of dignity and autonomy for girls, women, and all who menstruate. Lack of access to period products caused by period poverty or embarrassment and shame combine to deny opportunities to menstruators. Perhaps the most critical arena in which to make progress for menstrual equity is our schools, where negative stereotypes myths are propagated, and this manifests in absences and under-performance in class. The second most critical arena, I think, is the media young people view.