13 Short Symposium Essays in Connection with “Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation?” @ColumbiaJGL

On April 9/10, 2021, the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Judy Blume’s book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and the 30th anniversary of the journal with a symposium called Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation? The program for that event is now posted here.

There will be the traditional book of scholarly essays published after the symposium, but the Columbia students have taken a fresh, innovative step in publishing short, symposium-adjacent essays from a wide range of contributors drawn from an open call. The results is a fantastic set of short pieces with authors that include high school students, college and law students, practicing attorneys, law professors, activists and authors from around the globe. The essays are open access and available at these links; I’ve included a line or two from each essay to provide a glimpse of the topics covered.

Jeremy Bearer-Friend (GW Law), Talking About Tampons in Tax Class

Was I was taking too much of a risk by teaching about menstrual hygiene products in my tax policy seminar? … As someone who does not menstruate, I also believe it is important to model classroom discussions of menstruation.

Claire Cox & Adele Stewart (co-leads, Georgia STOMP), Menstrual Equity Advances in Georgia

In 2017, a Georgia STOMP coalition founding member organization posed eliminating the tax on menstrual products to their local Representative, a man. He supported eliminating the tax but said a woman should sponsor the bill. From the early days, before Georgia STOMP was even founded, one thing has been clear: we need to elect more women and ensure more male allies understand menstrual equity and period poverty.

Victoria Efetevbia (student, Georgetown University Law Center), Untitled

Menstrual activism draws attention to youth but lacks race analysis. “Adultification” is a recognized phenomenon, but linkage between the reproductive experiences of Black menstruating youth/girls and Black adult women is lacking.

Rachel Sabella (former member NYC Task Force on Menstrual Equity), Addressing Menstrual Equity Through Policy Change

As an advocate to end hunger, I have also become passionate about menstrual equity. The main factor driving the need of clients at food pantries is an inability to afford food. But those who need assistance with food often lack access to other necessities including menstrual products. The business community can be generous in donating food to address hunger—as a tax write-off, for positive press, or to release products close to their expiration date. The same generosity, however, does not exist for donated menstrual products.

Judy Friedman (Attorney, Period Equity), Bleeding on the Job

In creating inclusive, “period-friendly” workplaces, companies regularly adopt well-meaning but poorly conceived protective policies, which often prove inadequate, and, at times, even harmful to their purported beneficiaries. In our increasingly competitive corporate climate, empowering every member of the workforce to reach their full potential is vital to a company’s ability to thrive.

Aurora J. Grutman (Yale student), Reading Judy Blume at Yale

The Beinecke Library at Yale University is the closest that one can get in real life to Dumbledore’s pensieve. After spending the afternoon with Blume’s papers at Yale, I can confirm that Blume is more than just an aware adult. The archive reveals Judy Blume to be unpretentious, intellectually generous, and deeply connected to other people.

Claire Kinderwater & Grace Wandler (students, Missoula International School), The Intersection of Education, Menstruation and Poverty

Menstrual inequality is a prevalent form of injustice throughout the world…. Participating in a year-long project involving young women in Malawi opened our eyes to the injustices surrounding these topics. Our project involved sending reusable period underwear to impoverished women in Malawi and providing them with information about the biology of menstruation and ways to manage their cycles.

Shafuq Naseem, Better Menstrual Health Education in the United States is a Necessity

My menstrual health education often left me with questions, which usually led me to unreliable sources. More frequently than not, health education worldwide leaves students feeling unprepared and apprehensive about their menstruation.

Lanji Ouko-Awori (Attorney, Nairobi, Kenya), Sex for Sanitary Pads

“Period” and “menstruation” are words often whispered rather than spoken, due to the taboo against menstruation in Africa and the Western world. The physical, metabolic phenomenon of menstruation creates such shame and embarrassment that at least three out of ten girls in remote areas in Kenya miss school during their periods because of menstruation stigmatization or a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products.

Yadurshini Raveendran, Unclean

Growing up in urban Sri Lanka, a girl’s first period was considered a celebration, feted publicly in a grandiose fashion often symbolizing the family’s social status. As a private person, the idea of publicizing this very private affair was uncomfortable and embarrassing. What was more startling was the huge lifestyle and societal changes that were now a part of my life.

Leslie Y.G. Tenzer (Pace Law), A Period Emoji Fail

Language promotes inclusion. The adoption, use, and repetition of words serve to establish societal norms. The same is true of emojis…. The broad references to a blood drop emoji dilute its ability to destigmatize menstruation. The blood drop emoji is not a clear, identifiable representation of menstruation. Emojis best normalize when they prompt those using and receiving the symbol to think of the idea associated with it in more standard terms.

Sneha Krishnan (Jindal Global University) & Rohini Menon (Environment, Technology and Community Health Consultancy Services), Subjective Experiences of Menstruation

Menstruation has been classified as an element of the female discourse that is perceived as a concern for ‘women’ worldwide. This classification has excluded the experiences of trans and genderqueer individuals who go through menstruation due to their biological identity. Although the UN has declared that the stigma and shame around menstruation have caused harm to women and discrimination against them[1], this article examines the unexplored or unsaid narratives of ‘feminine’ cycles for trans and genderqueer individuals.

Allison Tait (Richmond Law), The Queen’s Period

One of the most important people at the court of Queen Elizabeth I was neither a courtier nor one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting; it was her personal laundress. The laundress, charged with the care of the Queen’s sheets, was privy to all the intimate secrets of the royal body, including knowledge about the Queen’s menstrual cycle.


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