Join Bloody Good Period, THINX and Birdsong for a season of festive cheer on Thursday 6th December in our Dalston store. Come in your best menstrual themed dress, learn more about your cycle, sip on a bloody good cocktail and raise money for period poverty affecting refugees. With talks and stalls from experts at patented period pant brand THINX, Bloody Good Period, author/illustrator of Period Natalie Byrne and Amika George Founder of #FreePeriods.
Get your tickets here, with a standard donation or low wage donation.
We interviewed the women on the panel to find out more about periods.
CJ from THINX
Period-proof underwear for *everybody*. THINX innovations in period-proof underwear have been recognized by top industry publications: Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2017, Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Most Brilliant Companies of 2016, and TIME Magazine’s Top 25 Inventions of 2015.
Their mission is to create the most innovative period solutions that empower people and sustain our planet while breaking taboos about menstruation and reproductive health everywhere.
How is THINX changing the conversation around periods?
At THINX, we’re proud to be part of the growing movement challenging menstrual stigma. From the beginning, THINX has never shied away from having real conversations about women’s health, periods, the stigma of female ageing, body positivity and the fact that we menstruate. We’ve even challenged stigma around bladder leaks, something that 1 in 3 women experience over the course of their lifetimes, with our pee-proof underwear brand: ICON.
Just talking about periods in public is a radical act. Our subway ads were almost banned because of it. But the more we talk about menstruation (every single person on the planet today comes from someone who menstruated) the more we can normalize the topic and the less taboo it becomes.
Periods are normal, and no one should be ashamed for menstruating.
What are your top three facts that surprise people about periods?
- Most women have period stains in *every* pair of underwear. Fifty-four per cent of 36,000 women surveyed by THINX said they ruined every pair of underwear they owned due to their period.
- The average woman has more than 400 periods in her lifetime. Between the average woman's first cycle and menopause, you can expect some 450 visits from Aunt Flo, according to an article published in the scientific journal The Lancet.
- Orgasms can make period cramps feel better. During your period, uterine contractions caused by an orgasm can release pain-fighting neurotransmitters, like endorphins and oxytocin.
Why is it worth investing in period pants over conventional menstrual products?
Every woman has to make their own choice about what menstrual hygiene products are right for them - but many THINX customers say that comfort is a top factor for making the switch. Our period-proof underwear work: they stop leaks, are comfortable and are environmentally-friendly. When you consider that the average woman spends more than $120 on pads and tampons per year, our customers actually save money over time if they’re willing to make the initial investment.
Tell us more about your giveback programs.
This year, one of our major efforts is focused on period poverty and menstrual equity - the lack of access to menstruation hygiene products - facing young women and girls in schools. To that end, we’ve partnered with PERIOD for our United for Access campaign to urge school administrators at the high school and college levels to provide all students with menstrual hygiene products across America - just like they provide students with toilet paper. Too many girls skip school (according to one study, 1 in 4 girls in Scotland have missed school) when they’re having their periods to avoid social stigma, and we want to change that. It all starts by normalizing menstruation and talking about it openly. You can find out more here: www.shethinx.com/me
Illustrator Natalie Byrne
Natalie Byrne is a Latina London based illustrator who makes work around inter-sectional feminism and social issues. Her first book Period is everything you need to know about periods period.
What inspired you to use your illustration as a method of activism?
I've always been drawing since I was little and making this kind of work in my own time that is very political but I started sharing it and posting on Instagram after university.
I was working as a graphic designer and in retail and I really wanted to be part of activism but I didn't know how on earth I was going to find the time. I started drawing my thoughts and feelings about the social-political landscape and posting them on Instagram. I made a list of things that scared me as a drawing challenge and one of those things was my period. I posted it and immediately Bloody Good Period contacted me and that was the first time I ever heard about period poverty. I joined their team as one of their bloody curatives, to help them get their message out there. it felt like something small using my illustration, but at least it was something.
Tell us more about your new book, Period.
My new book Period everything you need to know about periods. Period. It’s completely illustrated and handwritten by me and includes everything to do with your body, hormones, mental health, body positivity and some history, some might even say it's a menstruation manual! We cover it all, from what is a period? to... how do you even put a tampon up there? The book wasn’t intended to be this big but turns out there is a lot of necessary information to talk about on the subject of periods. The books is trans-inclusive and diverse.
I wanted the book to feel like when you're at the sleepover and you talk about taboo topics for the first time, so it's informative but also funny and conversational. 10% of the book profits go to help Bloody Good Period, a charity that helps people who can’t afford period products.
Who do you think needs the period book the most in their lives?
The communities that are not discussing periods at all, from home to school, the people that need this book the most are the areas that have absolutely no period education at home or at school.
What do you hope for the future of the conversation surrounding periods?
My hope for the future would be to smash this shame around periods WHICH. The shame around periods only exists because society created it. And it impacts how the world is discussing periods.
I’ve had the pleasure to be invited with the book to some amazing feminist events. But a lot of the time I’m preaching to the choir, talking to people who knew what IT is was when they had their first period because they already grew up in a home where it was a conversation.
But shame around periods is still very much present. Why do we have the tampon tax? Why is loo roll freely available everywhere and period products are not? Why do period products never include the word menstruation, blood or period? Historically and still today the people making the rules don’t experience a period. Until there is more equality, people who have periods will suffer the consequences.
We need to talk about it, we NEED books about it, it doesn’t make sense. There's this thing that happens to more than half of the population every month and it’s pretty much non-existent from the media we consume. TV, movies, magazines, books & podcasts. We see people in movies on the toilet, so why not. How influential would it have been to see a Disney princess change her pad halfway through the movie?! BAM that's your education right there.
I speak from a position of privilege and I still grew up with so much shame and stigma around my own period. And if I feel uncomfortable asking around for a tampon at work, how on earth is someone already venerable going to feel.
Just like Dumbledore said, “Fear of the name, only increases fear of the thing itself”. We have to smash the stigma, the fear, the shame because there are too many people out there suffering from something which is totally natural. I hope this book will not only educate but bring a great change to attitudes on periods all over the world.
Additionally whilst being loud and proud about periods, it’s important to talk about periods beyond gender and pay attention to the language we use. My book period uses gender inclusive language. Some women don’t have periods due to an illness, menopause, stress, contraception, or other medical conditions, some people start their period later and not all people who have a period are women. Being exclusionary when discussing periods will help really important information and education get to everyone who needs it. In the book, we also never use the word sanitary products or feminine hygiene products. Language is very powerful and effects the way we feel about our bodies.
A lot of the conversations I have had always circle back to government and education is at the root of the problems happening. This is where the change has to happen, not just in the UK. All over the world.
Gabby at Bloody Good Period
Bloody Good Period aims to create a sustainable flow (pun intended) of menstrual protection for those who can't afford to buy them. Menstrual supplies are not cheap, but for anyone with a period, they are, of course, an absolute necessity. Many women and people who menstruate living in poverty resort to using toilet paper, old scraps of fabric or nothing at all.
Bloody Good wants to take the financial burden out of the most annoying time of the month by providing supplies to those who need them. They currently supply 16 asylum seeker drop-in centres based in London and Leeds.
Tell us how Bloody Good Period began and what inspired you to take action?
I started BGP two years ago when the dad of the family I nannied for asked if I'd help at an asylum seeker drop-in centre he was setting up. Asylum seekers receive just £37.75 per week to live on, and the cost of a heavy and irregular period (as often reported by this group, due to the stress and trauma of seeking asylum) can cost around £20 per month. Pretty quickly I realised that they hadn't included period supplies as essentials on the list of items they were collecting. When I asked about it, there was a vague sort of "well, we just give them out in emergencies..." We all know that any period, no matter who you are, without protection, feels like, in fact, IS an emergency! No one should have to feel that they have to be in emergency mode every time they bleed.
So I created an Amazon wishlist, and posted a status on facebook... called it Bloody Good Period, made some terrible social media graphics... and the rest is history!
Have you seen a change in the public conversation about periods?
Abso-bloody-lutely. It's quite amazing. When I set up BGP, I wanted to recreate the atmosphere I remember from the school classroom, or sleepovers, where one person just needs to mention a taboo subject, and suddenly everyone is talking about and it no longer feels weird. You just need that one person who starts the conversation, and that's what we do every day. Social media is brilliant for that because you can just search #period and there's suddenly tons of resources at your disposal.
What are your hopes for the future of Bloody Good Period?
I feel really passionately that we should not have to exist. Often people in power frame periods as the "problem" but they're not. They are a normal, bodily function that is required to continue to human race. The problem is society's management of them. We are working on changing that, by starting, and indeed, continuing these conversations.
Of course, we want anyone who is living in poverty to be able to access the products they need without fear or judgement, but we will continue to push the government to take responsibility for this, as well as providing menstrual education which is severely lacking in schools and adult centres.
We're going to work as hard as we can to make sure that the very idea of having a project which takes care of periods becomes old-fashioned, and fast because it becomes something people just get.
How can people help support the campaign?
We need pads, we need volunteers and we need cold hard cash money! If you just head to our website you can find out more here about how to get involved!
Amika George Founder of #FreePeriods
Amika George is a 19-year-old student and activist, who founded the #FreePeriods campaign in 2017, asking the government to provide free menstrual products in UK secondary schools. Since then, the campaign has received national and international media attention, and, after 2,000 people attended the #FreePeriods protest in December last year, the government gave £1.5 million to address period poverty in the UK.
What inspired you to become an activist?
After reading about period poverty in the news in March 2017, I felt compelled to do something about it, especially as the government had failed to take action immediately after it was covered in the media. I started an online petition called #FreePeriods, calling on the government to provide free menstrual products to girls on free school meals. As a schoolgirl, I was horrified to hear that these girls were repeatedly missing school, and felt so strongly that we had to place the government under pressure, to do something about it. As the petition started to take off, I noticed that there was widespread support from teenage girls, mainly, all over the world who wanted to see an end to period poverty as much as I did, which is why I organised the #FreePeriods protest.
What is period poverty and why does it exist in the UK?
Period poverty is the term used to describe girls missing schools, for up to one week every month, as they are unable to afford menstrual products. Most girls suffering from period poverty face the abominable choice between missing school or going to school using horrific alternatives such as toilet paper, socks, or newspaper. It's horrendous, and seriously compromising their educational progress, as well as their health and self-esteem. Despite the fact that the UK is perceived as having a thriving economy, where we all live very comfortably when poverty and periods are stopping girls from going to school, that's a serious issue.
How can we take action?
First, sign the FreePeriods petition! - You can also head to our website, freeperiods.org, to find out how to take action by supporting other organisations fighting to end period poverty in the UK, and around the world. We have some exciting things planned, so stay tuned and follow us on social media to find out more soon!
What's next for the future of the free periods campaign?
At the moment, I'm at university so things are pretty full-on with work and the campaign! I'm still working hard to make sure that period poverty remains in the public consciousness, and trying to get as many people talking about periods, generally, as possible. Through conversation, we definitely can eliminate the shame and stigma that shrouds menstruation.