At the Period Purse, we work to destigmatize menstruation and address period poverty. And part of that work is changing the conversation.
We understand the weight that words carry. It's why we're constantly evaluating the language we use to discuss periods, and the people who experience them.
Earlier this month on Twitter, author J.K. Rowling questioned the phrase "people who menstruate." Her statements set off a very public debate on the topic of gender, language and transphobia.
We'd like to take this opportunity to share why we use inclusive language when we talk about periods at The Period Purse, by choosing the phrases "people who menstruate" or "menstruators."
It's a conscious choice, one we make to acknowledge everyone who has a period, not just cisgender women.
To make sure we're all on the same page, we'll be linking to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide throughout this piece, to give you the best possible definitions for the identities and experiences we'll be discussing.
While conversations about periods often frame them as a "women's health issue," it's essential to acknowledge the experiences of trans and non-binary people who have periods, while also understanding that not every cisgender woman has a period.
And while these terms have been used by academics and activists for decades, they can still create controversy.
The public debate over Rowling's statements led to four authors quitting her literary agency in protest. Rowling's views on sex and gender are just one example of a long history of anti-trans speech from cisgender feminists, often referred to as T.E.R.Fs (Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists).
As culture writer Samantha Riedel outlined in an article for Xtra Magazine, the use of gender-neutral language when discussing menstruation has been met with anger from cis women, who see it as an erasure of their own experience.
"Terms like 'menstruators' or 'people who have periods'...are now being used by health providers to better include non-binary and trans men who need their services. But some still view this as an attack on cis women and their bodies," she writes.
In order to address menstrual inequity we must include the wide range of people who have periods. To do otherwise would be to advocate for menstrual health for some, but not others.
"Naming our specific health concerns opens up greater opportunities for everyone to access appropriate care," writes Riedel. "When we rely on reductive, gendered labelling, we only shut down opportunities to talk candidly about our individual needs."
We hope that you will join us in using gender neutral language to talk about periods and the importance of menstrual equity.
We thank you for your continued support. If you are able, consider sponsoring a mensturator for only $12 a month.
Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and friends marking Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019 on Instagram.
If you live in Toronto, you know that progressive city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has long been a supporter of menstrual equity.
Last spring, she successfully campaigned to increase Toronto's shelter budget to include menstrual products in shelters and drop-ins across Toronto.She is keenly aware of the difficulty of trying to afford expensive period products while living in poverty or experiencing homelesssness.
Now, she's deeply concerned about the well-being of those experiencing homelessness during COVID-19, what she calls a "crisis within a crisis.""Those experiencing homelessness don't have adequate access to sanitation, because there aren't enough publicly accessible washrooms," she says.
If finding bathrooms and period products was difficult before COVID-19, it can feel nearly impossible now that so many spaces are closed.
"What we know is that bathroom facilities are generally hard to come by when you are away from home," she says. "Those who have no home are reliant on businesses and public spaces, but those facilities are now closed. All those individuals who have relied on this patchwork of facilities are now left without."
As the crisis evolves, Wong-Tam says elected officials aren't looking at the problem with a gendered lens."I have yet to hear any elected official speak about menstrual equity at this time," she says.
She believes that building infrastructure that includes free period products is the only way to ensure access to everyone that needs them."We're not charging for toilet paper or hand soap," she says. "People should have access to these products."
That's why the successful campaign to include period products in Toronto shelters gives her hope. That, and the Toronto District School Board's decision to include products in school bathrooms."It gives me hope that we are talking about menstruation and how it affects people in poverty, because that wasn't the case even three or four years ago," she says.
She wants to continue having that conversation, to spread the message that periods are healthy and natural, and that we need to support the half of the population that has them."The conversation is about how to standardize bathrooms across the country so that if you are operating a bathroom it's standard practice: hand soap, toilet paper, and menstrual products," she says.
If you believe in menstrual equity, celebrate and amplify Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. Tell your friends and family on social media and through word of mouth!
Did you know that this year, the city of Toronto will officially recognize Menstrual Hygiene Day for the third year in a row? The goal is to build awareness about the fundamental role good menstrual hygiene management plays in the lives of women and girls, especially considering challenges related to poverty.
Be part of the solution by becoming a regular donor to The Period Purse.
If you already donate, thank you! Another way to support us is to forward this to a friend who will appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this important and growing global movement.
Across Canada, our most vulnerable are struggling to access groceries and essential supplies, are without stable housing or living in an unsafe home, or are staying in shelters where physical distancing can be next to impossible.Yet in these difficult times, our community organizations continue to go above and beyond to support their staff and clients.
Take Sistering. The multi-service agency supports at-risk and marginalized women in Toronto. Their Spun Studio offers participants a chance to develop sewing skills, helping them create beautiful textile items that can be sold as a means of financial support.
Now, that same program is hard at work creating hand-sewn masks for Sistering's staff and clients.
It's just one example of the ingenuity that so many shelters, drop-ins and agencies are showing in the midst of this crisis.We can all take inspiration from these initiatives and think creatively about how to help our own communities.
Whether it's sponsoring someone who menstruates, donating directly to shelters and drop-ins in your neighbourhood, or trying your hand at sewing homemade masks for those in need, there are countless things we can do to ensure our most vulnerable neighbours are seen and supported.
Of course, we can only help others when we take care of ourselves. We hope that you and your loved ones continue to be healthy and safe in this unprecedented time. Now more than ever we are grateful for your continued support.
Like you, we've been closely monitoring the latest news of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We want to extend our thoughts to you at this difficult and stressful time.
As you know, now more than ever it is essential that we continue to support our most vulnerable. Members of our community who are living below the poverty line, are precariously housed or are relying on shelters and drop-ins will be hardest hit by this outbreak.
As our supporter councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has said, we need our government to expand and mobilize resources for shelters and those working in the sector.
In the meantime, we can all do what we can to help in our community. Whether it's donating to our local shelter directly, sharing updates and calls to action on social media, or simply offering to pick up supplies for vulnerable or immunocompromised neighbours, we can take action to support those who need us most in this unprecedented time.
We know that as a supporter of The Period Purse, these are concerns you are taking seriously, and we thank you for your continued generousity and support.
Picture this: You're out for the day, in the middle of an errand, a meeting or just sitting in traffic. Suddenly, you feel a familiar feeling of dread wash over you. You've got your period, but you don't have a pad.
Sound familiar? We've all faced this problem at some point, and while it can be annoying, it's rarely a crisis. A new pad or tampon is usually waiting for us in a desk drawer, a friend's bag, or at the closest drug store.But not everyone is so fortunate. For many people, especially those experiencing poverty or homelessness, period products are too expensive, making every month its own struggle.
Some of these women generously chose to share their experiences with The Period Purse, to shed light on how they get by every month."There's a stigma about having your period on the street," shares Rose, a woman experiencing homelessness in Toronto. "We feel ashamed and worry about getting sanitary products. Many use toilet paper but in my experience it just doesn't work."
That's a sentiment that Amira -- who often uses toilet paper herself -- shares."It soaks through way faster than a pad, and doesn't stay put, which causes leaks," she says. "When that happens to me, I go to the thrift store and steal new pants. I'm not proud of that but what else am I going to do?"
Others, like Rafael, use clothing such as shirts and socks to create a makeshift pad."I put three or four socks into another sock and use it for as long as I can, then throw it out," she says. "Or squish a roll of toilet paper down and use that. Nothing works very well though, so we end up leaking through our clothes. There's a lot of shame about that."
Rose says that while she's been able to find places to access period products, they can be difficult to find, and many people are not as fortunate."I figured out that I could get pads and tampons from my doctor and a few other places, but most people don't know where to go," she says. "It would be such a weight off our shoulders to have the supplies we need."
That's where you come in.
This International Women's Day, help take this weight off of a menstruator's shoulders through our "Sponsor a Menstruator" program.
A couple of lattes. One fast food lunch. A bottle of wine. Just one of these is all you have to give up in order to provide one person with the supplies they need for a healthy, dignified period.
Through a monthly installment of just $12, you'll be helping take away just one of the burdens of a person experiencing homelessness.