Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Cycling towards menstrual liberation

November 20th, 2015 by Editor

Guest Post by Rosie Sheb’a

From March to June, 2015, seven women from Sustainable Cycles rode across America to give workshops on reusable menstrual products, break menstrual taboos and stigmas, and present what they learned on the journey at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, held June 4-6, 2015, in Boston. They carried their own food, camping gear and rode roughly 70 miles per day. One of those young women, Australian Rosie Sheb’a, wrote a book about her experiences on this cycling tour. The following is an excerpt from her ebook—Cups, Bikes and Friendly Strangers: A “CyclingJourney Across Americanow available on Kindle.

10th April 2015, Ride Day 4: 105 km

Rachel, Olive and Rosie en route to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research held in Boston, June 4-6, 2015.

Rachel, Olive and Rosie en route to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research held in Boston, June 4-6, 2015.

We wake up to rain. Lots of it. And it’s cold. We cover 25 miles (40km) without a break, and it’s my longest single stint so far. We stop for a snack and to warm up in a very Southern town. I have my first taste of fried chicken. At least it’s hot! We ride another 25 miles through more rain along a highway that’s under construction, and we get covered in mud. Trucks are whizzing past, and I’m feeling pretty rotten. I start getting cramps, and realise I’m about to do my first ‘road test’ of my menstrual cup. I stop to pee by the side of the road and realise yep, Ant Flo has come to visit on the side of the highway. I find my cup, clean up and insert, and once again I’m glad for those baby wipes I packed. I can’t find a bin, so I wrap up my wipe and stick it in the pocket of my raincoat, ready to discard at our next stop.

I always feel a loss of energy in my legs when I first get my period, and they feel like jelly as I pedal through the downpour up the hill. The girls are speeding off ahead, and the next stint is a hard slog. I start feeling a little panicky thinking about what I’d do if I lost them on this highway. I can’t see them anywhere, so I just keep pedalling. I’m starting to feel upset, tired, and just want to be lying in a warm bed with a hot water bottle. Finally I ride into a town and see them stopped at a grocery store. Collapsing on the ground, I take off my soaking shoes and socks and sit there feeling sorry for myself. I give Mum a call and while I’m on the phone Rachel comes over and gives me something to eat. I realise I haven’t eaten since our morning snack, and it’s 3 p.m. Yep, food really matters when you’re riding all day.

We sit on a table near some locals, and a woman asks us “Ain’t you scared?”  We ask her what we should be scared of, and she says “Y’know, a little (makes gesture of sliding forefinger across throat) and a little nnhhh nnhhh (puts her hands into fists and brings them back and forth next to her pelvis).” We are mortified. She takes her cigarette and little fluffy white dog and walks off. Despite this disturbing image in my head, a combination of the food in my belly and the sun finally coming out is making me feel a lot better. I put some music on and, for the first time, I take the lead. I’m cruising fast, and getting chased by barking dogs gets my adrenaline pumping, so I ride even faster.

Our American Cycling Association (ACA) map points us towards a place to stay called Shepard Sanctuary. It’s slightly off-route, but we head over there, feeling tired, a little snappy and very exhausted, bringing our distance for the day to 105 km again. We are amazed at what we find. These two women, Connie and Peach, have created a true sanctuary in rural Texas. They often have wedding ceremonies there, and rainbow flags abound. We are the only guests, and we have a fully stocked kitchen to ourselves, a beautiful shower complete with marine-themed mosaics, fluffy white towels and bathroom products. We stay in our sleeping bags on a mattress up in the loft of a giant barn. It feels marvellously cleansing to have a good wash, fill our bellies with soup, and roast veggies, and settle in for the night on a real mattress.

Rosie Sheb’a is the owner and director of Sustainable Menstruation Australia

Will this 2015 menstrual moment make room for all bodies?

November 16th, 2015 by Chris Bobel

This post was first published under the title The Year the Period Went Public on November 12, 2015 on Gender & Society, a publication of Sociologists for Women in Society. It is crossposted here with permission.

By Chris Bobel

In this month’s issue, Cosmopolitan dubbed 2015 “the year the period went public” [It is also the year I, for the first time ever, agreed with Cosmo.]

2015 has brought us a tremendous diversity of menstrual-positive expressions—from the artistic to the practical, the serious and the playful, local and the global.

Photo: RUPI KAUR / INSTAGRAM. Posted with permission.

Photo: RUPI KAUR / INSTAGRAM. Posted with permission.

2015 is the year that Instagram blew up when Rupi Kaur’s photo of her period –stained PJ pants was “accidentally” [twice] removed, and free-bleeding Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon. It is the year that efforts to de-tax menstrual products succeeded in Canada and gained momentum in Australia, Britain, and the United States  while efforts  to “de-tox” the same products, through the Robin Danielson Bill re-introduced in Congress this May, gets unprecedented press attention .

2015 brought us Barbie-alternative Yammily’s “Period Party”– a kit with an educational pamphlet, a doll-sized menstrual care kit including a pair of panties and 15 reusable pads.

In 2015, the unique menstrual challenges of women and girls living on the streets inspired a raft of grassroots campaigns, and a global movement to improve menstrual health for women and girls worldwide is thriving. For example, on May 28, 2015, the 3rd global Menstrual Hygiene Day was recognized through 127 events in 33 countries.

Periods are Not an Insult

Finally, in 2015 nearly everyone rolled their eyes when Donald impugned GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly, saying she had “blood coming out of her wherever“–the most recent in the misogynist tradition of using menstruation to rationalize the perception of gendered  incompetence. But, this time, we reacted differently. In 2015, Twitter slapped back with #periodsarenotaninsult.

Considered together, these events constitute a shift. Menstruation IS having its moment. I know, because I’ve had my ear to the ground for more than a decade and most of what I’ve heard is PMS jokes, goofy menstrually-theme bits in sitcoms and films, and of course, ubiquitous product ads [cue white woman in white pants on white horse].

I am not sure what’s in the soil that is sprouting this new awareness. No doubt, it is the same soil that is nurturing women’s expressions of frustration with stigma, as evinced by the new #shoutyourabortion campaign and the media frenzy swirling around Katha Pollit’s new book Pro.

Maybe the shift is an outgrowth of our breathlessly social-mediated realities, where what’s happening—literally—in one’s own pants can be shared with a few swipes or clicks. Or might the transformation in discourse be the next best example of a micro-level lifestyle movement that galvanizes the personal into a neo-political? I am not sure, but as we ponder this, a bigger question surfaces:

Is the Movement We’ve Been Waiting For?

For bodies with privilege (cisgendered, white, non-disabled, thin and so on), challenging menstrual invisibility and menstrual shame IS perhaps the last frontier. After all, the menstrual body IS abject; it is reviled because it challenges norms of the hyper-disciplined feminine body. The way menstruation and womanhood is socially constructed is perhaps the most vexing of patriarchy’s pernicious contradictions.

But we can’t lose sight of how the politics or respectability is intricately wound up in who can and cannot afford to smash any embodied taboo, least of all the menstrual mandate of silence and secrecy. Thus, the entire black body, trans body, disabled body, and fat body, for example, are read as abject–as deficit and thus, at risk. A blog post at “Crazy Cranky Sexy Cool”  said it best: “So you can put period blood war paint on your face, and yes, in your context, it will probably be subversive and revolutionary. For the rest of us just going outside, walking in the streets, exposing our vulnerable, repulsive bodies is subversive and radical.”

We Can Do Better

So while we are celebrating a new era of menstrual awareness, we need to be mindful of who is authorized to dance at the new party. As we tweet our periods at Donald Trump, we must, at the same time, consider the lived realities of those of us who occupy a social space that vibrates—all day, every day—with peril. We have to remember that some bodies, to invoke Audre Lorde ‘were never meant to survive.’

If menstrual activists can practice some good ole self-reflexivity, noting how our particularly cozy social locations enable us to take these risks, we can build a bridge. If not, we merely prescribe a one-size-fits-all kind of new menstrual consciousness that keeps the movement small and fringy.

We can do better if we seize the chance to see the power of dominant culture to treat some bodies very differently (and very dangerously) than others. If we do, we can make this menstrual moment a powerful opportunity for authentically reckoning with our differences and shape a discourse that makes room for all bodies—bloody and otherwise–far beyond 2015.

Chris Bobel, president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, is Associate Professor of  Women’s and Gender Studies  at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her areas of expertise include the politics of embodiment, health and social change, and the intersection of feminist theory and action. She is the author of  New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation (Rutgers University Press, 2010).

How Donald Trump learned that #periodsarenotaninsult

November 12th, 2015 by Breanne Fahs

Bleeding on Donald Trump’s Face

Trump-in-bloodRecent events in the political circus of the Republican party have highlighted Donald Trump’s disdain for women and his overwhelming tendencies to embarrass himself and his “party.” In an interesting twist of events, menstrual cycles have started to play a major role in how women are rebelling against Trump’s unbridled misogyny. After suggesting that Fox News pundit Megyn Fox asked him difficult questions because of her menstrual status (“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her wherever.”) during the Republican debate on August 6, 2015, reactions were swift and full of feisty menstrual rebellions. Women from across the country wrote op-eds and fumed openly on the air, in print, and on social media about these archaic beliefs that women’s menstrual cycles invalidated their legitimate claims to difficult questions or angry/aggressive responses to misogynistic public figures. Women on Twitter started live-tweeting their menstrual updates to Donald Trump. For example:

@realDonaldTrump – on the third day of my period AND still a functioning member of society! Who knew?! #periodsarenotaninsult.

Sarah Levy, an artist from Portland, made a menstrual painting of Donald Trump’s face entitled Whatever. Women clearly wanted their menstrual cycles in his face, on his face, boldly and decisively fighting back against the shaming of their menstrual cycles.

This incident reminded me of the power of menstrual activism in its many forms. Relying on mockery, menstrual art, information conversations, feminist responses on social media, and satire, women made it clear that they will not tolerate attacks on women for their menstrual status, especially from blowhards like Trump. Each of the tactics they used has its own merits, logics, and successes. I am especially fond of the power of women reminding the world that millions of women are currently menstruating, that bloody vaginas are sitting in the room right now. The live-tweeting technique in that sense seemed especially poignant. I have written many columns here about the importance of “outing” one’s menstrual status; in the case of live-tweeting periods to Donald Trump, these “outings” serve as a powerful reminder of the presence of menstruating women and the power of their collective voices.

Similarly, menstrual art is, I think, inherently rebellious and should be considered a key expression of menstrual activism.  Using menstrual blood to create (and in this case, to demean, mock, trivialize, insult, and laugh at Donald Trump’s buffoonery) underscores the power of “going public” with the private or abject fluid that women are supposed to keep secret and unseen.  Levy’s painting, a browning, gooey reminder of women’s menstrual graffiti—our presence on your presence—is wonderfully subversive and grotesquely clever. As we celebrate menstrual activism this month, let’s remember that it has many iterations and many faces (and, in some cases, enjoys bleeding directly onto Donald Trump’s face).

Breanne Fahs is an Associate Professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University, where she specializes in studying women’s sexuality, critical embodiment studies, radical feminism, and political activism. She is also a clinical psychologist specializing in sexuality, couples work, and trauma recovery.

The Tampon Gun: An interview with anti-violence artist-activist Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch

November 9th, 2015 by Jen Lewis

Stop the Flow of Violence. Period. by Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch


When guerrilla art meets activism, monumental action can occur. Here Menstrual Designer Jen Lewis interviews fellow artist Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch about the activist vision behind Bloch’s engaging banner Stop the Flow of Violence. PERIOD. Read on to find out more about this nationwide anti-violence campaign, including how you can play an integral role in supporting the artist’s vision.

Q1. Jen Lewis
Why did you originally create Feminine Protection? What is your vision for the piece now?

A1. Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch
I originally created this piece as a funny play on the phrase “Feminine Protection.” I didn’t realize at the time I was touching on much deeper issues. After creating my gun, I noticed people were more upset that it was made out of tampon applicators than they were that it is was a semi-automatic weapon. I was intrigued and shocked that the taboo of natural menstrual blood is more upsetting to people than the blood caused by gun violence. As a result, I have become much more aware of both the politics of gun control/violence and the social taboos surrounding menstruation. I hope that my art piece simply provokes further thought and discussion about socially acceptable images and topics.

Q2. JL
What is your social/political goal for the piece? What community action do you want to spark?

My goal is that my art piece becomes the face of an anti-violence campaign. I hope people in cities across the U.S. will display my banner, Stop the Flow of Violence. PERIOD, in public places with the hopes that it will inspire the public to engage in conversations. The N.R.A. has Charlton Heston, the Anti-Gun movement needs an image as well! I hope that when people see an AK-47 made out of tampon applicators they will discuss violence in society, gun violence and violence against women. In addition, I hope the discussion expands to incorporate socially acceptable images of blood (why is gun violence okay but menstruation taboo?).

Q3. JL
What kind of community partners are you looking for to display the banner? Do you have any lined up? If so, who?

I would be thrilled if feminists and activists on college campuses displayed my banner. I would love to see it prominently displayed in public parks, across from government institutions, and immediately following a terrible mass shootings in the city/college an event has occurred. I would love to see my banner in every major city in the U.S. but especially in Texas. If I had the funds, I would purchase a billboard in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas as a start. I would like to participate in the “open carry” protest that will be happening at the University of Texas Austin.

I put out a call on Facebook asking for volunteers to hang my art. I currently have one person in Minneapolis, Minnesota who has offered to hang it across from the State House in St. Paul, Minnesota. I am looking for more people to join in this guerrilla art show.

Q4. JL
Where is your ideal location for the banner to be hung?

A4. IGBIt is weather proof so any prominent outdoor location would work.  It could also be used in parades, hung from buildings or displayed in public spaces. I am open to the ideas of people volunteering to display this banner.

Q5. JL
Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am hoping people will document the public’s responses to my banner. I have created a website: and a Facebook page for my art, IGBStudio, where I hope people will post photos, video and comments by the public. Once I have a group of people signed up to display my banner, I will turn my attention to making my website more interactive. I will admit social media is not my forte so I am also looking for partners interested in Tweeting under my hashtag #feminineprotection. In the meantime, please ‘like’ my art page: IGBStudio.

Find Ingrid and her art online at:

Jen Lewis is the Menstrual Designer and Conceptual Artist behind Beauty in Blood and curator of Widening the Cycle.

Michelle Obama-Menstrual Activist, and other Weekend Links

November 7th, 2015 by Editor

This weekend we offer two extremely different examples of how menstruation is being referenced in social and political activism.

1. Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, is a menstrual activist. In an article for The Atlantic, headlined Let Girls Learn, also the name of a program launched last spring by the President and First Lady, Obama addresses the crisis in girls’ education, challenging cultural practices and beliefs that diminish access to education for girls.

“Scholarships, bathrooms, and safe transportation will only go so far if societies still view menstruation as shameful and shun menstruating girls.”

– Michelle Obama

SMCR member Giuliana Serena noted on Facebook the significance of this declaration:


2. Across the ocean, Enda Kenny, the (male) leader of the Irish political party Fine Gael, is getting an earful from Irish women. The headline of this Irish Mirror article says it all: Women are tweeting Enda Kenny about their periods in a bid to highlight abortion rights in Ireland. The hashtag #repealthe8th, references a campaign to repeal the eighth amendment that effectively “criminalises abortion in all cases except where to continue a pregnancy would result in death.”

Comedian Grainne Maguire started the movement on Monday, November 2:


The hashtag quickly gained momentum and was also used to bring attention to the tax on menstrual products.

Blood in the Menstrual Movement

November 5th, 2015 by Editor

Guest Post by Diana Álvarez


Image from Cup of Flow by Diana Álvarez.

Image from Cup of Flow by Diana Álvarez.

“Are you the girl who drank her period blood?” This was a frequent question I was asked during the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, held in June, 2015, at Suffolk University in Boston. I had the privilege of having my art work be a part of the art show Widening the Cycle, curated by Jen Lewis and held in conjunction with the conference. On display was my menstrual art project entitled Cup of Flow, which showed photographic depictions of me interacting with my period blood. The images included me wearing my own menstrual blood as lipstick, my cervix during menstruation—this one was made possible through the use of a speculum—and one highly sensational image of me drinking my period blood directly from my menstrual cup. My art project provided the catalyst for many rich conversations that I would have in Boston that weekend. For a conference that focuses specifically on the menstrual cycle, not nearly enough people were talking about blood. My project demonstrated to me that these folks were thirsty for blood.

I was fortunate to have been chosen to be one of the artists on the Widening the Cycle panel, which was held during the lunch hour on Friday. This medium afforded me the opportunity to address most of the conference attendants and speak openly about drinking my period blood. I began with an open discussion of my artistic process, and how creating the image in which I use the blood as lipstick prompted me to consider licking my lips and tasting the blood. I spoke about my hesitations with taking this seemingly drastic step. I mean sure, I might be the “period girl” in my Women’s Studies program and circle of friends, but that just meant I had a lot of information on the menstrual cycle and societal/cultural definitions of what all that entails. It did not mean that I was that comfortable with my own menstrual process, let alone my period blood. Then I considered a paper cut that still had my finger throbbing from earlier that day. And the way that I had immediately, almost as a reflex, put my bloody cut finger into my mouth. I considered how my feelings towards my menstrual blood demonstrated a colonization of my experience with my body. I pledged to decolonize my period. I drank my period blood.

cupofflow1_Diana Álvarez

Image from Cup of Flow art project by Diana Álvarez.

At the lunch panel I also announced that anyone who wanted the images from Cup of Flow was more than welcome to take them home with them and use them however they saw fit. I was humbled by how many conference attendants wanted to take my art home to do activist work with it, to create a dialogue, to be inspired by the blood. This made me realize how important seeing the blood is to the future of menstrual cycle research. Menstrual art that depicts actual period blood pushes the boundaries of what we are used to, it takes the menstrual metaphor away and instead bleeds with meaning. Often times in our scholarly conversations about menstruation, period blood itself becomes the absent referent. When we discuss the menstrual cycle we ourselves sometimes become guilty of a Cartesian mind/body dualism, where in which we concentrate heavily on things related to menstruation but not on menstruation itself. Here I am thinking of things like menstrual products, menstruation in the media, menstrual shame, however we are not addressing the power of the actual blood.

My art revolves around the blood. The blood just as it is. I do not use it as paint (although I do love this method*). I photograph it in both its utter mundaneness and absolute ephemeral brilliance. The reaction to my menstrual art work has inspired me to continue to make menstrual art and to understand that artscapes have the potential to create social change. It’s about bloody time.

* For menstrual artists who paint with their blood look at the work of Sadie Mohler and Stephanie Dragoon.

Diana Álvarez is a PhD student at Texas Woman’s University. Her dissertation focuses on menstruation in social media, menstrual art, and menstrual suppression. Her most recent piece, Cup of Flow, can be viewed at

Ms. November – Menstruation Pin-Up

November 4th, 2015 by Jen Lewis
Beauty in Blood Presents
Ms. November: Pink Parachute
Year: 2015
Menstrual Designer: Jen Lewis
Photographer: Rob Lewis
Pink Parachute

Taking the Period Public: Weekend Links @re_Cycling_SMCR

October 31st, 2015 by David Linton
It seems that woman have had to hide their periods forever, as this image from the ancient Biblical story of Rachel and her father, Laban, suggests. But a band of feisty women have decided to come out of the menstrual tent to protest the secrecy surrounding the chemical content of menstrual products.

It seems that woman have had to hide their periods forever, as this image from the ancient Biblical story of Rachel and her father, Laban, suggests. But a band of feisty women have decided to come out of the menstrual tent to protest the secrecy surrounding the chemical content of menstrual products.

It looks like menstrual activism is springing up all over the continent. We at re: Cycling launched an exploration of social and political menstrual activism at the beginning of October, just weeks before Cosmopolitan magazine noted 2015 as “The Year the Period Went Public,” devoting 12 full pages to the topic in the November issue available on newstands now. Several articles from this issue, plus others covering a broad range of topics, were posted on the Cosmopolitan website in mid-October under the headline Your Guide to the Modern Period:

Why the Hell are Periods Still Taxed?

What It’s Like to Get Your Period When You’re Homeless

8 Life-Changing Ways to Stop Your Period Pain

Everything You Need to Know About Your Menstrual Flow

The 8 Greatest Menstrual Moments of 2015

What Guys Really Think About Your Period

Answers to Your Most Important Menstruation Questions, Period

8 Fixes for Your Worst Period Problems

Does Your Period Have to Be This Bad?

Donate Now to Help Every Woman Have an Easier Period

And a group of activists has taken up the cause that the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research has been promoting for several years: holding the makers of menstrual management products responsible for publicly posting the chemicals and other agents used in their tampons and pads. The story was reported in the Oct. 26, 2015 online edition of The New York Times.

Though other aspects of women’s reproductive lives are under attack, including access to contraceptives and abortion rights, it looks like there’s progress on the menstrual front.

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

From Innovation to Policy, Menstruation is Red Hot in Kenya

October 29th, 2015 by Editor

Guest Post by Danielle Keiser, WASH United

*WASH_logo_glowWASH United, initiator of Menstrual Hygiene Day, has been working closely with the Kenyan government and local NGOs to establish a national policy around Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

Today we sat down with the team at WASH United Africa in Nairobi, Kenya–Beverly Mademba, WASH in Schools Programs Manager, Alfred Muli, Program & Research Associate, and Winnie Nyabenge, Program Associate–who have been coordinating the national effort, to learn about how policy change in the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) sector can be achieved. Here’s what they told us.

It seems like menstruation is a really hot issue in Kenya right now. Why do you suppose the issue is now gaining more attention than ever before? 

Yes, you’re right! Menstruation is actually red hot in Kenya for a number of reasons.

First, the interest and demand for the issue is enormous! With more and more data finally surfacing detailing the wide-ranging negative impacts of poor MHM, many people are responding with interventions and solutions in Kenya–and beyond. At the beginning, the majority of the NGOs working in MHM came from the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Now, people and organizations interested in advancing education, health, human rights, child protection and other sectors are getting involved. Even private social businesses want to help tackle the issue by bringing innovative MHM products to the market! It’s actually quite noticeable just how much MHM has grown in the last years, both in terms of work and media attention on the issue. Instead of just WASH, MHM is now being tackled from many different perspectives by many different organisations.

Secondly, the increased campaigning and advocacy surrounding Menstrual Hygiene Day has really had a huge impact on drawing attention to the issue. Two contributing factors include the fact that we at WASH United are the initiators and drivers of Menstrual Hygiene Day and have our African office (and our great team!) in Kenya.

Lastly and most importantly, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has taken an impressive leadership role in driving the issue and has done an excellent job of coordinating stakeholders, particularly in the WASH sector.

Hope Alive Girls Empowerment Project, Kenya

Hope Alive Girls Empowerment Project, Kenya

What are the key priorities of the proposed MHM policy in Kenya (education, product access, environmental issues, health, etc.?) and how will the policy be implemented? 

Seeing as how MHM is an issue that cuts across different sectors, it is absolutely vital that the concerns of all the key stakeholders are considered. This means not only ensuring adequate sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and the affordability and accessibility of menstrual materials, but also providing education, information and addressing cultural barriers to improving MHM, such as myths and taboos. It also means taking into account the importance of behavior change around hygiene and disposal. The obvious target for the MHM policy are schools, but we are also trying to push the policy agenda to institutions (i.e., prisons, hospitals, etc.) as well to help ensure that it benefits as many women and girls in Kenya as possible.

Therefore the key priorities of the MHM policy are as follows:

  1. Defining safety and quality standards for reusable products
  2. Provision for management of MHM waste
  3. Defining minimum standards for MHM programming (for both infrastructure and behavior change interventions)
  4. Ensuring relevant reproductive health education
  5. Mainstreaming MHM into monitoring and evaluation
  6. Engaging the corporate sector to address the safety of their menstrual hygiene products; encouraging them to market their products responsibly and with “period positivity”

After the policy is finalized on a national level, the critical part is the contextualizing and institutionalizing of the policy in the 47 counties within Kenya to ensure real impact on the ground. This means conducting in-depth situational analyses to truly understand the specific issues in each county, as well addressing the needs and capacity requirements of the local governments.

How have you built relationships with others to advance the initiative? Who have been the most valuable partners? 

We’ve built relationships in two ways: 1.) Through national thematic technical working groups (TWGs), such as the hygiene promotion TWG, the school WASH TWG and the policy and research TWG just to name a few. 2).  Menstrual Hygiene Day has allowed us to collaborate with new partners both inside and outside the WASH sector giving us the opportunity to form strong coalitions that continue to garner media attention and influence local and national governments.

Besides this, we’ve been in constant dialogue with interest groups including academia, manufacturers, corporate entities and relevant government agencies.

All partners are equally valuable, representing their different interests. Key players at least working on the policy have been WASH United, Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO), WASH Alliance Kenya (WAK), PATH, UNICEF, Transformation Textiles, ZANA Africa, I-CARE, Saidia Dada and networks such as KEWASNET. However, we must really commend the Ministry of Health for the amazing work they have done in coordinating us all.

If menstrual education is a component, what are the barriers to establishing a nation-wide educational initiative of this sort? Have there been any particular surprises or unanticipated blocks?

Great question. Currently the curriculum teaches about anatomy and the biological processes that occur during puberty. It does not, however, dive into hygienic management of the period, sanitary disposal of used products, and the facts vs. myths that surround menstruation.

Period Politics – Call or Write to Your Member of Congress!

October 15th, 2015 by David Linton

Though getting anything through Congress these days is a daunting task, there is a piece of legislation that is of special interest to anyone concerned about women’s health.  It’s a bill called The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (H.R. 1708),and it directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine through research whether feminine hygiene products that contain dioxin, synthetic fibers, and other chemical additives like chlorine, colorants and fragrances, pose health risks. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is the author of the bill which now has an additional six co-sponsors in Congress.

Unlike other political issues that involve women’s reproductive rights such as contraception or access to abortion, this initiative is relatively free of controversial elements (aside from the fact that it does require governmental regulation and testing, a factor that some extreme “anti-government” politicians oppose regardless of the value or intention).  And the fact that the bill does not address the contentious issues might make it appealing to elected officials seeking to counter the impression that they are generally “anti-women” when it comes to making policy.  In other words (though this might not be the best way to phrase it when writing to them), this is a chance for elected representatives to do something good for the vagina.

In addition to advocating for the legislative action, Maloney and her co-sponsors have taken the initiative of writing directly to Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) urging the agency to take the lead on the recommended research.

The press release from Congresswoman Maloney’s office spells out the details of the issue, the letter to the NIH, and  the names of its co-sponsors.  Readers who live in the districts of these individuals are encouraged to thank them for their support.  Others are urged to contact representatives in their home districts asking them to become co-sponsors and to vote in favor of it in committee and when (or if) it comes to the floor for a vote.

Here’s how to find the contact information for all member of the US Congress by zip code, probably the easiest way to find out who they are and the configuration of their districts:

It is noteworthy that the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research (SMCR) is identified as a supporter of the effort along with the Annie Appleseed Project, Liberty Feminine Care, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, NaturallySavvy, Red Web Foundation, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.  Readers are invited to share this post with others and to get additional organizations involved in the effort.  

David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the re: Cycling editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.