Since Monday, Princeton Students for Gender Equality has been holding events to celebrate and raise awareness on a relatively taboo topic: menstruation. At a panel this Thursday, three speakers discussed the importance of the menstrual movement, their own individual efforts, and ways for young activists to get involved.
“We really wanted to create a centralized initiative on campus to bring more awareness and discussion to themes of menstrual equity and the progress and some of the challenges that are still within this field,” said Preeti Iyer ’20, one of the organizers of Period Palooza and a director for .
The week, titled “Period Palooza,” aims to raise awareness on the menstrual equity movement, which works to ensure that all people who get periods have access to menstrual products. On Tuesday, PSGE hosted Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a menstrual equity activist and the author of “Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.”
Period Palooza comes a few months after the Menstruation Celebration held in November.
“We had already started this conversation,” PSGE president Katherine Fleming ’19 explained. “We wanted to bring more depth and range to it and connect it to the broader movement.”
Fleming also hopes that Period Palooza will help drive their momentum to bring free pads and tampons in campus bathrooms.
Thursday’s panel stressed the importance of equitable and affordable access to menstrual products.
“You have all sorts of menstruators who miss school on a regular basis [because of their period],” explained Jarrad Aguirre, chief of staff at Myovant Sciences, a biotech company that focuses on treating women’s health conditions and prostate cancer.
The other two panelists were Cass Clemmer, creator of Toni the Tampon and a trans activist, and Alison Netter, chief of communications and development officer at , a non-profit that offers reproductive health education to adolescent girls in Kenya to help them stay in school.
From her experience working with ZanaAfrica, Netter explained the need for adolescent girls in Kenya to have access to menstrual products. She talked about how these girls will sometimes not go to school because of their menstrual cycle. This could prevent them from being promoted to the next grade.
“We believe that girls need this tool to thrive,” Netter said, noting that her organization tries not to correlate menstruation and education too deeply as many other factors are involved.
Clemmer spoke of the trans experience and the danger that can occur when a trans person tries to dispose of menstrual products in potentially transphobic environments.
“Every time you bleed you’re reminded by society that you are not supposed to be here, that you’re living in a world that doesn’t recognize you,” Clemmer said.
The panel also highlighted the discomfort that usually arises when speaking about menstruation.
“Even among doctors, nurses, and physician assistants, you don’t talk about periods,” continued Aguirre, citing his own experience in medicine. “Even those who should be most informed are sometimes the least informed.”
Clemmer uses humor and art to help others get through the discomfort. One-on-one conversations and asking why the discomfort exists to be the most helpful for encouraging the discussion on menstruation, Clemmer said.
The three panelists also spoke about how they tackled being entrepreneurs who have a focus on menstruation. Netter specifically mentioned that the challenge is to find funding even from women’s rights organization. The topic, she said, is still “taboo.”
“There are probably zero investors in biotech who identify as period health investors,” added Aguirre, citing his experience at Myovant Sciences.
The panel, entitled “Period Panel and Workshop,” was held in Lewis Library on Thursday at 4 p.m.