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Period Activists Aim To Shake The Shame From Menstruation

Activists are pushing to bring periods into the mainstream — to strip pads and tampons of their sales taxes, to bring the products into public restrooms and to kill the stigma surrounding menstruation talks.

Four states — California, Florida, Illinois and New York — have passed sales tax exemptions for the products, and more may follow suit. More than half of the 40 states that tax menstrual products have introduced legislation to eliminate the tax since 2016, according to The Washington Post.

And Jewish women have played their part in this cause: Gloria Steinem’s essay “If Men Could Menstruate,” published in 1978, displayed the power imbalances between men and women. She hypothesized that if men menstruated instead of women, periods would be a subject of pride, not of shame.

More recent efforts include “My Little Red Book,” edited in 2009 by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. Girls and women from around the world submitted stories of their first periods for the book. Some stories are gut-wrenching, like the editor’s great-aunt, a Holocaust survivor, discovering her first period right before a Nazi strip search. But others are humorous, like that of the editor’s first period while waterskiing in a yellow bikini.

“The book started as an attempt to give voice to this unspoken family history,” she told The New Yorker. “With each new story, I would get referred to another woman who had an amazing account.”


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