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28 Day Cycle: The Year in Review

Mia Abrahams

It’s been a YEAR, right? And even though we’ve come a long way since *there’s been a mistake!!!!* at the Oscars (omg remember the Oscars??!!!), I’ve definitely spent more time unpacking Washington backroom deals than mastering that perfect morning routine I was supposed to get around to doing in, like, March. But, beyond the daily craze of news notifications on my phone, a lot has happened this year in the world of periods, menstrual hygiene, and ~flow~ activism — more than ever, people around the world are working to break the taboos around menstruation, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see it. So, without further ado, we bring you our highlights from the year in periods!

Periods are not a luxury. Period.

In 2017, the fight against the tampon tax really ramped up with protests, the introduction of new bills, and a satirical luxury jewelry ad / PSA starring Amber Rose from the team at Period Equity — an organization committed to ensuring that menstrual products are affordable, safe and available to those in need. So where are we at now? Well, quick refresh, tampons and pads, as we know, aren’t luxuries, but 36 states still charge a sales tax on menstrual products for being “luxury items,” instead of recognizing them as things people with periods literally need. In May, Florida joined the growing list of 13 states who have ended the tax — and you can join the nearly 100k people who have signed the petition to end the tampon tax here.

Do we have a right to know what’s in our tampons?

In May, Representative Grace Meng from New York introduced a bill that would require menstrual hygiene products — aka tampons, pads, and cups — to list their ingredients on their packaging. People rallied in Washington in support of the bill, arguing that women and people with periods have a right to know what chemicals are in these products that have direct contact with their bodies. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney also reintroduced a bill, *for the tenth time*, directing the National Institute of Health to do research into whether chemicals used in menstrual hygiene products pose health risks. The bill has never moved further than the committee stage, but, as the conversation around these issues becomes louder, we hope to see movement on this super-important topic in the near future.

Academics to establish “critical menstrual studies”

Time to go back to school? Associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Christina Bobel, is writing The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstrual Studies. The handbook, the first of its kind, will provide a comprehensive look at critical menstruation studies like menstruation and stigma, femcare advertising, the history of menstrual technologies and so.much.more. It will also be a resource for academics. Bobel hopes the handbook will point a way forward for increased research in the field and  "evidence-based policy and programming."

Nepal criminalized menstrual huts

This past August, Nepal’s parliament passed a bill that criminalizes the banishment of women to menstrual huts — part of a common local ritual called chhaupadi, where women, considered unclean during their periods, are separated from their families and made to sleep alone. This ritual can have tragic results, such as the death of 19-year-old Tulasi Shahi who died from a snake bite while banished to a cowshed. While the bill is a good step forward, advocates believe that the challenge will come in enforcing this new law: "Yes, criminalizing it validates the fact that the government of Nepal thinks it is a criminal offense, but it does not in any way ensure that people will stop doing it," says Pema Lakhi of the Nepal Fertility Care Center, one of the country's leading menstrual hygiene activists.

A step forward for menstrual access in federal prisons

One excellent piece of news this year was a memo from the Bureau of Prisons that pledges to provide women in federal prisons with a range of menstrual products, including tampons and pads, *at no cost*. Plus, ~your crush~ NJ Senator Cory Booker has said he will monitor the enforcement of the memo because “a policy memo is just words on a piece of paper unless it’s properly enforced.”

Adequate access to menstrual hygiene products in prisons across the United States has always been a major issue for women’s rights advocates. To recap, there is little consistency across the criminal justice system when it comes to menstrual hygiene. Some jails and prisons provide free pads for women, some don’t, and some only supply a limited number, or tampons/pads that are of poor quality. If a woman needs more than what the prison has given her, she can buy more from the commissary (if she can afford it). We say, it’s essential to the dignity of incarcerated women that they have access to adequate menstrual products.

***Plus some things to look forward to in 2018!***

RIhanna drops a menstruation-themed lipstick shade

Because when has Rihanna ever *not* got it? On December 26 she’ll launch her new range of Mattemoiselle Fenty lipsticks, including our office fave: a “moody” red-brown named, you guessed it, PMS. Rihanna said, according to the press release, "I wanted to prove that lipstick is meant to be fun and not feared." Oh Ri, thank you for blessing us with a lip color that indicates we are not to be messed with (or that we are just, you know, taking that PMS attitude into the other three weeks of the month, thank you very much). Now, how do we get Rihanna on our next PMS Truck tour?

The “Tom Cruise of Bollywood” takes on the period taboo

Check out the trailer for PadMan, a new Indian comedy-drama based on the true story of menstrual activist Arunachalam Muruganantham. He revolutionized the menstrual hygiene industry in rural India by inventing a machine that makes low-cost, sterilized pads, enabling women to launch local businesses making and selling their own (check out his amazing TEDx talk here). The trailer is already blowing up on Twitter, with people getting pumped that the movie’s star, Akshay Kumar, aka the “Tom Cruise of Bollywood,” is helping open up the conversation around one of the country’s most taboo topics. Even the shooting of the film came up against these taboos, Kumar told Newsweek: “One actor quit after a two-day shoot because a scene involved his holding a sanitary pad.”

Do you have any favorite menstrual moments from this year — whether they happened to you or someone in the public eye — we’d love to hear about them in the comments! And see you for more taboo-breaking times in 2018!