View this email in your browser

Jane Fam, look at all these beautiful faces.

photo credit: Beatrice Domingo

Last weekend, people gathered in New York to talk about menstrual equity, period poverty and reproductive health. It was my first time attending PERIOD CON – an entire conference dedicated to menstruation, and I was delighted to see a crowd of passionate college and high school students talking openly about periods. A call for menstrual equity is based on the recognition that half of the world experiences this biological phenomenon regularly: a period. During this time, there is a regular flow of blood and tissue that is expelled from your body through your vaginal cavity. The length of the cycle varies, there is often pain associated with the cycle, and there is also a great deal of information about one’s health that can be gleaned by looking at the tissue in one’s flow  (and that’s why we exist!).

Most of my readership has likely experienced this phenomenon, but I have learned in the past few years of running Jane to assume nothing, be explicit, and speak without shame – especially in platforms that are public. 

At Jane, we talk a great deal about the devastating impact reproductive diseases have on a person’s entire life. But menstrual equity is about something even more fundamental: clarifying that access to menstrual care is a basic need. You shouldn’t have to miss school because you can’t afford to buy pads. We get it – the “tampon tax” isn’t actually a tax on tampons, it’s a luxury tax. But why is menstrual care considered a luxury? Isn’t it a basic necessity? How do people who are housing insecure afford to buy menstrual care products which run on average $7 a month?
These young adults at PERIOD CON bring attention to the lack of broad access to menstrual products and create “period packs” for those in need – an assortment of tampon products to help those that may not be able to afford these products. There was so much energy in that crowd to educate and advocate! And of course, the socials were on fire. 
We were able to capture this enthusiasm on our IG feed, as hundreds of people shouted in unison, “period power.” It gives me chills everytime I watch it. The events of the weekend were deliberately posted on Instagram and Twitter, as we worked to elevate the visibility of a conversation that often happens in private. As you can imagine, anything put on the internets creates an opportunity for someone to fire off about it. It’s all part of the conversation, so let’s dig in. 
A woman on IG asked why we would celebrate periods when they are “gross” and cause pain. She elaborated, even if it is natural, as an example, we wouldn’t celebrate vomit, also natural. Initially, I was surprised by this comment but had to remind myself that I’m deep in this thing now, and my initial understanding of anything to do with menstruation and reproductive health is likely different from most people. It’s okay, especially for a young person, to ask this. It is even more so from a young person who has personally experienced menstruation as a painful, shameful, inhibitory thing (which seemed to be the case with this commenter).
I got my period in the 90s and I also learned to think of menstruation as “gross” and shameful through observing how others talked about it. It was the punchline of jokes on tv, boys in school used it as a tool to tease and most were resoundingly silent on the topic. There was no alternative narrative, no nuance, only something you had to hide. The efforts to talk about menstruation now, loudly, as natural and okay are not to diminish the fact that you may have terrible periods and hate them. It is to create an environment where young people grow up knowing that there is no shame in having a period. It’s so that we become so comfortable sitting with the thought of people bleeding every month, that we move past it and begin to address the much bigger issues of making sure everyone has access to pads/tampons/cups and then tackling menstrual disorders which can substantially disrupt lives.
Back in Twitter-land, there were some questions about the use of the term “menstruators.” First, let’s start by saying language is imperfect but at its best it should be clarifying, facilitate communication, and personally I’ll throw in that is should try to be inclusive. Menstruator is not another term for women. It's meaning is far more nuanced and expansive.
We use the term menstruators interchangeably with “those who menstruate.” This nomenclature allows us to focus on the key biological insight of menstrual flow as a rich source of data and information about our bodies. This means that our products that are based on menstrual fluid can be used by anyone who has a period and cannot be used by those that do not. For example, anyone who is post-menopausal or has had a hysterectomy will not be able to give us a menstrual sample because they don’t menstruate. But trans men, gender non-binary folks and cisgender women who still have a period will be able to give us a menstrual sample. The most logical word that captures the subset of people who are able to use the product independent of where they lie on the gender identity spectrum is “menstruators.”
The pushback against “menstruators” being “dehumanizing” was centered around reducing people down to a biological phenomenon. Specifically, some Tweeps (this is an actual word, btw) wondered if it is the same as referring to women as “breeders.” In short, no. Context matters. “Breeders” is meant to be derogatory and relies on the association with animal husbandry to make it a pejorative. The intent of  “menstruators” is to be inclusive, and it allows people working in the space of building period products for those that shed endometrial lining to be precise in their messaging. 

At Jane, we’ve been vocal about pushing another word into the lay press: “menstrualome.” We got a different kind of pushback on that one. A few people in the genomic space thought it was played out and an overused trick to add “ome” to something and make it bigger. But we pushed forward because there’s an entire universe of “omic” data in menstrual effluence and we need a word to convey to people: your tampon is rich with information, don’t throw it away like trash.

The world doesn’t change overnight. But that’s okay because we’re here for the long game. 

Happy February. 

Want to Change the Landscape of Diagnostics Available for Women? Sign up to be a Beta Tester for NextGen Jane by Clicking Here.
Copyright © 2019 NextGen Jane, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.