Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Received From: NetGalley / Amazon
PERIOD founder and Harvard College student Nadya Okamoto offers a manifesto on menstruation and why we can no longer silence those who bleed—and how to engage in youth activism.
Throughout history, periods have been hidden from the public. They’re taboo. They’re embarrassing. They’re gross. And due to a crumbling or nonexistent national sex ed program, they are misunderstood. Because of these stigmas, a status quo has been established to exclude people who menstruate from the seat at the decision-making table, creating discriminations like the tampon tax, medicines that favor male biology, and more.
Power to the Period aims to explain what menstruation is, shed light on the stigmas and resulting biases, and create a strategy to end the silence and prompt conversation about periods.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: heteroromantic
TAGS: nonfiction, Asian author, POC author
WARNINGS: menstruation, child marriage, genital mutilation, cissexism/anti-trans language (“old man erections”; “women menstruate”), homelessness, anti-fat language (several comments about losing weight and exercising), misogyny, ableism, pregnancy, religion (Christianity, Islam), binary language, vomiting, hospitalization, physical injury, amputation, death, sexism, dysphoria, cancer, suicide, domestic violence, sexual assault/rape
This book is really difficult for me to review, and in fact, I haven’t been able to sit down and write anything for it until a couple weeks after I finished because, while I knew what my thoughts were, it’s hard to adequately explain them. Because this book has some really excellent aspects, but it also has some really bad ones.
I’ll talk about the good things first.
Overall, PERIOD POWER has really good information and it’s a good, factual account of what menstruation can be like, the multitude of different hygiene products, the history of menstrual products and the way it’s depicted in society, and general intersectionality. The book and author acknowledge privilege. They recognize and reiterate that menstrual products should be readily accessible for all, and the book talks about how menstruation is different between races biologically, culturally, and socially. Also, a very large part of the book focuses on the difficulties of acquiring hygiene products when you’re homeless, living in poverty, and/or serving time in prison. Okamoto covers a lot of different intersections and areas that often go unacknowledged when it comes to period talk, which was wonderful on a larger scale.
But she and this book don’t manage to hit one of the target marginalizations that they hint at with the blurb: trans and/or nonbinary people. Which is where my bigger issues started to come in.
The blurb uses the phrase “people who menstruate,” which initially made me excited, because so often when talking about menstruation, people only talk of it as something women experience, when in fact, not all women menstruate, some men do, and so do some nonbinary people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really pan out very well within the book. Okamoto and the text mention women (of course) and nonbinary people (yay!), but trans men are basically never mentioned, and even the mentions of enbies are few and far between. They say that it’s important to be inclusive, and as I mentioned, the book does a great job of inclusivity…in all areas but gender. For a majority of the book–I’d honestly say about 95%–menstruators are referred to as women, which is harmful, upsetting, and downright ridiculous when Okamoto is clearly aware of the complexity of gender. There’s a single, small section in the last 25% of the book, written by a trans person, which was nice to read. But right after that miniscule section, there’s a whole paragraph where Okamoto goes off about using inclusive language…and then goes right back to saying “women” a paragraph or two later. There was an obvious attempt by the author, but it just failed in such an epic way as to be even more hurtful than if she’d just excluded trans and/or nonbinary people altogether.
Other issues I had with the book include:
- The book briefly mentions PMDD (PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) as something that some menstruators experience, but doesn’t explain it at all. And certainly not as thoroughly as PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome/Symptoms) is detailed.
- Endometriosis is explained, but PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) isn’t even mentioned as something some menstruators have to deal with.
- There was some weird, random comment that made it seem like it was “anti-feminist” for people (read: women) to want to get married, have kids, and be happy with that.
Overall, the book was pretty good and I really did like that there was so much information, but the problems I had were significant enough to lower my rating and appreciation for it.
Nadya Okamoto, who grew up in Portland, OR, is 20-years-old Harvard student. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD, an organization she founded at the age of 16. In 2017, Nadya ran for office in Cambridge, MA. While she did not win, her campaign team made historic waves in mobilizing young people on the ground and at polls. Nadya recently signed with publisher Simon and Schuster to write a book to mobilize the Menstrual Movement (out now!) — Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement is OUT NOW!
Nadya is a leading speaker about The Menstrual Movement, the power of Generation Z and youth activism, and overcoming adversity (and how she turned her experiences into a platform for advocacy). She is currently on leave from Harvard College to focus on scaling PERIOD, and accepting more speaking engagements. If you are interested in having Nadya at your organization or event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.