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Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement


Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement

written by Nadya Okamoto with illustrations by Rebecca Elfast

Nadya Okamoto is a 20-year-old debut author. At just 16-years-old, she founded the nonprofit foundation PERIOD, an organization that distributes menstruation products to those that cannot afford them. Okamoto’s organization is not only the largest youth-run non-profit in women’s health, but also one of the fastest growing non-profits in the U.S.

PERIOD POWER: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement is a bold presence with its title and cover in today’s society, but especially in a time not so long ago. Just 60 years ago, period pamphlets didn’t dare mention such salacious words like “period” or “menstruation” and nearly all advice given to young menstruators coming to terms with their new bodies was about how to maintain appearances so as not to let anyone know they were bleeding, to make sure to be as pleasant as possible to men, and to keep their feet dry at all times because apparently getting your feet wet while menstruating means certain death. It’s ridiculous and eye-rolling advice, but it was passed around as though it were law. That was 60 years ago, and we can see how outdated and just plain stupid education pertaining menstruation was. We are aware that wet feet while on your period doesn’t do anything detrimental to our health… but what about the other things; the secrecy, the tip-toeing to make others more comfortable? Those are still prevalent today. While we may know that we don’t have to hide our bleeding and that we can have these conversations with non-menstruators, that doesn’t mean it’s commonly done because it’s still intimidating. Because of this, so many people suffer in silence in ways that most people don’t even think about. Okamoto says, “No more!” to this clear violation of human rights in PERIOD POWER, giving readers the information and the confidence to join the fight in ending period poverty.

"I hope to see PERIOD POWER everywhere as it contains information and messages that are invaluable in our seemingly never-ending quest for equality --- and in turn, a better world."

When I signed on to read PERIOD POWER, I thought it’d simply be a book about the physical act of menstruating and a bit of insight on tampon tax and period poverty; topics I thought I was already knowledgeable on. While PERIOD POWER does cover the act of menstruation, taxation on period products and period poverty, it is so much more. In addition, Okamoto discusses the history of menstruation, the significance of it in our and others culture, social and economic justice on a slightly broader spectrum, the legal system, periods in pop culture, intersectionalism, etc….and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I was mistaken in thinking I was well acquainted with what this book covers. I knew the existence of the problems, sure. But to learn of the cause, the statistics, the stories, it’s another thing altogether. Okamoto presents the mentioned in an organized, easily consumable manner and they are infuriating, shocking and just sad. Why don’t more people know about these things? Simply because they are placed under the umbrella of the incredibly taboo topic of menstruation.

PERIOD POWER is an absolute necessity of a book. It serves as a testament to how far we’ve come in regard to menstrual rights and equality, as well as a reminder to how much still needs to change. Most people are not aware of the privileges they possess. I certainly never realized how privileged I was to know that I’ve always had access to the proper period products. It never struck me, or many others, just how much of a luxury that is. So many menstruators don’t have access to sanitary products and because of that must use alternative methods to get through their periods like using actual garbage as a substitute for pads/tampons, skipping work/school or sitting in one place for the duration of their period to avoid making a mess. How is this a thing we allow fellow humans to go through? How is this something that people must go through in a first world nation that constantly boasts its humanity above others? Hearing these stories should make one’s blood boil, should make one do whatever they could to put an end to period poverty --- and that’s partly why period poverty is so prevalent.

That’s Okamoto’s main point and she fights for it well. Her information is well researched, her writing concise and easily accessible, and her passion for the cause is positively contagious. Readers of PERIOD POWER will be consumed with the thought of “What can I do?” and Okamoto lists the ways. Through PERIOD POWER, Okamoto encourages that one must actively push for it, because just wanting to do something is not enough. She convinces us to have the uncomfortable conversations because at the end of the day, it’s not about saving extra money as many people seem to think. No, it’s about equality, it’s about health. This isn’t a “women’s issue,” it’s a human issue, an issue that calls into question our humanity, that we must demand more attention to because in some ways, it’s quite literally life or death.

Okamoto’s young age, 20, is especially inspiring. In a time where a large population of people in power are saying that what happens to women doesn’t matter. What happens to teenage girls doesn’t matter. What happens to already marginalized groups doesn’t matter. A young generation incessantly being told they lack any sort of conviction. When we are talked over and told and made to feel like we can’t make a change, a young voice like Okamoto’s serves as a beacon. She and many others are reaching this group of people and not just telling them they matter, but telling those that aren’t in those groups that these people exist and offering suggestions and solutions to help. She is fanning the flames of a movement and helping people discover their voices.

I believe that PERIOD POWER could be to this generation, this century, what THE SECOND SEX was to the 40s and THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE to the 60s. The main difference? PERIOD POWER is much easier to read and comprehend, and it’s inclusive. While those titles feature relatively hard to follow writing, PERIOD POWER is concise and clear. Where those titles fought primarily for equality for white, cisgender, middle-class women, Okamoto stresses the importance of inclusivity; how this is a problem that can affect anyone and that we need everyone to fight this fight. Where those predecessors read as a bit dull, Okamoto’s writing in PERIOD POWER is vivacious, lively and bubbly and her personality jumps off the pages making the book a fun read.

I have absolutely no critiques on PERIOD POWER. It is perhaps one of my favorite books of 2018 and certainly one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read. I hope to see PERIOD POWER everywhere as it contains information and messages that are invaluable in our seemingly never-ending quest for equality --- and in turn, a better world.

Reviewed by Olivia W., Teen Board Member on October 29, 2018

Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement
written by Nadya Okamoto with illustrations by Rebecca Elfast