Dipping an arm into a backpack to nonchalantly slide a tampon up a sleeve is a universal strategy people with periods employ to protect those who don’t. You see, if someone catches a glimpse of a menstrual product, they’re at risk of experiencing a visceral reaction, like their head exploding into a thousand bits or projectile vomiting. And so, once a month, it becomes imperative to hide all traces of menstruation lest us monthly bleeders upset anyone beyond repair.
Or at least that’s what the patriarchy has us believe.
Unwarranted period shaming leads to graver consequences than strategizing ways to discreetly transport a tampon to the bathroom. Without access to free pads and tampons, people who can’t even afford such necessary period products — products that should be as accessible as toilet paper — are forced to skip school or work. Lest you think this problem doesn’t affect many people, one in five teens in the U.S. have struggled to afford menstrual hygiene products, and 84% have either missed class or know someone who has because they couldn’t access period products, according to a study conducted by Thinx and PERIOD.
It’s honestly an epidemic. But there’s a slight glimmer of hope, with Jewish heroines leading the way.
The menstrual cycle isn’t going anywhere, but the attached shame and stigma is beginning to unravel. Fourth wave feminism, characterized by female empowerment and bodily autonomy, has ushered in a period revolution of sorts, and I am incredibly here for it. Here’s a handful of stigma-smashing Jewish women working tirelessly to normalize periods.
1. Ilana Glazer
Known for being a badass social activist feminist babe (along with, you know, being co-creator and co-star of Broad City), I wasn’t surprised when Ilana Glazer announced her partnership with the period underwear company Thinx. The comedian was so enamored with Thinx’s period proof underwear — a pair can hold up to four tampons’ worth of menstrual blood — that she personally contacted the company for a collaboration.
Glazer chose crimson for her special edition line of Thinx panties because “what better color for your period underwear than the color of your period!?” as she wrote in an Instagram caption. “I am so proud of and excited by and horny for this collab,” Glazer said. Honestly, same!! Kudos to this glistening Jewess for using her platform to destigmatize menstruation.
2. Talia Frenkel
The mission and backstory behind menstrual product company L. is so fucking cool. Before she founded L., an award-winning personal care product company, Jewish entrepreneur Talia Frankel worked as a photojournalist for the Red Cross and United Nations. “Her coverage of the widespread neglect of women’s human rights and the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls propelled her to take action in solidarity with women everywhere,” the L. website says.
Rooted in tikkun olam, the Jewish founder built a period care company based on a one-for-one model: for every L. product purchased, one is donated to a person in need. Over 200 million tampons and pads have been sold — so you can do the math. Not only does this company help eradicate period poverty, it offers premium organic cotton menstrual hygiene products that are absolutely safe for your body.
3. Joanne Goldblum
Jewish mom Joanne Goldblum is a straight up hygiene product heroine. The social worker turned CEO formed the National Diaper Bank Network in 2011 with the mission of giving diapers to those in need. Originally she had actually wanted to end period poverty, but back then the cultural landscape just wasn’t ready for it — menstruation was too entrenched in taboo and stigma.
Seven years later, propelled by fourth wave feminism, Goldblum launched the Alliance for Period Supplies. In just one year the non-profit distributed over 8 million period products to those in need. Yowza!!
4. Meika Hollender
I’m blown away with Meika Hollender and the company she started with her father, Sustain Natural (we love a family business!). Not only do they sell biodegradable organic tampons, pads, liners, period cups, condoms, and period underwear, they also donate 10% off their pre-tax profits to those who lack access to proper period care and sex education.
The cherry on top? Sustain offers a monthly subscription package so shopping for tampons at your local CVS is a chore you can cross off your list!
5. Dana Marlowe
The story behind Jewish founder Dana Marlowe’s company I Support the Girls is quite beautiful! After losing a considerable amount of weight, the Jewish mensch was in need of new bras that actually fit her body.
What could she do with her old bras? “Homeless women need bras,” a saleswoman told her. Those four words catalyzed I Support the Girls, and in just four years, the non-profit distributed over 3 million bras and menstrual products to people experiencing homelessness. That’s pretty cray-cray!
But Marlowe’s company has gone beyond just donating products to people who need them — I Support the Girls is also tackling taxation on menstruation. Tampons and pads are subject to the “tampon tax,” a sexist phenomenon that puts a special value-added tax on menstrual products even though they should be considered basic necessities (because they are). Along with Period Equity and Lola, the three companies spearheaded a nationwide purchaser protest on November 20 in which people across the States will buy period products, keep the receipts, and “demand that state government refund the sales tax.”
6. Rebecca Alvandi Yadegar
Rebecca Alvandi Yadegar and her dad were way ahead of their time. In 2008, the father-daughter duo launched Maxim Hygiene Products built on the goal of “providing MAXIMum natural protection for good hygiene,” the website reads.
With her father’s industry knowledge of manufacturing products and Rebecca’s personal experience, the pair created the first totally organic and natural chlorine free cotton menstrual products in the United States. That’s a big friggin’ deal!
7. Sarah Goustra
Kenyon College sophomore student Sarah Groustra catalyzed legislation that brought free menstrual products to her hometown. When an opinion essay the Jewish student wrote for her high school newspaper on destigmatizing periods caught the eye of Rebecca Stone, an elected member of Brookline, Massachusetts’s legislative body, the pair collaborated to become the first municipality in the country to provide free tampons and pads in public buildings. Read more about Groustra and Stone’s efforts here.
Image by David Zydd/Pixabay; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest