At the end of January, I had the chance to attend PERIOD. Con, hosted by PERIOD. The organization was co-founded by Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand, activists who have made it their mission to end period poverty. PERIOD. is a nonprofit and is one of the leaders in the menstrual movement with the goals of serving, educating, and advocating.
Leaders and chapters from all across the nation came together to talk about one thing: periods. Attendees flew in from Sweden, Scotland, Ethiopia, Canada, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. Middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities were all represented. Menstruators and non-menstruators all came together to fight for the cause.
I had the opportunity to attend the event thanks to an Asian American Girl Club scholarship, and I even got an Instagram shout out from Ally Maki. (Love you, Ally!).
I didn’t know what to expect coming into PERIOD. Con, but it ended up being one of the most transformative weekends of my life. It was also my first time in New York City.
When I walked in, I was greeted by Vincent Forand and handed a very official lanyard and a swag bag packed full of items. Nadya Okamoto personally signed every single copy of her book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement. The swag bags included pads, tampons, DivaCups, hats, stickers, pens, a journal and just about everything you could imagine.
The first day consisted of panels. It started off with the CEO of Myovant Sciences, Lynn Seely, MD speaking upon the issue of menstrual inequity and women’s health in general.
I found out that Lynn Seely was a journalism major in college, and now she leads a career in biotechnology. I had the chance to speak to her, and she reminded and assured me that we still need journalists in this day and age.
We then moved into panels. The panels covered topics such as period poverty, period policy, gender inclusivity and periods in pop culture. In general, there is a stigma surrounding talking about periods. This was a day dedicated solely to talking about periods.
Every single panel was unique in its own way. Every speaker brought their own stories to share, and it was amazing to see that we all had different experiences, but we all understood one another. Everyone had a “period story.” Everyone had felt embarrassed or ashamed in some way at some point for having a period. Everyone at some point felt like their voices weren’t being heard, whether it was in the workspace or in a doctor’s office. Everyone also had something to say about making a change in this world, whether it be in the menstrual movement or bringing awareness to the transgender community.
The menstrual movement is about making sure that everyone has equal access to menstrual products, but it’s also so much more than that. When women are in pain or when women don’t have access to menstrual hygiene products, they miss school and work. They lose out on their education. They miss out on work hours.
Day one of PERIOD. Con 2019 ended with a moving speech from former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, for which she received a standing ovation. Yes, the Wendy Davis. The one who held a filibuster for 11 hours straight to block a bill that would restrict abortions.
Day two of PERIOD. Con consisted of three workshops and a period packing party. The workshops covered everything from period policy to how to use a DivaCup. It was a chance for everyone to interact with each other a little more after the previous day of listening to speakers.
I had limited knowledge of period poverty before walking into the doors of PERIOD. Con. I knew that it was an important issue, but I didn’t understand the ripple effects that period inequity had. I left New York so much more educated and better informed.
For menstruators and non-menstruators alike, this conference was a chance to speak out about the issue and to come together to join forces. I witnessed chapters and people making connections, giving advice about what to do within their chapters and sharing ideas.
I learned that a driving passion is unstoppable. If you care about an issue, and if you want to make a difference, do whatever it takes to make it happen. Seeing all these passionate people ready to make a change and so excited to be the change makes me excited for the future.
In the words of Charlotte Le Flufy of Always, “People find it very hard to say no to very passionate people.”