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Two books about periods that everyone should read

Period. It's About Bloody Time and Invisible Women help to navigate the complexities surrounding periods

Behold a Tampax advert in the year 2020:

Tampax advert, ALDI, 2020, photograph by Jade Somerville

I applaud those who "do everything [and] feel nothing" during their period but I am yet to meet anyone – and I know a lot of period-havers. I shared this ad with friends and unsurprisingly the advert spoke to none of my period-having subjects or those who cohabit with one. Who'd have thought a brand solely dedicated to periods could get it so bloody wrong? I'd already been questioning my loyalty to Tampax (despite thirteen solid years together) and thankfully this poster was the catalyst for Mission Find New Period Product.

This topic runs deep in my blood – not just the kind in the knickers – and has recently made its way into my library. The following works are glorious and have really helped me navigate some of the complexities surrounding periods and my relationship to ‘womanhood’.

Period. It's About Bloody Time by Emma Barnett

I consumed this book much like I consume chocolate during my period – without coming up for air. I wish it had been released ten years ago and I wasted no time finishing it. Barnett’s book is an exploration of periods through experiences of the general public and a very personal account of her own battle with endometriosis.

Barnett wants to encourage a conversation around periods and by doing so remove the stigma and shame surrounding the ‘female’ body. Barnett’s conversation includes period poverty, periods in transgender men, periods on TV, and period sex. Her colloquial writing style helps to ease the period pain, challenge taboo, and rewrite period’s restrictive narrative.

"[Barnett's] colloquial writing style helps to ease the period pain, challenge taboo, and rewrite period’s restrictive narrative."

In a quest to debunk some of the most absurd period myths, Barnett exposes them in all their idiocy. My favourite being: "women [whilst on their period] shouldn't make mayonnaise, as it will curdle." Not only are these myths incorrect but they are damaging. They help to preserve and continue gender-based discrimination, behaviour restrictions, and bad reproductive health.

Barnett also argues we should spread empowering period stories instead such as Kiran Gandhi's period run triumph. I ruined a few pairs of knickers on my next cycle in Kiran Gandhi's honour. It was hella messy and expensive. I am channelling Kiran Gandhi in a less literal way now.

Photograph by Jade Somerville

Speaking of mess, I'm glad Barnett dedicated a whole chapter to period sex. However, I was disappointed that she only focused on penetrative sex between men and women. This is exclusionary and she misses what could be a really interesting discussion about women having sex with women whilst on their period. Forget "Bloodhounds" (men who seek out period sex), let’s talk bloodbaths.

My friends would be the first to tell you that I love a good pun. This book has tonnes of good ones but they all follow with a "sorry, not sorry" disclaimer just in case you missed it, which is super annoying. Barnett's writing style screams laughter-bater and it's a real spoiler. I am suddenly very self-aware of my tone as I'm writing this…

"This is the book for you if you want to learn how to stamp out the pointless period taboo."

If you are looking for a study on the biological and psychological aspects of a period – this is not the book for you. This is the book for you if you want to learn how to stamp out the pointless period taboo. Even if the style is a bit forced, this book's message is a really important one: periods are normal so let's start treating them like they are.

Photograph by Jade Somerville

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Firstly, Perez is a genius and I don't use that word lightly. Okay, maybe I do. But this time it’s absolutely worthy. This book isn't about periods per se but is everything your soul was looking for when Uncle Steve would sit you down and give you the annual talk on how women are now equal and there's no longer a need to "keep bringing up that feminist bullshit".

This book is proof that the world is biased and needs to do better. It has given me the words to tell Uncle Steve where he can shove it. Perez begins the book with words which have since echoed through my everyday: "for the women who persist: keep on being bloody difficult." If that doesn't get you pumped to read the book then this isn't going to work out between us.

"Perez's research demonstrates that closing the [gender data] gap would have a significant impact on the quality of not only women's lives but humanity as a whole."

Perez sets out to expose the big fat data gap of half of humanity: you guessed it, women. Perez approaches the book in three chunks: the female body, women's unpaid labour, and violence against women. It is a story about the absence of data about women for women and how this giant data gap affects us physically, emotionally, and financially.

I must admit I was a little apprehensive about this book – it had the potential to be a nightmare read with lots of scientific terminology and numerical data; real clever science stuff that my brain could not comprehend. But, it's totally the opposite. It's the perfect balance between data and description. Perez has an incredibly rare ability to simplify the science without talking down to you or undermining the extensive and brilliant research that fuels the book.

Perez's research demonstrates that closing the gap would have a significant impact on the quality of not only women's lives but humanity as a whole. Despite what all anti-feminists think, it's not just so the Carols of Facebook can have a guilt-free moan about how their husbands don’t do their fair share of the washing up or putting the kids to bed. You do you Carol because, spoiler alert, "61% of housework is undertaken by women... Women do 75% of the world's unpaid care work". Perez argues closing the gap has a number of significant benefits but most importantly it can save lives!

Much to my own personal annoyance, Perez is not interested in naming and shaming the "secret sexist" who produced such a male-biased tool for collecting data. She presents the pattern from a purely factual approach without explanation into why there is a gap and why we so willingly keep it wide open. But for me, the why is so crucial. Perez has exposed us to some serious eye-opening life-changing stuff and then ghosted – much like my recent dating record. In summary – and I'm paraphrasing Perez here – we need to fill in the data potholes in life's bumpy road and learn how to prevent them before we all crash and die.

"For the women who persist: keep on being bloody difficult." – Caroline Criado Perez

These two books helped me during Mission Find a New Period Product to not passively accept what was being fed to me but to have conversations and seek new alternatives. I purchased a Mooncup, have never looked back, and lived happily-but-sometimes-not ever after.

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