31 August 2021

Gender norms and the ‘period revolution’

Author: Yasmin Watling
Published by: ALIGN
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Worldwide, experiences of periods (or menstruation) are commonly shrouded in shame, stigma, fear, and concealment. Policies and narratives surrounding periods heavily impact menstruators’ lives; often feeding into gendered power structures by reinforcing the social control of women’s bodies, and even affecting key human rights issues such as access to sanitation and education. 

As of 2015, there has been an explosion in campaigns worldwide to try and combat these issues. This has caused over 36 national governments to change taxation on menstrual products, the provision of free menstrual products in thousands of schools, and a vast increase in exposure in the media and online.

This report focuses on this recent period of activism and explores the extent to which campaigns since 2015 have focused on, and been able to shift, gender norms surrounding menstruation. It finds that, whilst the majority of campaigns are explicitly product-focused, the recent ‘period revolution’ has had a significant impact on gender norms. It provides a key summary of campaigns in both high and low-income countries, analyses the impact of the ‘period revolution', and highlights space for future change. This is a vital topic for anyone interested in gender norms and equality.