Period @ Mizzou looks to break period stigma and period poverty

With fundraising events, group meetings and a rally on International Period Day, Period @ Mizzou looks to expand the menstrual movement in Mid-Missouri.
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When Period @ Mizzou tabled for the first time in Speakers Circle in the 2017-18 school year, some thought they were a grammar club.

“Once they came over and learned what we were, a lot of people got grossed out and walked away,” senior Erica Overfelt, president of Period @ Mizzou, said. “At first I was like ‘why are they doing this, you know? It’s so natural.’ But then I realized there’s such a stigma and people haven’t been educated on the fact that half the population has periods, not only women menstruate and that it’s a natural process like anything else we do.”

Overfelt said not just women menstruate, but people who identify as nonbinary and transgender.

Period @ Mizzou is a chapter of the national organization, PERIOD, which was started by 21-year-old Harvard student Nadya Okamoto. According to PERIOD’s website, the organization has over 400 campus chapters in all 50 states.

Overfelt said the club has three core objectives: educate, advocate and donate. The club looks to educate not only MU students but also legislators in Jefferson City. Its members plan to go to Jefferson City in February with hopes to convince the Republican-majority legislature to abolish the luxury tax placed on menstrual products and to mandate free menstrual products in state prisons.

Period @ Mizzou adviser Jenna Wintemberg said menstruators who are in state prison or local jails are not provided menstrual products, but federal prisons have offered free period products to inmates since 2018, according to CNN.

Wintemberg, an assistant teaching professor in health sciences, said it is dehumanizing and dangerous when menstruators lack period products. These menstruators, Wintemberg said, often resort to using trash, which significantly increases their probability of infection.

“Sometimes people think, ‘Oh well, if somebody’s really struggling, then they can use SNAP or the food stamp program to buy these things,’ and that is not true,” Wintemberg said. “Most food stamp programs across the country and certainly in Missouri do not cover menstrual products. Even if you’re getting a little bit of assistance for food, you’re still going to be struggling to figure out how to purchase those products.”

Period @ Mizzou donates period products to local organizations like True North of Columbia and Tiger Pantry.

The club will host several events this year including fundraising opportunities and a rally on International Period Day, which is Oct. 19. The rally will be at Speakers Circle at noon. Overfelt said the event will circle around menstruators being proud of their periods, with speeches and participants holding signs that say “Period Proud” and “Fight the Stigma.”

“I just didn’t feel comfortable sharing [about my first period],” Sunshine Kelleher, external relations chair of Period @ Mizzou, said. “But through organizations like PERIOD and through educating myself on the subject, I’ve become a lot more confident in being able to share that story.”

Edited by Ben Scott |

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