Reviewed by Jennifer Jenkins
The title of this book pretty much lays it all on the line for you — and that was exactly the author’s point. Clara Henry is a YouTube sensation from Sweden (this is where all the men now leave to look at videos of the hot Scandinavian babe, which entirely negates her point, but maybe they’ll learn something) who, at 12 years old, was so traumatized at school by boys disgusted at a girl carrying a tampon that she took to video to set the record straight about menstruation. The fact is, women bleed from their vaginas once a month. Henry believes we need to be able to talk about this, and make it normal, because it is.
In I’ve Got My Period. So What? (Sky Pony, 2017) Henry uses a very relatable, young adult writing style. This sets the comfort level for her readers, who are young girls about to menstruate or looking for some adult, somewhere, to make some sense of the shame and silence that we are expected to bear for nature having its way with us. She states that the education system is the first culprit. In Sweden, boys and girls are put in separate health classes. The extent of Henry’s education on periods was the introduction of a sanitary pad they were told to wear when they started bleeding “down there” and a pamphlet to take home to read. And it is no better in the U.S. The refusal to talk about it, the hushed tones and sneaky euphemisms, feed the ignorance. Before you think this is a joke from the 1950s, this was in 2004. We have not come a long way, baby.
Henry uses quite a bit of humor to bring the subject to light, pitting “uterus-owners” against “testicle-carriers” and uncovering terms like labia, vagina, and PMS. She goes into detail about exactly what menstruation is, and she acknowledges that sometimes it is, well, kind of gross. She uses lists with humor, such as, “5 Items of Clothing That Crampy Bellies Love” and “Clara’s Guide to End Period Shaming” which begins with “Talk About It.” There are also great responses to men who ask stupid questions like, “Do you have your period?” While there’s absolutely no reason in the world for anyone to ask that, ever, it is usually used as a belittling statement. Henry offers honest answers, jokes, and lots of snarky remarks. The best thing she advises, however, is to keep the conversation flowing (pun intended).
This is a book parents should be buying for their children and used in health classes everywhere, even though some parents may object to the frank language that Henry uses regarding sex as it relates to menstruation. She dispels the rumor that using a tampon makes you lose your virginity, and shoots down the myth that you can’t get pregnant when you have your period. For the parents who don’t discuss this with their children, there’s a Catch-22: their kids either don’t have the book out of fear, or are hiding it under their mattresses, both of which are stigmas Henry is trying to break.
She has included informative sections on endometriosis, the history of menstruation, details on sanitary protection during your period, terms used for menstruation, and feminism. Overall, the book reads like a cool older teen telling you the facts in an honest, matter-of-fact manner. It’s almost as if she were schooling us on skydiving — it’s scary, it’s exciting, be careful because it can be dangerous, learn all you can about it, and boys don’t get to do it. Okay, boys do get to do it, but you see the point here. She takes the fears and mistruths about menstruation and shoots them down before they can bloom.
Henry’s comebacks and responses are funny and honest and useful. To the men who can never know the pain of period cramps yet claim, “You’re a woman; you’re supposed to be able to bear the pain. Just wait until you go into labor,” she responds with, “And you’re a sexist asshole who needs to stop belittling how I feel, and start taking me seriously right now.” That’s the kind of empowering statement we should be teaching. But, instead, I wonder; I’ve used “menstruation” seven times in this review, and “period” eight times. How many of the men skipped over the words out of a sense of discomfort?