Okay so I only picked this up because there was recently a readalong hosted for the book and there were rave reviews. I was skeptical because the author has said some problematic things in the past and honestly this book left me a screaming ball of rage.
What the book is about: (apparently)
At a time when women around the world are raising their voices in the fight for equality, there is still one taboo where there remains a deafening silence: periods. Period. is an agenda-setting manifesto to remove the stigma and myths continuing to surround the female body. Bold and unapologetic, Emma Barnett is on a crusade to ignite conversation among women–and men–everywhere.
This is yet another white western feminist book that speaks about how enlightened they are and how their view is the correct view. The condescending manner in which she spoke about women of colour and inaccurate religious beliefs and cultural practices just left me incredibly angry. How are you going to write this book which is supposed to be empowering while perpetuating harmful stereotypes and giving false information which people can use as ammunition against people of colour. Utterly disgusting that this was even published and not once questioned as to where she got this information.
She did not in fact list any sources anywhere in the book about where she got the stats she shared or any other information and yet somehow it was published and people are raving about it? Why? This book isn’t even ground breaking, nothing she says is new or even remotely helpful. It’s a vague, trying way too hard to be funny (when she’s not) and just her screaming DON’T BE EMBARRASED SPEAK ABOUT PERIODS. Yes, Emma, but how? Was there anything in there to suggest ways in which to bring up the topic in different situations? Was there any resources for people to go and look up for help? Absolutely nothing. Just her screaming about how we shouldn’t be ashamed of it anymore. So what even was the point of this utterly useless book?
“Factions of Islam believe women shouldn’t touch the Quran, pray or have sexual intercourse with their husbands while menstruating. Muslim women are similarly deemed impure and must be limited in terms of contaminating their faith or their men.”
Who told her this? Because she didn’t learn that from us. The utter rage I felt reading this paragraph and her wording of it. Yes, we do not pray or fast or do certain acts of worship. No it is not because we are impure. No it is not because we are less nor do we find it oppressive. Not having to wake up before sunrise when we are on our period to pray is a blessing from Allah, He gives us a break so we can rest, because we sure as hell aren’t going to get that same level of care and understanding from anyone else. We are also not considered impure. It is a state of ritual impurity, the Quran is sacred and we have to be in a state of ritual purity to touch the Arabic Quran, this is regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. There are several things which cause both men and women to be in a state of ritual impurity and yet she makes it sound like this is an oppression for women. Please calm down with your fake woke attitude we do not need nor want to be ‘saved’ by you. Throughout the book in fact she only ever mentions religion in a negative way, the same goes for any mentions of cultural practices different to her own or people of colour.
She repeatedly tells us that she is educated and living in one of the most advanced societies on earth and yet her opinions show her lack of knowledge of intersectional feminism and even the ability to see that maybe not everyone finds her brand of feminism empowering at all. That her brand of feminism should have died a long time ago and she really needs to go back to school and get up to date on these things. That white western feminism only cares about white middle class women to the detriment of everyone else.
Her privilege oozed out of the pages making me nauseous. She said women need to be taken seriously about their health. How she had suffered from horrible periods and yet she doesn’t see how her white privilege gave her the ability to seek help and be believed. Women of colour don’t get that same treatment. Just saying go to a different doctor as if everyone has that option isn’t exactly helpful information. She shares stories of women who made radical choices that made headline news and uses that as examples of how we should all speak up but she doesn’t see how women are speaking up in so many ways that may not be as radical and not newsworthy.
The constant comparison of the west and developing world using such loaded terms will have an impact on how people view those not living in the ‘privileged’ west. Her words matter and yet not her, nor her editor or any other person who read this before release mentioned it, and that is another example of how she uses her privilege to push her white western feminism that benefits no one except people that look like her. She speaks about how women wanted to show that they are as good as men so anything ‘expressly female’ were downplayed. But again, only white western feminism is calling for this. She speaks as if her brand of feminism is the superior feminist brand and yet is still holding on to things that are decades out of date.
“When you are a minority, you don’t want to seem like you are kicking up a stink about something which nobody else fully understands or at the that time felt like they could talk about.“
Is she talking about the many minority groups that need their voices uplifted? Nope. She’s talking about Margaret Thatcher, a white woman in a position of power. Now normally I wouldn’t have an issue with this discussion however considering how she dehumanised and othered actual minority groups throughout the book, yes I absolutely do. Words matter, the way you write things matter.
“We have made huge progress on all of these fronts. As I write this, a woman runs the country I live in, another runs the most powerful country in the European Union and sexual harassment is being called out the world over with the hashtag #MeToo”
Okay but does this actually mean we have all benefited from this? Does it mean all people can feel safer about speaking up about sexual harassment? She makes sweeping statements like this to make it sound like there has been huge progress for all. But people of colour haven’t felt that progress, we are still fighting to be able to exist and live safely. Ignoring everything happening to people of colour shows how little she actually cares about anyone who doesn’t look like her.
I also found the book to be so mundane in the things she chose to write about. There are a myriad of complex issues regarding periods and women’s health that should and could have been discussed in a nuanced manner however there is no nuance in this book at all. Some of the issues too seem like she is just saying it to show how woke she is. “Don’t you just hate those patronising aisles in supermarkets which have the label feminine hygiene dangling above them in a halo of fluorescent lighting? Just call a pad a pad already.” Clearly, she doesn’t understand that the aisles have more than just pads. She was also complaining about we don’t have a pad emoji and she has been forced to use the Japanese flag. I just think about all the discussions she could have had about all the very real issues people face all over the world regarding periods and yet she chose to speak about these. Like I get it, it’s part of the shaming that we don’t have these emojis etc but women are literally dying due to so many issues surrounding periods and women’s health. And so much of it is just not touched upon at all.
She did speak about how women don’t always have access to pads or tampons which yes, it does need to be spoken about more but again she just complained about the issue with no real discussion on what can be done about it. Every single complaint she had about lack of awareness or shame or access to pads etc had no real discussion about things that could be done or what is being done with resources listed so people can actually go and find them and help these organisations. Instead of actual resources and sources for her information in the book she decided to list all the different things people have used to call periods. I wouldn’t have minded that if there had been actual sources too to show that her information is accurate because she already showed me she will include false information when I read about what she wrote about Islamic beliefs so how can I actually trust the information she wrote in the rest of the book?
This book left me incredibly angry and not for the reasons it should have. It is full of inaccurate information about religious beliefs. It erases people of colour and how different our fight against shame about periods is. It dehumanises people of colour with her comparisons about how educated she is and how advanced a society she lives in compared to the uneducated people and backwards societies of the developing world. Nothing she speaks about is remotely inspiring or made me want to rage about the injustices and even the writing itself was poor. How this has been published and praised is beyond me. Do yourselves a favour and skip this for other books about periods and empowerment.