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Own Your Period by Chella Quint

While Chella Quint’s guide to periods for pre-teens may challenge conservative parents, it is vital and inclusive in a revolutionary way.

Own Your Period by Chella Quint

From the start, Own Your Period is different to any guide to puberty or menstruation I’ve seen before. It is not pink and fluffy, it is open and positive, and it is inclusive.

Sheffield-based author Chella Quint aims this book at people who are likely to start their period soon, or those who have recently started, but she encourages others to read and learn too. Terminology is mostly clearly explained, though initial mentions of trans and intersex people could benefit from explanations for the young readers the book is directed at.

Quint treats her readers with respect, which any pre-teen would appreciate. She speaks clearly about the science and biology behind periods, avoiding either patronising or baffling her audience. Periods are her focus in her stand-up, zines and TEDx talk, and her expertise shows. The section on the history of advertising for menstrual products since the 1920s is fascinating.

Tampons
Maddi Bazzocco

Quint avoids gendering periods throughout Own Your Period, and this feels integral rather than a cynical add-on. Built into the work is an acceptance that periods don’t just happen to girls and women, and that excluding people of other genders who menstruate is damaging. While this kind of writing risks, in general, being awkwardly worded, Quint smoothly explains everything young people need to know without calling everybody who menstruates a girl.

As an addition to this inclusion in the text, illustrations by Giovana Madeiros are gorgeous and feature a diverse range of people. Like with Quint’s writing, the inclusion of disabled, trans and non-binary people in Madeiros’s artwork does not feel tokenistic. Inclusion is also not just a matter of not assuming everybody with a period is a girl: when pregnancy is discussed, for instance, the author does not assume that the reader will be in a heterosexual relationship or become pregnant easily. As a result, children reading the book will see other futures for themselves, if cishet relationships are not for them. More comprehensive representation of disability could have made this book even stronger though, such as acknowledging that disabled people may have different experiences with periods or with the menstrual products available to them.

Two menstrual cups clinking together in a 'cheers' gesture
Monika Kozub

Own Your Period addresses a range of subjects that surround periods, as well as periods themselves. It reassures readers that vulvas all look different, that every variation is fine, and that the products you choose to use should be based on your own personal preferences. As somebody who started using washable menstrual pads in 2003, in the days when nobody had heard of them and they had to be specially ordered from the US, I appreciate the inclusion of reusable, sustainable menstrual products as well as explaining disposable pads and tampons.

Despite the author’s adoption of the words “period positive” to describe her approach, this does not mean she only presents a glowing perspective on menstruation. Quint is reassuring but does not ignore the problems some people have associated with their periods, including thrush and PMS. However, there is little acknowledgement of some surprisingly common conditions like endometriosis (affecting 1 in 10 people who have periods), PCOS (affecting 1 in 10 people who have periods) and fibroids (affecting up to 80% of people by the age of 50 if they have had periods). Given how many of the readers of this book are likely to develop these conditions, these mentions were uncharacteristically fleeting.

Menstrual pads
Natracare

The book is also a call to action. A call for readers to understand their bodies and share their new knowledge with others. A call for readers to abandon shame and stigma and embrace their natural bodily functions. A call for less corporate intrusion into how we experience and understand menstruation. And a call for inclusion to be built in from the ground up.

This is a book that would be revelatory to children but could be challenging for more conservative parents. Covering the function of the clitoris and encouraging children to try to feel their own cervix may be a step too far for some, for instance. But this is accurate, scientific work that young people need access to to prepare them for the road ahead. It is when the facts of life, as they used to be euphemistically called, are hidden and stigmatised that young people worry and struggle to understand the changes happening to their bodies.

Overall, this is a fascinating book that most people would benefit from reading, whether or not they are pre-teen, and whether or not they will ever have periods. The science is explained in an accessible way and, combined with the illustrations, it is an attractive and enjoyable book to read. As an adult with a decent understanding of menstruation and puberty, I learned new things and would feel more equipped to discuss them with young people in an inclusive and positive way.

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