bronx 8th graders refuse to whisper about periods

May 16, 2019
53 Picks

The short story is:

Unenthusiastic and very lowkey text my friend/coworker Syron sent to me about the work these shining stars are doing.

Students at Bronx Prep Middle School in New York noticed that the few messages they were receiving about periods were stigmatized. Even the sign taped to the bathroom stall door refused to call tampons and pads by their names opting for the word “product” instead. The note taped to the stall these girls see everyday normalizes the shame often taught to young girls first beginning their periods. It reads, “make sure that no one views or handles product.” Seriously?

As proven by the awkwardness of the word tween, shame and embarrassment are plentiful when you’re young. It takes a special person to identify so early in life the signs of shame that have been taught or normalized to uphold systemic oppression for certain groups. Lucky for all of us, Litzy Encarnacion, Ashley Amankwah, Kassy Abad, Shehtaz Huq (teacher), Kathaleen Restitullo, Caroline Abreu, Jasmin Acosta, and Raizel Febles found each other over the loud signs telling them to keep quiet. 

Like most agitators, these young activists are speaking their truth out loud with the volume up. Born from being fed-up of the lack of period talk, they decided to make a podcast called Sssh! Periods which has earned them the middle school grand prize win in the first-ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge. 

Once a week on Thursdays after school the classmates meet to write, edit, and record the show. They speak openly and candidly about all things menstruation, emphasizing that it is natural and normal. For instance, student Caroline Abreu spoke to NPR about the reality of bleeding out.

“I’m literally the queen of bleeding out. It’s not usually my fault; it’s because I can’t go to the bathroom during class.”

The necessity to speak bluntly about these things is evident in the squirmy uncomfortable faces of some of the teachers at Bronx Prep Middle School once hearing about the podcast. A poll that the podcasts creators made at their school confirms why the work they are doing is necessary: “Sixty-seven percent of female students polled at Bronx Prep Middle School said that they the feel uncomfortable discussing their periods at school because it’s not anybody’s business,” Jasmin Acosta says in the podcast. “Thirty-three percent of students said periods were a dirty topic. Young girls carry this stigma into adulthood.”

It is no wonder this podcast beat out 6,000 entries from across the USA to win the competition. Look what we can do when we work together!