In an otherwise treacherous political era for women’s bodies and health, activists and lawmakers are advancing a new, affirmative agenda – for the very first time, one that meshes menstruation and public policy. From tax reform to public benefits to corrections policy, periods have become the surprising force fueling a high-profile, bipartisan movement.
The Brennan Center’s Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public, joined Malaka Gharib, Deputy Editor and Digital Strategist of NPR's Goats and Soda, and Rep. Grace Meng to take a look at how this campaign emerged, why the issue resonates across party lines, and what is next for “menstrual equity.” A special video message from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was also presented.
This program was produced by The Brennan Center for Justice in partnership with the NYU John Brademas Center, and hosted by NYU Washington, DC.
U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng is serving her third term in the United States House of Representatives. Grace represents the Sixth Congressional District of New York encompassing the New York City borough of Queens, including west, central and northeast Queens.
Grace is the first Asian American Member of Congress from New York State, and the only Congressmember of Asian descent in the entire Northeast. She is also the first female Member of Congress from Queens since former Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro.
Grace is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittees on State and Foreign Operations, and Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding every federal agency, program, and project within the United States government.
Previously, Grace served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee.
Grace is also a Senior Whip and Regional Whip for New York, and a founder and Co-Chair of the Kids’ Safety Caucus, the first bipartisan coalition in the House that promotes child-safety issues. She helped create and serves as a founding member and former Co-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus which works to mitigate excessive aircraft noise that adversely affects communities.
Grace has passed several pieces of legislation in law. These include laws about religious freedom, making Queens historic sites part of the National Parks Service, striking “Oriental” from federal law and protecting public housing residents from insufficient heat. Also signed into law were her measures that assist veterans and members of the military, as well as legislation to combat flood damage, strengthen anti-terror initiatives and improve the safety of school buses and child car seats.
In addition, Grace helped obtain increased funding for Israel’s defense systems, acquired additional resources for small businesses, improved access to feminine hygiene products and worked to create New York City school holidays for Lunar New Year and Eid. Further, she helped improve mail delivery, secured resources to combat airplane noise, advocated for the new ban on African Elephant Ivory and the slaughter of “downer” calves, and obtained a probe that outlined needed improvements to local railroad safety.
Born in Elmhurst, Queens, and raised in the Bayside and Flushing sections of the borough, Grace attended local schools, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School and the University of Michigan. She then earned a law degree from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Prior to serving in Congress, Grace was a member of the New York State Assembly. Before entering public service, she worked as a public-interest lawyer.
Grace resides in Queens with her husband, Wayne, two sons – Tyler and Brandon – and her dog, Bounce.
Malaka Gharib is deputy editor and digital strategist of Goats and Soda, NPR's global health and development blog. She reports on topics such as the humanitarian aid sector, gender equality, and innovation in the developing world.
Before coming to NPR in 2015, Gharib was the digital content manager at Malala Fund, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai's global education charity, and social media and blog editor for ONE, a global anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono. Gharib graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and marketing.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is Vice President for Development at the Brennan Center for Justice. She oversees all fundraising strategies for the organization, including leading the Center's 20th anniversary campaign. Since joining the Brennan Center in 2010, Jennifer has served as the Deputy Director of Development, Director of Special Projects, and Director of Foundation Relations.
As part of her work to commemorate the Center’s 20th anniversary, Jennifer conceptualized and co-edited the Brennan Center’s 2015 volume, Legal Change: Lesson’s from America’s Social Movements. The collection shares accounts from decades of legal advocacy in America and features case studies ranging from the victorious fight for marriage equality to partisan wrangling over the right to vote, reproductive freedom, the environment, gun rights and the Second Amendment, criminal justice reform, policing, and the death penalty.
Jennifer is a fierce advocate for and frequent writer on issues of gender and politics in America. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Periods Gone Public (Skyhorse, September 2017) and a regular contributor to Ms. Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, The Nation, Bloomberg, Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News, Medium, Slate, Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, and the BBC. She is cited widely by the media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Hill, NPR, Upworthy, New York Magazine, New York Observer, The Atlantic, Bustle, Mic, and Vice, among others. Jennifer is on the board of directors for Support the Girls and is an advisory board member of ZanaAfrica Foundation.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Jennifer was a Development Consultant specializing in foundations strategy for Legal Services NYC; Vice President, Development for the Pro Choice Resource Center; and Grants Manager for the American Civil Liberties Union. An entrepreneur at heart, Jennifer took a decade-long hiatus from the world of fundraising to envision and co-found Milk Money, a women-owned company that creates upscale franchise locations that sell recycled children's clothing (featured by The New York Times as a "neighborhood joint in the family way").
Jennifer earned a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she was Editor-in Chief of the Cardozo Women's Law Journal, and an A.B. from Lafayette College. She can be reached via email, on Twitter, or through her website www.jenniferweisswolf.com.
After centuries of being shrouded in taboo and superstition, periods have gone mainstream. Seemingly overnight, a new, high-profile movement has emerged—one dedicated to bold activism, creative product innovation, and smart policy advocacy—to address the centrality of menstruation in relation to core issues of gender equality and equity.
In Periods Gone Public, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf—the woman Bustle dubbed one of the nation's "badass menstrual activists"—explores why periods have become a prominent political cause. From eliminating the tampon tax, to enacting new laws ensuring access to affordable, safe products, menstruation is no longer something to whisper about. Weiss-Wolf shares her firsthand account in the fight for "period equity" and introduces readers to the leaders, pioneers, and everyday people who are making change happen. From societal attitudes of periods throughout history—in the United States and around the world—to grassroots activism and product innovation, Weiss-Wolf challenges readers to face stigma head-on and elevate an agenda that recognizes both the power—and the absolute normalcy—of menstruation.