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.
Join the Brennan Center’s Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public, Malaka Gharib, Deputy Editor and Digital Strategist of NPR's Goats and Soda, and Nicole M. Austin-Hillery, Brennan Center Director and Counsel, to learn more about how this campaign emerged, why the issue resonates across party lines, and what is next for “menstrual equity.”
This program is produced by The Brennan Center for Justice in partnership with the NYU John Brademas Center, and hosted by NYU Washington, DC.
Meet the Panel
Nicole Austin-Hillery is the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office which she opened in March 2008.
In her role, Ms. Austin-Hillery has overseen the growth and development of the Brennan Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington. Ms. Austin-Hillery is the organization’s chief liaison to Congress and the Administration. Her day to day work includes oversight of the Washington office operations and staff, serving as the chief advocate for the Brennan Center on a host of justice and democracy issues and coordinating coalition work with other civil rights, social justice and democracy organizations in Washington. Priority issue areas of Ms. Austin-Hillery’s portfolio include voting rights, racial and criminal justice advocacy and reform, indigent defense and vote restoration for those who have lost the right to vote. She also supports work in the Money and Politics issue area on a limited basis. Ms. Austin-Hillery provides both strategic and advocacy counsel ranging from legislative analysis to policy development. She serves as both a media spokesperson and frequent presenter on Brennan Center issues. Ms. Austin-Hillery has written opinion pieces for several publications including Roll Call, The Root, CNN.Com and BillMoyers.Com and has been a contributing writer to several advocacy publications. Notably, she recently authored a chapter in the American Bar Association's 2016 volume of America Votes entitled "Voter ID as a Form of Voter Suppression." She has testified before state and local legislative bodies as well as submitted testimony for Congressional hearings and serves as a frequent speaker on a host of public interest issues.
Ms. Austin-Hillery has significant litigation experience having practiced with the law firm of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC as part of the firm's civil rights employment class action practice and as the George N. Lindsay Civil Rights Law Fellow at the national office of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. where she focused on housing litigation and policy. She is a former Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School and currently serves on the Board of the Washington Bar Association, as an appointed member of the ABA Advisory Committee on Election Law and as co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Defense Committee. She is a former member of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee and is a past-president of the Washington Council of Lawyers. Ms. Austin-Hillery is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University.
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.
Periods Gone Public:
Taking A Stand for Menstrual Equity
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.