Social Period e.V. is dedi­ca­ted to the social chal­lenge of period poverty. The Ger­man non-pro­fit orga­niz­a­tion offers a simple but effec­tive solu­tion for the dona­tion of mens­trual pro­ducts to people in need. For this pur­pose, dona­tion boxes are set up in a highly visi­ble place in public spaces. The first boxes have already been instal­led in selec­ted gro­cery stores in Ber­lin, Ger­many. Collec­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion to the indi­vi­dual insti­tu­ti­ons is hand­led by the orga­niz­a­tion. Undine and Katja, the two who foun­ded the orga­niz­a­tion in 2019, are the faces behind Social Period. I am so exci­ted that the they have writ­ten a guest arti­cle about the history of period-shaming and the rela­ted period poverty as well as their orga­niz­a­tion for Vul­vani plat­form. Have fun reading!

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut,, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, Vulvani

Photo Credits: Social Period e.V.

Period-Shaming in history

Medi­cine and the ana­to­mi­cal dis­co­very of the body that goes with it has been domi­na­ted by the male gaze for cen­tu­ries. Ana­to­mi­cal drawings, cli­ni­cal stu­dies and phar­maceu­ti­cals were and are made by cis-men for cis-men. As a result, the misun­ders­tood bio­lo­gi­cal female body has been made into the ‘other’ of the stan­dar­di­zed bio­lo­gi­cal male body – always accom­pa­nied by stig­ma­tiz­a­tion and des­pise. Thus, for example, the idea of mens­trual blood as poi­son is deeply roo­ted in cul­tu­ral history. Pil­nus the Elder (23-79 A.D.) already clai­med the following:

“The woman with mens­trual flow spoils har­ve­sts […], she des­troys gar­dens, des­troys seeds, makes the fruit fall off and kills the bees; if she tou­ches the wine, it beco­mes vine­gar; the milk spoils and curdles.’

Period discrimination: From past to present

It was not until 1872 that the egg was dis­co­ve­red by Karl Ernst von Baer, paving the way for a deeper under­stan­ding of the mens­trual cycle. Howe­ver, this does not mean an end to discri­mi­na­tion. In 1920, the Aus­trian phy­si­cian Béla Schick publis­hed his meno­to­xin hypo­the­sis in a spe­cia­list jour­nal, in which he took up Pilnu’s thoughts again – a view that was only refu­ted in 1985. In 2015, Instagram’s cen­sor­s­hip policy gai­ned sad noto­riety. Images from Rupi Kaur’s photo series ‘Period’, in which she sta­ges herself with mens­trual spots on her clothes, have been repeatedly dele­ted from the platform.

But there is hope…

At the same time, there are deve­lo­p­ments that give hope for the future. These include Scotland’s decision to make tam­pons and pads avail­able free of charge in public pla­ces, such as com­mu­nity cen­tres, youth clubs and phar­macies from 2020. The aboli­tion of the so-cal­led ‘tam­pon tax’ in Ger­many is also a good sym­bol. But not ever­yone bene­fits equally from these poli­ti­cal reforms. Cer­tain groups of people who do not visit these faci­li­ties or who have little of the mostly mini­mal redu­ced costs for mens­trual pro­ducts are still exclu­ded from the posi­tive chan­ges: the homeless and people without shel­ter.

Period poverty in Germany

The Ger­man Federal Working Group for Assi­s­tance to the Homeless sta­tes that appro­xi­mately 100,000 womxn are homeless in Ger­many. And the trend is rising. Accord­ing to esti­ma­tes of the Stras­sen­fe­ger e.V., about 11,100 womxn are cur­r­ently living on the streets under pre­ca­rious con­di­ti­ons only in Ber­lin. 70 per­cent of them are of child­bea­ring age (18-40) and have their peri­ods regu­larly or at some point. Many of them have no or only very dif­fi­cult access to mens­trual products.

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, free tampons, bleeding while being homeless, Vulvani

Photo Credits: Social Period e.V.

Fighting with donation boxes against period poverty

Rea­li­zing our pri­vi­le­ges, we, two friends who have always known each other and who have grown up tog­e­ther, foun­ded the orga­niz­a­tion Social Period e.V. in 2019. Social Period is com­mit­ted to equal access to mens­trual pro­ducts. Long con­ver­sa­ti­ons with social insti­tu­ti­ons in Ber­lin that sup­port homeless and people without shel­ter have made us aware of the whole range of the pro­blem and how little is done poli­ti­cally for it. In order to tackle the pro­blem of period poverty and to coun­ter­act the mens­trual taboo, we came up with the idea of set­ting up dona­tion boxes for mens­trual pro­ducts in Ber­lin. The dona­ti­ons are then for­war­ded to social institutions.

When it comes to passion projects, everyone has to help

Alt­hough the finan­cing of the pro­ject is pro­ving to be dif­fi­cult, we are on the right track. Our first boxes are at Edeka in Ber­lin. And even more are plan­ned as soon as the finan­cing for the con­struc­tion of the boxes is secu­red through our fund­rai­sing cam­paign. We are espe­cially touched by all the sup­port we receive from friends* on this jour­ney. They have intro­du­ced us to important part­ners, worked hard to create our web­site, sup­por­ted us at edu­ca­tio­nal events with the Stras­sen­fe­ger e. V. or built our first boxes. This pro­ves us that if we are strong tog­e­ther, we can do anything. We just have to want it! After all, period poverty should not be a social chal­lenge, but should be unders­tood as a social respon­si­bi­lity. We are against the period taboo  – for equal oppor­tu­nities & solidarity! 

Any kind of support helps in the fight against period poverty

Social Period has cur­r­ently set up a fund­rai­sing cam­paign on Start­next to finance the con­struc­tion of their dona­tion boxes. They are happy about every dona­tion. Feel free to visit the web­site or fol­low the orga­ni­sa­tion on Insta­gram to stay up to date in the fight against period poverty.

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut,, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, Vulvani
Undine and Katja 
Social Period e.V. | Web­site | + posts

Undine Mothes is a gra­duate of the Master's pro­gram in Cul­tu­ral Stu­dies and Katja Dill is doing her doc­to­rate in the field of Gen­der Stu­dies. Tog­e­ther they foun­ded the non-pro­fit orga­niz­a­tion Social Period e.V. in Ber­lin in 2019 to fight period poverty in Germany.