Meet Cassandra Cardiff

Meet the Team

Cassandra Cardiff is a graduate student at the University of Oxford and a research coordinator for OxPolicy. Her work examines how menstruation is socially constructed and used to influence gender roles, identities, and inequities.

Key areas:

– How the stigmatization of menstruation impacts gender identities

– How the advertising of menstrual hygiene products contributes to a cultural of shame around menstruation

– How the current way menstruation is taught in most schools contributes to a culture of shame around menstruation

– The importance of gender neutral education

– The importance of unbranded education that showcases both disposables and reusables

How did you get into the work that you do?

It all started after I read an article on the practice of chaupadi pratha, which prohibits menstruating women from doing a number of activities (sometimes including sleeping indoors) based upon their perceived impurity in parts of western Nepal. I was outraged by this idea. When I started doing more research on it, however, I realized that this type of menstrual stigmatization happens in many places – including the United Kingdom. Although my dissertation work is focused upon menstrual taboo in a south Asian context, my work at OxPolicy explores these issues at a local level.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to work in this area?

I have been engaging with feminist theory since starting my undergraduate research, but never once questioned how our attitudes about menstruation contribute to the ways in which we perceive gender roles and gendered bodies. I suppose, like many things to do with gender, these ideas just become naturalized and internalized. It was never brought up before – probably because menstruation, as a tabooed topic, isn’t often discussed!

What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?

In the world of menstruation education, I think my biggest achievement is yet to come. I’m currently in the process of conducting research for both my dissertation and OxPolicy. I hope that, once this work is published, it will inspire others to start talking about menstruation and begin the process of breaking apart the taboo. Stay tuned!

What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change?

I’m very passionate about gender discrimination. Although this issue is obviously multidimensional and supported by a number of norms and institutions that need addressing, I hope that opening up space to talk about menstruation will, at the very least, start to make people question why the taboo exists.

In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind your cause or to help improve the situation?

I think one of the biggest ways the public can make a difference is simply by refusing to be quiet about menstruation. Talk about it! Shamelessly carry menstrual products. Tell your friends, tell your family, bring it up at parties. The taboo only has strength when people are silent, so use your voice to smash it. 🙂

Why is getting involved in talkPeriod event important to you?

Even the name of the event is promoting more positive, open dialogue about menstruation. I hope that by discussing periods freely at the event, people will feel motivated and able to discuss menstruation freely after it as well.

This event is sponsored by: 
Grace-And-Green_Horizontal_Logo-01  logo

Meet Rose George

Meet the Team, Rose George
Rose George has written for the Guardian, New York Times, London Review of Books and others. She is the author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, and Deep Sea Foreign Going: Inside shipping, the invisible industry which brings you 90% of everything, out now.  We caught up Rose George, who will be chairing the panel debate at this Thursday’s talk.Period event and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.

How did you get into writing?
I did my undergraduate degree in modern languages at Somerville College, Oxford, then followed this with a master’s in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. I had a Fulbright scholarship which allowed me a few months to do an internship, and I got one at The Nation magazine in New York. At that point I was still undecided between law and journalism, but the Nation was so wonderful, I chose journalism. I worked at COLORS magazine for a few years, and have been freelance ever since.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to write the material that you do?
I’ve always written about topics that I think are important but ignored. They are easy to notice, but most people don’t. That applies to refugees (the subject of my first book), sanitation (my second) or shipping and seafarers (the third). I began to write about menstruation and menstrual hygiene through my work in sanitation: once you notice that so many girls drop out of school when they reach puberty because there is no toilet, it’s easy to make the connection.

What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?
I’m extremely proud of my book The Big Necessity. I still get emails from people saying how much of an impact it has had on them, and how it has changed their views. Some have written to say they have chosen to work in NGOs or as sanitation engineers, partly because of my book. No writer could wish for more than that.

What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change?
I feel passionate about injustice. I don’t think it is just or fair for example that a perfectly natural function such as menstruation should be cloaked in taboo, disdain and ridiculous adverts that only ever promote sanitary products as something that makes women discreet and fragrant. I will not be discreet, either about the fact I have periods, or about writing about it.

In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation?
In a way it’s very simple when something is this neglected: talk about it. In sanitation more broadly, I know that there are hundreds of people doing the real work of policy change, or working in the field. My job is to communicate what they do, and I try to do that as best I can. The public can support organizations financially, but also in small ways, like not hiding their tampons or sanitary pads when they queue up at the checkout; or making sure young girls and women are not encouraged to be ashamed; or petitioning the government on the absurd fact that sanitary protection is taxed.

Why is getting involved in Talk Period event important to you?
I support any new initiative around improving the status of menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Those two both sounds like things that are only relevant to the developing world, but there is much to change in the developed world too, such as the lack of transparency about the dioxin content in cotton used in sanitary protection; or a taboo that means sportswomen, for example, can’t admit they’re having periods even when it affects their performance. For a start.


This event is sponsored by:

Grace-And-Green_Horizontal_Logo-01 logo

Meet Laura Coryton

Laura Coryton, Meet the Team

Laura Coryton, is a 21-year-old student from Devon, now studying at Goldsmiths University. She’s launched a campaign on to “Stop period tax. Period” and has already garnered more than 200,000 signatures in a matter of months. The goal of her petition is to persuade George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to reduce the UK’s “outdated, damaging” sanitary tax from five to zero per cent. We caught up with the campaigner, who will be speaking on the panel at our talk.Period event this coming Thursday and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.

What were the turn of events that lead you to found the Stop Taxing Our Periods.Period movement?

I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into any kind of a successful petition, let alone a movement. I was totally unprepared for how amazing our supporters would be. However, my twin sister’s house mate, Verity, inspired me to start the petition. She sent me an article that highlighted the fact that the tax existed in outrage, and I decided that maybe we should do something about it.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to do this? 

At first, I assumed that sanitary tax must be justifiable in some way. Perhaps in context it wouldn’t seem so outrageous. I did some research in the hopes that my suspicions would be confirmed. They were worsened. I discovered that sanitary tax was implemented on overtly sexist grounds, and that alternative items such as edible sugar jellies and private helicopter maintained could be enjoyed tax free. I was shocked. This feeling has been what has kept me focused on fixing a tax system that has been built so overtly to benefit a male bourgeoisie that simply has no relevance in the twenty-first century.

What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?

Without a doubt I am most proud of the protests and demonstrations that our supporters have made such a success. Meeting everybody and demonstrating alongside them has been the most inspiring experience that I have been so lucky to be apart of.

What other issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change? 

I am a massive supporter of the very successful No More Page 3 campaign, as well as the Free the Nipple campaign. I am also hugely admirable of anti-homophobia and -transphobia campaigners and have always firmly believed that your gender and sexuality should never hinder your chances in life.

In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation? 

People need to talk! Talk about menstruation, and all the wonders of having your period. There is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed about something so natural. Together, if we shout loud enough, we can demand a positive change and challenge the period taboo that has silenced and shamed those who menstruate forever. We will be able to demand that our tax system is rebuilt for us, the people, and not for an elite minority, stuck in 1973 when the tax was introduced.

Why is getting involved in Talk Period important to you

Talk Period is an amazing organisation aimed at challenging the period taboo, which is integral to this campaign. It is am honour to be associated with them. Together, organisations like yours can make period talk something that isn’t unfairly ridiculed, so that people have a greater change of feeling happy and comfortable in their own bodies.


This event is sponsored by:

Grace-And-Green_Horizontal_Logo-01 logo


Meet Jasmine Gardosi

Jasmine Gardosi, Meet the Team

We caught up with Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist 2014/15 Jasmine Gardosi who will be performing at our talk.Period event and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.


How did you get into writing poetry?


I’ve been a sucker for creative writing since I was, well writing – and discovered spoken word poetry in secondary school as a way to increase my confidence when speaking out loud. It isn’t quite like any other kind of writing; it’s such a two-way activity. You perform, the audience reacts.


What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to write this sort of material?


I think it was other people’s fascination with the subject that sparked my interest. I pretty idly wrote my first menstruation-related poem in university, without expecting it would be a big deal. Apparently, it was. People either praised it as the second coming of Jesus (even though, let’s be honest, it wasn’t the most polished of poems) or they winced.

Initially, I’d just wanted to touch upon the subject, but the reaction compelled me to write more. When people make a request for me to perform ‘your period poem’, I often reply ‘which one?’. The subject is as multi-faceted as all of our other daily (fine, monthly) occurrences and deserves to be explored fully, to be done justice to, to be saturated (yes, I went there). In my other poetry I’ll explore, say, education, social dynamics and other gender issues, but so far as menstruation goes I doubt I’ll be done with the subject any time soon. I also want to make sure I’m able to write truly good poems about the topic, rather than relying on the subject’s shock value as a means to impress.


What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?


Last year was a good year for me – I enjoyed sharing my views about menstruation with the public through my TEDxBrum talk at 2014’s International Women’s Day Salon at the Library of Birmingham. Since then, I’ve been shortlisted for Birmingham Poet Laureate which is a reflection of how eager I feel about the poetry scene there; it has bags of potential and is a stimulating place to be a poet right now – you should really check it out.

I think what I feel most proud of though is getting different groups of people to talk about periods – whether that’s in secondary schools or senior citizens’ clubs. Being able to kickstart conversations like those is pretty satisfying.


What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change? ​


I think pointless taboos (like menstruation) need to be deconstructed because they indicate a more serious issue of what is (or should be) acceptable about women’s bodies in society. If women can talk about their bodies better, perhaps they can own them a little better too.

More generally though, the dent in the universe I’d like to make lies with increasing the confidence of young females. I’m currently developing workshops as part of an initiative called Big Girls Don’t Write that aims to offer a safe space for adolescent girls to express themselves as they go through puberty, whether it’s about periods, other bodily changes, consent, LGBTQ identity – creative sex education, so to speak.


In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation?


Three things, principally:

  1. We need to start more conversations about periods, even in the unlikeliest of places. We have a whole treasure trove of our own embarrassing moments or anecdotes to share – and trust me, people bond over that. Only last year I discovered that I first started my period at the same point my mother ended hers – which happened to be the exact time we went through our family’s divorce. Weird, hey?
  2. We need to engage with the subject through art forms. Mine’s poetry. For other people, it’s music, or even flash mobs, like the one happening in Bristol this weekend. There are a whole other variety of mediums through which we can bring menstruation into everyday dialogue. Doing so creatively gives people ownership over their contributions.
  3. Improve our sex education. Education about menstruation, say, shouldn’t just be about periods, but about how we approach and talk about them too.


Why is getting involved in talk.Period important to you?


I’m excited to meet up and put heads together with other passionate individuals who are willing to put their time and effort into adding to the conversation. This is going to be an opportunity to bounce off other people with the same goal in mind, who understand the implications of taboos like this one, and how certain discourse shapes the way we think and act.

We – as in, everyone reading this or attending events like these – are the ones who decide what’s taboo and forbidden for the next generation. It’s a real honour to be invited to be amongst them on the 28th.


This event is sponsored by:

Grace-And-Green_Horizontal_Logo-01 logo

Let’s talk.Period

Chloe, Meet the Team

The talk.Period event is happening in Bristol this Global Menstrual Hygiene day- 28th May 2015. RSVP

As an engineer, I’ve been taught to problem solve from day one. It comes naturally to me and if it doesn’t come naturally then I work away, breaking the problem down into chunks until I can find a solution.

Many people don’t believe me when I say I use my engineering skills every single day in my job. They say “what you do- it’s health work” or “it’s education” or “it’s social work”, “it’s not engineering, it’s not technical”. But what I do every single day is problem solve. That’s the job description of an engineer: to problem solve. Every day I use my maths, my design knowledge, my negotiation skills, my project management, my communication skills, my knowledge of sustainability and the uncanny engineering skill of ‘guestimating’.

Lack of menstrual hygiene is a problem.  If you can’t go to school because of fear you will stain your school uniform- that’s a problem. If you can’t go to work because you’re not allowed to leave the house on your period– that’s a problem. If you don’t have a private space to change your sanitary towel or wash your bloody hands- that’s a problem. And if you think you’re cursed because you don’t know why you’re bleeding out of a body part you can’t even name- that’s a problem. Since, finishing my degree last summer I’ve realised these are problems that I really want to help solve.

My own experience of pit latrines and no running water has reinforced what a problem no facilities can be.

I have been lucky enough to help work on solutions to these problems in both Bolivia and Uganda. What it all boils down to is a lack of education, a lack of proper facilities and a lack of access to appropriate sanitary materials. Many women and girls are forced to use sand, ash, leaves, bark or filthy rags that you “wouldn’t clean the floor with” because they have no other choice.

All around the world, menstruation is a huge taboo. If you aren’t even allowed to talk about it, how are you meant to manage it? This ‘hush-hush’ attitude has led to a huge number of myths and beliefs. In Bolivia they believe you can’t eat onions whilst menstruating as it might cause cancer, in Uganda it’s said if a menstruating women crosses a garden all of the plants will wither and die. Where do these beliefs come from? Noone seems to really know but what we do know is that women and girls are restricted and controlled by them, at a time when they naturally feel more self-conscious and withdrawn. Not exactly confident boosting.

I often wonder, if no one talks about it, how do these taboos become rife?CONVERSATION

From my experience in these two very different cultures I’ve heard completely opposing beliefs. In Bolivia it’s often believed women and girls who are menstruating should not touch water and if they do they will get blemishes on their faces, this leads to a lack of washing and personal hygiene during their period which can cause teasing and even health problems. However in Uganda, its common to believe that you should wash 4 or more times a day whilst menstruating and there is even a practice of douching the vagina (spraying water inside it) to ensure you are clean. I would love to introduce a Bolivian who doesn’t wash on her period to a Ugandan who over washes and let them talk it out.

Working in a developing country is never easy. You have communication barriers (even if they speak English), logistical nightmares, power cuts, strikes, extreme weather and a constant battle to be heard as a person rather than goggled at like the bemusing alien you are. Working on such a sensitive topic, I was worried people wouldn’t want to talk to me. That I wouldn’t even be able to find out what some of the problems are, never mind help them solve them but actually I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how eager people are to learn and to share around this taboo subject.

Students from all over East Africa coming together to learn how to run menstrual health education sessions.
Girls learning to sew reusable sanitary pads in Bolivia
Teachers learning about menstrual hygiene to pass on to their students in Uganda

I started no more taboo. to solve a big problem and although I’m nowhere near a solution at least I’ve started to understand some of the chunks that this problem is broken down into. I hope when I get back to the UK in a few months’ time I can also start to understand the chunk of the menstrual hygiene problem there including homelessness and poverty.

The talk.Period event is a great chance to find out more about menstrual hygiene problems and to help engineer solutions.

talk period- 28th May

Written by Chloe Tingle of No More Taboo