Emily Elizabeth Hoyle is a UK based writer, feminist, and founder of the Period Power Project. Emily has taken it upon herself to change the perception of bleeding after enduring upsetting social experiences while menstruating in public. Having a period is no easy feat, not to mention the additional emotional, mental, and physical experiences those who are not cis or binary with a menstrual cycle go through. The Period Power Project ultimately seeks to eliminate the stigma around menstruation for all people in the public eye through awareness and discussion. After receiving the wave button as a part of the inaugural movement, I interviewed Emily about her experiences, the beginning stages of the Period Power Project, and what we can all do to normalize bleeding.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: Tell me about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
Emily Elizabeth Hoyle: My name is Emily Hoyle and I am a writer and a MA Gender and Women Studies student. I also have an appetite for creativity, so I have some projects that I work on including the Period Power Project.
Pink Things: So what is the Period Power Project?
Emily: The Period Power Project is a combination of creative mediums to celebrate periods and break taboos. The initial concept is a badge that you can wear to symbolize menstruation because you are proud to bleed or you need empathy from fellow citizens. An example of this is if you are suffering with period pains on public transport and really need that seat.
Pink Things: How did the project come to be?
Emily: I first had the idea for the badge when I was commuting in London for work and I was suffering excruciating period pains. I had to stand, as it was rush hour and the train was rammed. I began to feel faint and wished I could indicate I was on my period without causing an uncomfortable experience. Even after I stopped commuting to undertake my MA, the idea stuck with me. Throughout my studies I started exploring attitudes towards menstruation and I felt it was necessary to launch this product, so I ordered the badges and launched the Period Power Project last month.
Pink Things: What has happened with it so far? How are you implementing the buttons, etc?
Emily: So far it has been a soft launch – I wanted to test the reaction. I had to ask myself, is this something that would be worn? Initially I gave them out to friends and ran a giveaway on my Instagram. The feedback has been fantastic and talking about menstruation has been my favorite part. Soon I hope to start trading and turning the project into a brand.
Pink Things: What are the ultimate goals of the Period Power Project?
Emily: My ultimate goal is to smash the stigma surrounding periods. For me, the silence surrounding menstruation is patriarchal bullshit. We shouldn’t feel ashamed for bleeding or not bleeding as women (cis, trans, gender non-conforming, or menopausal), and feel that it is something we have to hide or can’t speak about.
Pink Things: Can you tell me about a personal experience with your period? How would the Period Power Project have helped you in that situation?
Emily: I suffer agonizing headaches, unbearable cramping, and unpredictable PMS with my period. On occasion I need to stay in bed and rest because of the headaches and pain. The Period Power Project has helped me realize I’m not alone in this experience, and it is ok not to be ok when you get your period. I also hope, in the future, that when I am struggling to stand on public transport the badge will help me borrow that much needed seat.
Pink Things: There is a lot of shame and embarrassment tied to menstruation, which can be so oppressive to anyone suffering through pain during that time of the month. Do you have any comments on this?
Emily: Equality does not mean we should pretend we aren’t bleeding, or make bleeding friendly or pretty. We need society to stop silencing the reality, the experience, and the struggle of menstruation. The shame and embarrassment you mentioned can silence those who are struggling through their time of the month without support, women who are not ‘textbook’ menstruating, trans and gender non-conforming people, or girls and women living below the poverty line who don’t have access to sanitary products. There are many symptoms to the silencing of menstruation. Even companies that sell tampons are not required to list the ingredients on the packaging. As consumers of a product we put inside ourselves, we are kept in the dark about what those intimate products contain. Who gains from our embarrassment and shame? It always leads back to inequality.
Pink Things: What can women do to take back their periods?
Emily: I am a big believer in voice – let’s talk to each other and not be afraid of making others uncomfortable by mentioning menstruation. Bleeding is cool, so let’s get cool with bleeding.
Pink Things: What do you have to say to anyone embarrassed they’re menstruating?
Emily: I would ask, why are you embarrassed? Let’s start there, but overall there is no one answer to this. There is history and culture to think about – blood rituals or religious institutions not allowing menstruating women to participate come to mind.
Pink Things: There’s a lot of stigma around women and periods, but some trans and non-binary people also menstruate. How can the Period Power Project help them?
Emily: The Period Power Project is not only for women – it is for anyone that feels this project is for them. I have always had it in my mind that the product is not exclusive for binary, cis-women that menstruate, and I am happy to clarify that. I also hope to open the conversation for those who don’t menstruate, or do not ‘textbook’ menstruate. By ‘textbook’ I mean that of the education scheme where you are taught all (and only) cis-women have periods like clockwork –that is not the case. I hope by opening the doors to these conversations we can all start breaking the silence.
Pink Things: Something that we ask all of our interviewees about is how Pink plays a role in what they’re doing. Does Pink have anything to do with the Period Power Project? Do you identify with Pink? Do you have any personal thoughts on the color?
Emily: I have used the color pink throughout my work for years, and it continues to play a role in the Period Power Project – our bodily interiors are pink after all. I love the color. Pink in Western culture connotes femininity, and I am happy to perform my femininity with the color, but it is important to remember there is no single way of being feminine.
Pink Things: What’s next for Emily? What’s next for the Period Power Project?
Emily: I am going to continue to write and work on the Period Power Project. As I mentioned, I hope to launch it for trading soon and create more awareness in the hope that we can all start talking about our own individual experiences with menstruation.
Pink Things: How can we contribute to the Period Power Project?
Emily: Slide into my DMs on Instagram or drop me an email! I am open to anyone who would like to get involved, contribute or just speak to me about their experience.
Pink Things: Do you have anything to add that we didn’t touch on in the interview?
Emily: Support non-profits working to get sanitary products to women and girls living in poverty and donate sanitary products to your local food bank. Lastly, never be ashamed of the body you have, or what your body can do – you do you.
To keep up with Emily's work and the Period Power Project:
This interview was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.
Images courtesy of Emily Elizabeth Hoyle.