A Message In Solidarity with Ileri Jaiyeoba

Yet another experience with Nadya Okamoto and PERIOD

Free The Period
Free the Period
Published in
7 min readJul 3, 2020


by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Co-Founder of Period Equity

This letter was shared with the Executive Director of PERIOD this week.

Source: @theperiodprince and @jenniferweisswolf/Instagram

Inspired by Ileri, Chelsea, Cass and so many others, I’ve attempted to write up a brief summary of the interactions and objections I’ve had to Nadya and Period, Inc. over the years. It’s not fully complete, but basically captures the essence of it.

When I first met Nadya in 2016 (via a PR agent from L’Oréal who had pitched me to write about her, thinking I was a reporter), she seemed unaware that I or anyone else had already been framing and advancing policy in the sphere of menstrual equity — or that a cohort of global activists had been doing so for decades. She stated she was eager to work on the policy front as well. I told her it would be great to have local activists to tap and be on-the-ground advocates in their cities and states.

In 2017, Nadya let me know that Period, Inc. sought to publish a policy toolkit for its chapters and asked me to review it. She expressed particular interest in announcing to the media that she was leading this new effort. Except nothing in the toolkit was new. Worse, it was filled with misunderstandings of legal framing and strategy and the overall genesis of the policies. I warned of its flaws and that it could undermine advocacy already underway, and recommended she instead point to the leaders currently doing that same work. As a compromise, we’d talked briefly about making the product from both of our orgs, in which case I would have had to revise all of the faulty info and identify the unattributed sources, but she decided she didn’t want to do that. (I didn’t really want to be affiliated anyway; but I doubly didn’t want Period, Inc. releasing such a problematic advocacy guide.)

She never ended up doing anything public with those materials that I’m aware of. But she continued to more boldly center her own name/identity in the policy context whenever speaking to the media. Mildly annoying to see the self-aggrandizing quotes/headlines she generated, but whatever.

By early 2019, she came to see me about her plans to have a big, branded campaign that year. When she was preparing to announce “National Period Day” later that summer, she asked me (and everyone) to publicly commit to a branded manifesto. (What’s the obsession with self-identified manifestos anyway?) It named two items: 1) Ending the tampon tax; and 2) Ensuring access in schools, shelters, jails. This is basically a rehash of all the work so many have been doing for years. Yet she and Period, Inc. were trumpeting it as their own agenda, pressuring others to “collaborate” by identifying with it under Period Inc.’s umbrella (and that of various corporate underwriters).

[PERIOD’s policy toolkit] was filled with misunderstandings of legal framing and strategy and the overall genesis of the policies.

Quick pause to clarify two genesis issues here:

  1. Around this time, Nadya started explaining her motivation with a life story: that when she began her teen activism she was angered that there were 40 states with the tampon tax. She neglects to add that the only reason she’d even know that the total was 40 states was because OTHER PEOPLE WERE ALREADY DOING THE WORK. In fact, that calculation was the work product of a reporter named Taryn Hillin who published the first assessment of the status of the tax throughout the U.S. in 2015. Taryn and I ended up working together after her report, and I acknowledge her massive contribution in PGP. Nadya has made no such acknowledgment insofar as I am aware, despite using that tidbit (with a pithy “are you fucking kidding me?!”) in many articles and videos in which she discusses the tax. It’s the exact kind of inferential cue that leads media to follow with a headline about how she’s led the charge — and for Nadya to not take responsibility for what the media reports.
  2. One reason why access laws focus squarely on schools, shelters, and jails is because in NYC in 2015 when we started mapping out how to get legislation passed, we knew those to be the three agencies most likely to cooperate with our effort. We had lots of other ideas on the table from a memo I’d drafted for the city council in March 2015, but not all were as doable given the makeup of city leadership at the time. So, we led with the most likely winners. After these passed, similar laws began to be replicated around the country since there already was a successful model, etc. But knowing that genesis is critical to understanding why they’ve had so much traction and relevance. Period, Inc. did no such thing when it slapped them together as a “manifesto” demand.
Source: @theperiodprince and @jenniferweisswolf/Instagram

What’s the obsession with self-identified manifestos anyway?


In the fall of 2019 as Nadya and Period, Inc, were preparing for “National Period Day,” I had started working with other lawyers and legal scholars to research and produce new public frames for addressing the tampon tax, including arguments about its constitutionality. I published an op-ed in the LA Times that summer with the Dean of Berkeley Law School (and leading constitutional law scholar) to begin to seed the frames and language that were planned for use in future advocacy and lawsuits. I also co-published materials with the ACLU (both its National Prison Project and LGBT/HIV Project) to deepen the resources for activists on using those legal arguments.

Click here to read the LA Times op-ed by Erwin Chemerinsky and Jennifer Weiss-Wolf

Verbatim language from that LA Times op-ed and the legal theory it reflected was lifted and used on a placard in Period, Inc.’s “29 Rooms“ exhibit in December 2019. There was also another placard on display with original research I’d done years earlier (items that are untaxed in states that still have the tampon tax). This was in a highly public display — at a high-traffic NYC event and posted on the social media accounts of Period, Inc., Nadya, Refinery29, and corporate sponsor Seventh Generation. Nadya posed next to the placards, with an oversized poster of her book cover visible in close proximity. It took 36 hours of constant engagement to get them to take these down. None of the companies offered any public apology; Period, Inc. never even issued a private apology.

I saved some of the exchanges we had over the incidents above; glad to share those. There’s more too… issues with how she presented already curated materials (by me and others) in her book, issues with design, issues with corporate branding, issues with her disregard for academics and leaders in this space. And so many that others have shared with me over time. My take on Nadya’s non-response all these years is that she seems to truly believe her own personal advancement is the same as advancing the movement. And so, all the work anyone else does is somehow in service to her or hers for the taking.

Source: @theperiodprince and @jenniferweisswolf/Instagram

I’ve mostly looked the other way — because while I found it unprincipled, I never saw it as causing direct harm to me. I rationalized that I’m an adult who does this work on the side of my “day job” — primarily because I love this issue and I love this community. (Though, trust me, there’s a bias against the older folks here too. Nadya herself has a talking point about “old man erections.” Not cool.)

But Ileri’s Medium post and now all the other experiences coming to light have made me see how much harm has been caused to this movement in its entirety — and most especially to its BIPOC and LGBTQIA leaders and contributors — by any of our silence. And so I join with those who are the heart and soul and true power of this movement in calling for Nadya’s and Period Inc.’s need to show accountability, honesty, and change.

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is a leading voice for equitable menstrual policy in America. The co-founder of Period Equity, she has contributed massively to the collective fight for “menstrual equity”: a term and frame that we can thank Jennifer and Period Equity for coining.

In 2017, Weiss-Wolf’s book, Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity, was published to critical and national acclaim. Praised by Gloria Steinem as a book that “may be the beginning of liberation for us all”, Periods Gone Public captures the current cultural and political landscape for menstrual equity—it’s a must-read for anyone passionate about period activism!

You can take action now to support BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ activists in the menstrual equity space! #HappyPeriod founded by Chelsea VonChaz and Code Red Collective founded by Ileri Jaiyeoba are fantastic organizations to start with. Donate to #HappyPeriod here.

Follow Jennifer on Instagram at @jenniferweisswolf and Twitter at @jweisswolf!



Free The Period
Free the Period

We are a student-led coalition fighting to end period poverty by securing access to menstrual products in all CA public school bathrooms. Let’s #FreeThePeriod!