Jameela Jamil Got Real About Feeling 'Shame' Around Having a Period

The 36-year-old actress wants to remove the stigma around periods and help end period poverty.

Jameela Jamil
Photo: Getty Images

Period poverty and the stigma around periods continue to be major issues in modern society, so it's comforting when celebrities and public figures use their platforms to help educate others about period health. Actress and activist Jameela Jamil did just that in a recent interview with Popsugar.

"I feel as though my whole life is a period shame story," she told the publication. "My school did not talk about periods at all. And when they talked about sex, it was all kind of just condom on a banana." Jamil's experiences at her school aren't unfamiliar. Even though a large portion of the population experiences having a period, menstruators still experience shame and embarrassment, because of the stigma perpetuated around the topic, Nadya Okamoto, founder of a nonprofit called PERIOD, previously told Shape.

The stigma surrounding periods is why Jamil felt "mostly alone" when it came to her menstrual cycle while growing up, she explained. "Girls at school didn't talk about theirs," she said during the interview. "It all just felt like we were in kind of group denial that this thing was happening to us; it was changing the way that we felt, changing our mood, changing how we felt about ourselves, changing our emotions." (

The relationship between period stigma and period poverty is undeniable. Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management, and education surrounding menstrual cycles, according to the Journal of Global Health Reports. "Because it's this taboo topic, most people don't even know period poverty exists," Okamoto previously told Shape. "It's also saying that menstruation is something that we hide, that we keep to ourselves, and menstrual hygiene is not a right, it is a privilege. And that idea of menstrual hygiene not being a right is at the basis of why we have such a problem with period poverty," she explained.

Research shows that 16.9 million people who menstruate are living in poverty in the U.S., and of that population, two-thirds (aka over 11 million people) could not afford menstrual products in the past year, reports the Journal of Global Health Reports. Additionally, half of them reportedly needed to choose between menstrual products and food.

These staggering statistics show the importance of building awareness around the issue of period poverty, so those who experience periods can receive access to the tools, knowledge, and resources they need. It's also important to remove the shame that many feel about their periods, as it can affect other aspects of health care, explained Jamil.

"We have managed to utilize shame as a tool to silence people about these issues, which is how legislation has come so far to block the rights of people who need access to abortion and to not step up and help those who have periods," said Jamil in the interview. "We must seize this opportunity right now, while we still can, to use our voices, use our power, use our group herd strengths, and make them realize that we're not going away. We're only going to get louder."

If you're interested in speaking up about the issues surrounding period health, you can follow Jamil's lead and support the Menstrual Equity For All Act, which would expand access to free menstrual products. You can also donate to non-profit organizations, shop from brands that offer menstruation aid to those in need, and ask your local representatives to support legislation that will help end period poverty, according to the Grassroots Community Foundation.

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