I am so proud to know that the world my two daughters are growing up in is a world that doesn’t feel the need to whisper about periods. I’m of the “blue liquid on a maxi pad” generation, but before our eyes menstruation talk has moved more mainstream, stripping away more and more stigma that once made menstruators feel shame over their bodies. All that said… Recent progress in the period space may be obvious, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and this guest is helping get us there.
Periods and ending the stigma has been a focus of Nadya Okamoto’s work since she was just 16-years old. She is the co-Founder of August, a lifestyle period brand working to reimagine periods to be powerful with sustainable pads and tampons, as well as period education with the “Ask August” database.
In this conversation, Nadya shares the path that led her to becoming an advocate for menstruators, how she launched her own company and why the different approach to period care is so important, and how menstruators can reclaim their period power.
Passion for Periods
Nadya Okamoto never anticipated that periods would become “her thing” but being raised by a single mother alongside her two younger sisters, talking about periods was commonplace at home. She got her period at age 12 and soon after learned that outside of her family unit, periods were stigmatized. When Nadya was 16-years old, she learned about period poverty during a time that her own family was facing financial instability and deciding what was considered a basic necessity. Of course, period care products were considered essential.
“And to, at the same time, learn about period poverty and hear stories directly from homeless women who were experiencing it and how they had to use toilet paper or socks or brown paper, grocery bags, or even cardboard to take care of their periods, I think was one, a really big privilege check for me, but also kind of catalyzed obsession I had with was trying to learn more about period poverty,” Nadya continued. “I think it is such an underestimated issue even in our developed United States society and situation today.”
Menstruation and Mental Health
When Nadya co-founded her company August, she knew that community would be central to the brand’s mission. She thought they’d be discussing and creating content about periods 100% of the time, but what they learned from their growing community was that menstruation, being a biological function, impacts so many other areas of our wellbeing like mental health, body care, skin, emotions, and more.
Nadya explained, “there’s a big difference between a period and a menstrual cycle. Your period is just the part when blood and the endometrium is exiting your body, but the menstrual cycles happening 24/7. So that includes PMS symptoms, hormonal changes, hormonal changes, mood symptoms, and also it comes with your body changing.”
Then there’s period stigma to consider, which impacts our mental health whether we realize it or not. She shared, “We’re all aware of the period stigma, the experience of even hiding tampons up your sleeve, doing things like that. Even if we don’t explicitly think in our minds, wow, this is period stigma, we are affected emotionally by the patriarchy that shames us for something so inherently natural and powerful about our bodies.”
Nadya continued, “From a mental health perspective, I do believe that your period is a time of your month where you are prompted to be more in tune with your body in a way you maybe aren’t and you don’t have to be typically. And because of that, depending on what your relationship is with your body and what challenges that may bring, or what joy that may bring, will absolutely affect your mental health.”
Push Back on Periods
Nadya and her company, August, are very open and strong when it comes to creating content around periods and menstrual cycles. You definitely will not see blue liquid on a maxi pad when it comes to the August brand. Their forward approach to destigmatizing periods, though, came with enormous push back… And that push back only fueled their mission further.
“Historically, there have been leading feminist advocates who’ve talked about [periods], but it hasn’t been a mainstream thing spread across social media, so of course I got pushed back for like, why am I talking about periods? It’s kind of gross and creepy,” Nadya continued, “And I’ve had death threats my whole life. You can look through my TikTok comments on any video with period blood and it’s a lot of ‘This is disgusting. This is criminal. You should be banned. You need to be stopped.’”
Those comments were fuel. She explained, “When you start a lot of initiatives or a business, the first thing you get asked is, is there really a demand for this? Do people actually need this? Every time I get pushed back, I’m like, well, yes, they absolutely do. I would literally tell investors if you don’t believe that a powerful period brand is needed, go look through the hate comments on every single one of my videos because it will show you that period stigma is alive and well.”
More from Nadya Okamoto
The story behind Nadya co-founding her period product and community company, August, is really interesting and goes to show just how powerful it is when you see a need or an issue and choose to address it.