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Jessica Biel talks to her kids about her period. And she wants more people to do the same

When Jessica Biel was deciding on her next project, writing a children's book about menstruation wasn't high on the list. To be honest, he wasn't on the list at all. But when she and her producing partner, Michelle Purple, met with the founder and CEO of A Kids Co. to explore the possibility of collaborating, suddenly the producer, actress and style icon found herself adding “author of children's books” to his list of works.

“It was a real coincidence,” Biel says Glamour on Zoom. «I have always been interested in the sector of female reproductive health and well-beingee I have always wanted to get involved in a way that is authentic and helpful to me, my family, and the families of others. And it was just one of these strange fateful moments where we were asked what we wanted to talk about and get to the bottom of it. Michelle and I thought: “Well, the first thing that comes to mind for young women is the menstrual cycle”. And, even though I'm 40, I still kind of don't know much about it. I don't know why my period does the things it does. And it's absurd that I feel this way at my age.”

And so it was born A Kids Book About Periods. Biel, who is married to Justin Timberlake and is the mother of two sons, knew she wouldn't work on this book alone, which is why she teamed up with period.org (a global non-profit organization which is committed to eliminating the period poverty And menstrual stigma through education and support activities) to write it together with their team of experts.

“We didn't want to use idioms like 'I have my things,'” Biel says. «Children are able to manage language. They want to know the truth. And if you normalize the language from the beginning, then it doesn't sound strange. Why not tell the truth about how our body works?”.

The result is a direct, easy to understand and instructive book that parents and adults can give as a gift or read to their children. And it's not just for girls: Biel hopes dads and boys will read it with the aim of changing the way we talk about a much misunderstood female experience. Below, Biel talks about her exchanges with her kids about pads and periods, how he copes with the most painful days, and why Timberlake wasn't at all surprised by her new venture.

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The book is dedicated to her two sons, Silas, 9, and Phineas, 3, who she defines as “very curious and empathetic.” I imagine the older one asked questions about menstruation, and maybe the younger one too?
«My 3-year-old has already asked: “What is this?” [perché] he sees my pads lying around. I don't hide them. They are in every bathroom in my house, in case anyone needs them. So he wants to play with them like they're toys and shoot them like they're little guns and stuff like that. Then of course also my nine-year-old son, because I can barely go to the bathroom alone. To which I say, “Guys, I need some privacy, please.”

“But I'm not going to put my life or my personal menstrual hygiene on hold. If they're in the bathroom, I do what I have to do. So they are curious to know what they are [gli assorbenti]. They find them in my bag.”

So what did she tell them about her cycle?
“They want to know what's happening to me, so just the other day I said to my son, 'You know what? I'm on my period. I'm pretty frustrated today and feeling a little emotional, so I wanted to let you know.” And he said, “Okay, thanks, Mom,” and he didn't ask me anything else. But I think we're on the verge of sharing more information. And I needed tools. I didn't necessarily know how to approach these conversations with them. I remember when I was young, when I was doing sex education, they separated the boys from the girls. There was this whole secret agreement about what was said to boys and what was said to girls. It wasn't transparent at all.”

What effect did this have on you?
«I think it contributed to giving me the idea that you shouldn't tell everyone everything, which in my opinion doesn't make sense. I think if kids don't understand what happens, or people who don't or can't have periods don't understand what happens, how can they be empathetic to people who are experiencing it? So I am of the opinion that we should provide everyone with concrete information, in order to eliminate any stigma and mystification and to be able to support each other when we live this very normal, beautiful and powerful menstrual experience.”

What does a “normal” menstrual cycle look like for you? Does he knock her out for a few days?
«My period is definitely intense and extreme for a couple of days. I have many symptoms such as bloating, tiredness, frustration, some anger, short temper and sadness. In the first few days I go through all the emotions and then it somehow subsides. Sometimes, though, for the first few days I feel like I'm really out of control. And children are very sensitive to our emotions. They feed on our energy much more than we sometimes realize.”

We also need to rethink the way we talk about menstruation. How many times have I heard: «Ah, are you in premenstrual syndrome? No wonder you're crazy today,” or “Be careful, she's on her period.” All this only contributes to this unfair generalization.
«Yes, it's all surrounded by shame. It's so normalized in our lives as women who grew up in a time when it wasn't normal to talk about it, that I still do the same thing. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth, right? Yes, it can all be frustrating and that's okay, but I think when we're on our period the hormones we experience in our bodies and the chemical reactions that occur really exacerbate everything. But when someone says something like, “Ah, are you on your period?”, it's as if they're making a slanderous comment. Or “You're going to go crazy because this thing is wearing you down” — it's not like, “Oh, wow, you're actually feeling a lot of different feelings and it's not just in your mind.” We really need to change the language on this issue, because our girls, who are starting their journey towards femininity, still feel the consequences of what was said when it was spoken about in a negative and offensive way.”

In the book, she says, “Menstruation is amazing.” And as I sat there reading (actually, acute PMS) I thought, “I want what Jess shot herself to write 'periods are awesome'.” Because when the valet took 20 minutes to get my car today and made me late for another meeting, I kept telling myself, “But remember, periods are amazing!” [ride].
«Mantra, personal mantra: “Menstruation is fantastic!”».

She also writes that “menstruation is powerful.” I say: «Of course they are powerful. With the frustration and adrenaline I have right now I could move a car.” So explain, please.
“Right. Well, I have to be honest. I don't always feel this way when I'm on my period either. Wow, it doesn't have to be great, but what I meant was “great” in relation to the word powerful. Your body's ability to menstruate means that your body is capable of bringing life into this world. It's an extraordinary thing. And it's fantastic. And cleanse your body every month. It's a strange and wild experience, but also beautiful and powerful. And, returning to your observation, to change the way we talk about it. My midwife always told me, “Pain with a purpose,” because when I was in labor, at home, and trying to get the baby out, and it was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life, it kept coming back to me. the phrase: “Pain with a purpose. Pain with a purpose.” Sometimes this is how I feel when I have my period. There is an important purpose behind it.”

So, how do you take care of yourself when you have PMS or your period?
«It's a process. I still feel like I'm not doing my best at it, but every time I have an important event or work experience, I look at the calendar and think, “Oh my God, it's coming at this time or around this time.” It messes everything up for you and you don't want to have to deal with it. So I try to give myself some goodwill, like, “I don't have to be in shape today. I don't have to go to pilates class or the gym. I can rest.” I think giving ourselves some space to hibernate a little can do wonders for how we feel, because we recognize the fact that we are not our dynamic, active self today. «And it's not a negative aspect of the person we are: it's just what our body is doing right now. During that time I still try to reorganize my brain and not feel obligated to make important decisions or work hard. To think about relaxing a little and supporting myself mentally… resting a little and knowing that today or tomorrow or the next day I don't have to go all out. This way, in the end, I feel much more ready to start again. But that period of hibernation is truly a super sacred period.”

Since she didn't plan to write a book about periods, what was her husband's reaction when she told her?
“I don't remember his reaction specifically other than saying, 'Yeah, well, it works for you, so that's great.' He supports me in every way, and at home he hears a lot about my period, so I think he wasn't surprised at all.”

Furthermore, it is important that men, husbands, fathers, read this book, because they are the ones who usually do not understand how the female body works.
«In a certain sense, the book is more important for people who don't menstruate, to have a tool to read to people who will sooner or later have them. It's meant to be a starting point, like: “Here's the way in. Let's open the door together.”
“You can look at this book and find help, or you can throw it out the window and find your own resource or another way to move forward, but I really wanted it to be part of a toolkit for someone like me, to be able to give it to their husband, a male friend and her brother. My brother has a daughter. So it's even more important for those who don't menstruate. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't know how to talk to anyone about them. And even though I experience them every month, I still don't master all the language.”

I hope you throw a book launch party and have everyone come in the comfiest overalls they have. Like: “Period or not, wear the most oversized tracksuit you can find.” The anti-Met Gala.
“Is an excellent idea. I don't have any parties planned, but when we throw one she'll come and we'll do that.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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