Story at a glance
- August is an initiative founded by two Gen Z college students with the mission of tackling period care and wellness.
- The Ask August database is a free online resource for period health education backed by medical professionals.
- The brand is also preparing to debut a line of sustainable and inclusive period products later this year.
Depending on how old you are and where you went to school, your menstrual education may have ranged from gendered and incomplete to entirely nonexistent.
“If periods are talked about at all in schools, they’re done so in gender-segregated classrooms that, one, reinforce the gender binary but also teach young girls that this is something you only talk about in hushed voices behind closed doors,” said Nadya Okamoto, co-founder of August, a period care and wellness company.
Growing up with two sisters and raised by a single mom, Okamoto thought she was equipped, but when she got her period for the first time in fifth grade — it was terrifying. Now in her last semester as an undergraduate student at Harvard University, the 23-year-old is partnering with friend and co-founder Nick Jain to take back the narrative of period health through the Ask August education initiative.
The free online database is the result of the feedback Okamoto and Jain received when they first started exploring the subject of period care and wellness in January 2020. Backed by advice from medical professionals, the database has answers for a range of commonly asked questions on everything from physical symptoms to mental health.
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“Even when periods are talked about in sex ed its so basic and its usually in the context of, ‘you’re going to get a period probably once a month and if you don’t get it, and you’re sexually active, then maybe go get a pregnancy test.’ It barely scrapes the surface of what the actual period experience is,” she said.
The company isn’t launching its period products until later this year — except for a few boldly colored hoodies that read “on my period” or “periods make human lives possible” — but is already forming a community through Ask August, crowdsourcing feedback from their Gen Z peers.
“I saw how little connection young people felt to brands in this space and I realized that brands are doing very little in terms of inclusivity, in terms of community, in terms of sustainability and in terms of dissecting the stigma that exists around menstruation,” Jain said.
At 21, Jain is already the founder of a marketing company, JUV Consulting (where Nadya works as Chief Brand officer), and himself finishing his last semester at Princeton University. But even with an Ivy League education, he still had gaps in his knowledge about periods.
“The first time I ever talked to my mom about periods is when I told her that we were launching August,” said Jain, who doesn’t menstruate. “I think that having conversations about periods and normalizing conversations around menstruation is a huge part of what needs to get done in order to create the equality necessary that doesn’t currently exist in this space, and I think that part of that is having non-menstruators understand the period experience.”
August is doing all of that and more, promising sustainable, effective, ethical and comfortable period care products and resources for people who menstruate — a degendered term the company uses in order to be inclusive of all gender identities. Questions like “Can trans-men menstruate?” (yes) and “Will taking testosterone stop my period” (it depends) are among those answered by the Ask August team and verified by a medical board.
“Not all people who get a period identify as cis women,” Okamoto emphasized. “About 15 percent of our community are gender nonconforming or trans men and so we’re really trying to create a space where questions can be asked in that way.”
The other social issue surrounding periods is period poverty, an issue Okamoto first took on as a teenager through the nonprofit Period Inc., a now global network of youth chapters fighting period poverty and stigma through service, education and advocacy. One in five first generation college students in the United States experience period poverty, an inequity that results from the high cost of sanitary products for those who menstruate. Just this year, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for anyone who needs them, but the United States isn’t likely to follow anytime soon. At least, until Gen Z has its say.
“We want to restore as much connection and dignity to the period experience as possible,” said Jain, referencing the company’s name, which also means “majestic dignity.”
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