This week, MP Danielle Rowley broke a House of Commons tradition when she started her address to parliament by stating, ‘I’m on my period’. Receiving applause from other MPs, she declared that her period had already cost her £25 that week, before asking the minister for women, Victoria Atkins, what she was doing ‘to address period poverty’.
Apologising for arriving late, Rowley said:
‘I would like to announce to you today and to the house and perhaps you will excuse me for my lateness, that today I’m on my period and it’s cost me this week already £25. You know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. May women can’t afford this, what is the minister doing to address period poverty?’
Atkins went on to state that the government had invested £1.5m in the Let’s Talk Periods project by the Brook charity. However, Rowley’s declaration has had a greater impact outside of parliament, with many supporters praising her for raising a topic that typically makes most – immature - people squirm.
And Rowley isn’t the only female MP right now making the other 68% of parliament aka the men squirm. There have been a series of women recently making waves, whether it’s Wera Hobhouse bringing in Gina Martin’s upskirting bill, Maria Miller attempting to include changes in revenge porn offences in that bill, or Heidi Allen bravely sharing her own abortion story to encourage a change in Northern Ireland’s abortion law. And let's not forget how Prime Minister Theresa May reflected on her own experiences of having a smear test in parliament when her predecessor David Cameron wouldn't even say tampon out loud. So, we’ve decided to take a second to highlight the work many female MPs to break the taboos around women's bodies in parliament.
Danielle Rowley, 28, Midlothian Scottish Labour MP
Speaking about her groundbreaking announcement, Danielle perfectly highlighted just how ridiculous it is that it's even a taboo to mention your period. She said on Twitter:
'A lot of unexpected coverage of me talking about my period - which is great, but also highlights the need to talk about periods more openly.
A woman mentioning her period shouldn't be such huge news - let's use this opportunity and work together to get to a place where it's not!'
Jess Phillips, 36, Birmingham Yardley Labour MP
Jess brought social media trolls to account when she called for those who post abusive messages online to lose their anonymity. The MP told parliament that she once received 600 rape threats in one night and is threatened with violence and aggression every single day online.
The online community is so hostile towards women that Amnesty International have led a campaign calling for Twitter to take greater responsibility for preventing online abuse. Jess told the House of Commons that people should have to disclose their real identity to social media platforms, with hope that it would not only deter people from abusing women online but also enable us to hold them to account.
Heidi Allen, 43, South Cambridgeshire Conservative MP
Heidi, alongside Jess Phillips, shared an emotional account of her own abortion with parliament earlier this month. In an attempt to reform Northern Ireland's abortion laws, she told the Cambridge independent that she felt she needed to share her story:
'I had intended to say it because I had a feeling nobody else would.
'I thought it probably needed saying.
'I suppose it is very easy to make issues like that just about procedure and legislation and words and policy but, actually, it is about people's lives.'
Jess Phillips too opened up about her own abortion, also sharing harrowing stories from women in Northern Ireland who had terminated pregnancies.
Stella Creasy, 41, Walthamstow Labour MP
The original lead of cross-party calls for Northern Ireland's abortion laws to be brought in line with the rest of the UK's, Stella received tons of hate mail over her campaign to protect women's right to choose. It was in her call for debate over abortion that Heidi Allen and Jess Philips were able to talk about their own terminations.
Penny Mourdant, 45, Portsmouth North Conservative MP
The Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mourdant launched the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security which calls for more women to be at the centre of the DFID's peace, security and humanitarian programmes. As secretary of state for international development, she has attempted to reform the aid sector by creating an independent safeguarding unit that prevents exploitation. This comes in the wake of a series of sex scandals against leading charities earlier this year.
Wera Hobhouse, 58, Bath Liberal Democrat MP
Wera Hobhouse brought Gina Martin's upskirting campaign to parliament as a private members bill set to outlaw the vile crime. While the bill was subsequently blocked by two male MPs, a third reading of the bill is set to continue on the 6th of July with Gina stating 'the Government Bill will become law as it'll get through the later stages more quickly and won't be objected to.'
Maria Miller, 54, Basingstoke Conservative MP
It was off the back of the upskirting bill that Maria Miller and Jess Phillips have met with Wera Hobhouse in an attempt to include a revenge porn amendment. It would ensure there was a blanket ban on voyeuristic images regardless of the intention in taking it, as the MPs feared people would attempt to bend the wording of the upskirting law to avoid conviction by arguing they took the image with no intention of causing distress.
They also wanted to introduce an amendment that would ban false pornographic images, in which faces are photoshopped onto explicit images. However, they were told it was impossible to introduce further amendments. This comes after Love Island stars Zara McDermott and Laura Anderson became victims of revenge porn this week.
Mhairi Black, Paisley and Renfrewshire South SNP MP
As part of the discussion about classing misogyny as a hate crime, Mhairi Black spoke out about the misogynistic and homophobic abuse she receives online every day. She also asked parliament to reflect on their own environment, stating, 'Only a few weeks ago I was physically pressed up against a Member (of Parliament) in the voting lobby who is accused of sexual misconduct because there's so little room.'
Acknowledging she has the 'same right and influence as any other elected man', she spoke up for the female staff who aren't in her position.
Melanie Onn, 39, Great Grimsby Labour MP
Leading the charge to make misogyny a hate crime, Melanie highlighted the 'link between low-level harassment of women and more serious sexual assaults' that was found by Westminster's all-party group on domestic violence. In her constituency, the rate of domestic violence is particularly high. As a result, she has called for a law change to have misogynistic acts such as wolf-whistling, leering and sexual comments in public to be made a criminal offence.
Monica Lennon, 37, Central Scotland Scottish Labour MSP
Monica introduced a Member's Bill into Scottish parliament that would see the creation of free universal access to sanitary products. Proposing also that schools, colleges and universities provide free sanitary products in their toilets, she led the campaign that stands to end period poverty in Scotland.