Imagine if your menstrual education didn’t have to come from an uncomfortable fifth-grade gym teacher or a cheesy doctor’s office pamphlet that made periods look like existential depair. Imagine a world where tampons and menstrual cups merited adorable little sculptures, like Monopoly tokens. Imagine metaphorical menstrual blood rolling out of a fake uterus when you twist one of its ovaries. What a wonderful world that would be!
Daniela Gilsanz and Ryan Murphy are committed to building that dream world with the Period Game, a board game they created as an assignment for a class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Now, they’re trying to get it manufactured and distributed. Targeted at preteen girls, the game teaches players about PMS symptoms, proper menstrual hygiene, and the monthly cycle in light-hearted lingo that makes a monthly period seem like a fun activity.
The board is set up like an inverse version of Sorry or Trouble. Pawns—tiny replicas of menstrual products—move outward from a central marble-spewing uterus. Users start in puberty, landing on spaces where they “grow breasts” and get “hair in new places.” Once they hit their menarches, they start around a ring of spaces that track eight months of menstrual cycles. Each unit represents one week, so pawns move from “just hanging” to ovulation, PMS, and period spaces, collecting menstrual supplies and PMS remedies (a hot bath, a good night’s sleep) along the way. If users draw an “oops …you leaked” card, they have to go to a “nurse’s office.”
More practical education comes from a supplementary “Wait, really?” booklet that explains the mechanics of the female reproductive system. Apparently, focus groups have suggested that the game can make a lasting impression: Fusion quotes Gilsanz remembering one tweenage tester who challenged her on the game’s rules about sanitary products; she thought she should be able to use one menstrual cup card for the entire game, since the product is reusable. Spoken like a future master menstruator!
With cutesy icons and puns (“You’re ovary-acting,” reads one PMS space’s symptom description), the Period Game represents a major step away from the corny “becoming a woman” narratives of traditional health education materials. The game’s tagline reflects that change: “We’re changing the way we talk about periods. Now it’s time to change the way we teach them.” I can’t imagine girls playing this for fun at sleepovers, but it certainly looks more fun than most of the activities my middle-school health teachers cooked up. The past few years have seen a significant shift in the public culture of adult menstruation: There’s more room for humor, irony, grievance-airing, and frank discussion than ever before. Girls should get to enjoy that same variety of period talk from the start.