A ‘Period Dignity Officer’ Seemed Like a Good Idea. Until a Man Was Named.
LONDON — Scotland gained worldwide praise when it passed a pioneering period act, making tampons and pads free by law and instructing schools to make them available in every building. One region even instituted a “period dignity officer.”
Then the role was given to a man.
The appointment of Jason Grant, a former personal trainer, as the coordinator of the menstruation dignity plan in Scotland’s Tayside region, north of Edinburgh, led to bewilderment and widespread criticism. On Monday, the role was scrapped.
“Given the threats and abuse leveled at individuals in recent weeks, the period dignity regional lead officer role will not continue,” a spokeswoman for the Period Dignity Working Group, the team in charge of the initiative, said in a statement.
Mr. Grant was hired earlier this summer. The job was heralded as the first of its kind in Scotland when it was announced, and his duties were to include leading a campaign across schools, colleges and the region to raise awareness and understanding of Scotland’s Period Act. The groundbreaking bill came into effect in August, making it compulsory for local authorities and schools to make period items available free of charge.
Free tampons and pads had been largely available in different parts of the country, but Scotland is the first country to have a law requiring universal free access.
The law did not specifically provide for a role as a “period dignity officer,” but it stated that local authorities could appoint an individual to carry out the duties required by the bill. The role, with a salary of around $40,000 a year, was created by a group of colleges and local authorities in Tayside, as part of a project funded by the Scottish government.
Mr. Grant’s job, according to the job posting, was also to ensure that the Scottish government funding was allocated properly. The requirements for employment were “a successful track record of engaging and empowering a large range of people,” including “in particular young people who menstruate.”
Before taking up this role, Mr. Grant had also worked for a tobacco company, and as the student well-being officer with Dundee and Angus College, which was among the colleges involved in the hiring process, according to a statement from the Period Dignity Working Group. The group said Mr. Grant had no comment.
But in a previous statement, the group had explained, “Employing Jason was a no-brainer” because of his vast experience in project management from both the private and public sectors, “coupled with his passion for making a difference to the people in our community, period!”
In the statement, Mr. Grant said he had planned performing arts workshops at schools and colleges to improve education around periods.
“I think being a man will help me to break down barriers, reduce stigma and encourage more open discussions,” he said, “Although affecting women directly, periods are an issue for everyone.”
Not everyone agreed.
“A man shall be mansplaining periods,” Nicola Murray, who runs a support group for women who have lost babies through domestic violence in Scotland wrote on Twitter.
“Wonder if he’s ever experienced the horror of a bloodstained dress in public, or the gut-wrenching fear of a missed period? No, didn’t think so,” Susan Dalgety, a newspaper columnist and women’s rights campaigner, wrote on Twitter.
The former tennis star Martina Navratilova joined the online backlash.
“Does he menstruate?” she wrote. “I somehow doubt it.”
Period poverty is a worldwide problem, with at least 500 million women and girls globally who lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for period hygiene management, according to the World Bank, with poor menstrual health and hygiene exacerbating inequalities and hampering education, health, safety and human development.
Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish parliament and the main advocate for the law, said she had talked about Scotland’s model to nonprofits and other governments around the world, and that she hoped Scotland’s example was not overshadowed by the debate around Mr. Grant. She expressed disappointment that such a useful initiative had ended amid anger and hostility.
“If we want to tackle stigma and to create culture change that eliminates the embarrassment around periods, then I think we have to have an inclusive approach,”she said, adding that the issue around periods involved mental health and well-being, but also education and the community, and that nobody should be excluded from those conversations.
“I’m relaxed about the appointment of men to these roles,” Ms. Lennon said. “They have to live up to their responsibilities too.”