Gina Rodriguez stars on a TV show where conversations about women’s health are as common as love triangles. She’s partnered with a national brand to end period poverty in the United States. Still, even she isn’t completely comfortable talking about her period. “The thing is, I’m even uncomfortable talking about it, which shows how much more difficult it is for a young, 16-year-old girl to talk about it. Some girls as young as 10,” Rodriguez tells StyleCaster.
Rodriguez, a self-proclaimed “late bloomer,” didn’t get her period until her late teens. The experience was difficult, especially as someone who was already made fun of for her underdeveloped body and struggled to fit in with her friends who started menstruating years earlier. “I felt left out and very underdeveloped, and I got made fun of for that,” Rodriguez says. “So when it came around, it was both a relief and very difficult because I, like many women, were affected with ‘I can barely move when I’m on my period. I’m in the fetal position.’”
It didn’t take long for Rodriguez to become aware of the stigma surrounding menstrual health. Though she never experienced period discrimination firsthand, Rodriguez still carried a discomfort when it came to talking about her period. “I think it’s more self-inflicted at times,” Rodriguez says. “Because there’s not a normalization of the conversation, you don’t feel comfortable talking about it either. Sometimes the lack of conversation can make you feel alienated.”
Sometimes the lack of conversation can make you feel alienated.
Even now, at 34 years old, Rodriguez isn’t completely comfortable with talking about her period, especially when she needs to pause a meeting to take care of her menstrual health. This is why she recently partnered with Always and Feeding America for their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign, highlighting the lack of access to period products in American schools, so that younger generations don’t have to follow in her burden. (An Always survey found that one in five American girls leave or skip school because of a lack of products.)
“At 34, I’m still a little uncomfortable, like, ‘Oh, can I just—I’m just going to go to the bathroom real quick,” Rodriguez says, whispering. “I shouldn’t have to feel afraid to claim anybody’s time that’s needed for myself. I shouldn’t have that, but I do. So I want to help free up young girls not only from the stigma of it, but to normalize the conversation, bring awareness to the fact that there is a problem in our schools right now, and that they lack period products to give to the young girls that need access to it.”
I shouldn’t have to feel afraid to claim anybody’s time that’s needed for myself.
Instead of stigmatizing periods, Rodriguez hopes that people view it for what it is: a superpower and a sign that women can give birth. “There’s a taboo around it,” Rodriguez says. “It’s rare we hear anybody speak about periods in the media and culture, recognizing this is something that should be normalized and OK to make young girls and women everywhere feel comfortable, because truly, it’s a sign that a woman can have a baby, which means that she’s a superwoman.”
But Rodriguez’s fight to destigmatize women’s health doesn’t end with her Always campaign. As the star of Jane the Virgin, a CW rom-com about a woman who becomes accidentally impregnated, Rodriguez is also proud of the strides that she and her show are making on-screen as well. Abortions, orgasms and periods are only a few topics that are addressed each episode.
There’s definitely this small, steady, growling fear that our rights are going to be removed from us at any minute.
“The beautiful thing about working on a show that knows how to talk about social issues without commentary, without judgment is that it leads for a nice space in which people have the normalization of the conversation surrounding these things, surrounding pro-choice, pro-life, surrounding women’s health, women’s bodies,” Rodriguez says.
But for Rodriguez, the fight is far from over. In today’s political landscape, where women’s reproductive rights are being threatened on Capitol Hill and across the country, Rodriguez knows that using her voice is more important than ever.
“I’m not sure I can speak for women as a whole, but I can say that me and amongst my girlfriends, we do feel an invasion of our rights. And a fear,” Rodriguez says. “There’s definitely this small, steady, growling fear that our rights are going to be removed from us at any minute. But there’s a resistance and there’s a sisterhood and we, as women, are very vocal. So we’ll be OK. I’ll be OK.”