The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls created by American Girl in 1998, written by Valerie Lee Schaefer and illustrated by Norm Bendell is a guidebook for all menstruators on their way into the jungle that is puberty.

It opens with a love letter to all girls and packs each page with advice and stunning visuals on how to live with the unexpected changes to come.

For all young menstruators starting their journey into puberty, the growth of hair, stink of BO, and blood flowing from the vagina can be alarming and life altering. As my friend and supervisor, Alice Cash and I know, the book can be a lifesaver and friend to all beginners.

Younger girls need to be educated about menstrual necessities

Though this book is magnificent in many ways and teaches multiple generations about the discoveries of a changing body, there are a few changes to the newest version from 2021 that lack the sparkle and shine of the original book. I am focused on the period section of the book. 

Now that The American Girl company has split the book by age group (younger girls and older girls), the younger girl book does not include the two most helpful pages “How to Insert a Tampon”. The pages have been replaced with “How to Use a Pad”, assuming that younger girls will only use pads. Before you start defending the two books, let me tell you: yes, I saw that there is more tampon information in the second book: The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Older Girls. I am still frustrated.

I believe that menstruators, no matter what their age is, should learn about tampons and how to use them as soon as they get their period. Give these young menstruators some choices! And since we can’t instantly normalize periods within culture, we can at least educate young girls about their menstrual necessity options.

Make periods less taboo

I remember the first day I got my period. No one saw it coming: not me or my mom. I was DEVASTATED (and that’s an understatement). My family and friends were all in the hot tub living their best and most amazing lives and I was observing from afar with a 2 inch thick night pad that felt like a diaper. Pretty devastating right? Hot tubs are my favorite tubs out of all the tubs in the world! They are truly the most marvelous creation and there I was sitting, watching my friends have a blast in the toasty, most comfortable tub in the world. They splashed and teased me, asking why I couldn’t join them. Little did I know that their splashing would soak my white spandex making the night pad visible for all to see. 

“What’s that?” they said. “Are you wearing a diaper?” “Shea’s wearing a diaper!” I ran inside as fast as I could and buried my face in a pillow and sobbed. Thankfully my mother found me and took me out on the town to get a little treat for myself to cheer me up. It worked. She always knew how to cheer me up. 

But this is only one out of many sad and devastating period fail stories. Young girls are constantly being humiliated because periods aren’t normalized in culture. If American Girl books change their target audience to girls and boys then periods would be seen for what they are: natural and normal.

Make vocabulary inclusive

New generations are becoming more and more aware of how gender shifts and changes throughout a person’s life. Many are trying to end gender stereotypes. Gender lies upon a spectrum that has ebbs and flows. Today’s generation of young people believe that no one person has to be one gender. A person can have stereotypical feminine attributes, but not identify as female and vice versa. 

When it comes to periods, people with uteruses that menstruate are called menstruators. This term is more inclusive to those that do not identify as a girl. American Girl needs to use this more inclusive term instead of calling all menstruators girls.

About the author

Shea Kushnir (she/her) is currently working as an Intern at Jubilance. She is a recent graduate of Clark University with a Bachelor of Arts in Media, Culture and the Arts as well as Theater and Music. This Fall she will continue pursuing her Masters in Communications at Clark. Shea is passionate about sharing powerful stories through various types of creative media.
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