Molly Fenton (right) with her sister TillyHarry Fenton with permission for Varsity

Three years on from the scrapping of ‘tampon tax’, the government announced the removal of VAT from period pants, amounting to a saving of roughly £2. For Molly Fenton, founder of the Love Your Period campaign: “This is amazing, but remember you can get them for free.” Change is happening, but at a slower rate than she would like. “I will be fighting to the end,” she says.

Fenton was inspired to found the campaign after a debate at school questioning whether period stigma had a direct correlation with period poverty “was deemed inappropriate”, with her team being stripped of their win. She remembers feeling “really, really angry”, speaking at her local Rotary Club and founding the campaign aged just 16: “It was intended to be a very small project that became a long-term thing.” A few months prior to this, Fenton had been diagnosed with a benign but inoperable brain tumour, which turned her world upside down. She went from being an A* student to “end[ing] up in a behaviour unit”. The debate team was the one thing in school she still did, and this event made her realise that “even when [her] body was shutting down, [she] had this massive passion”.

“Sisterly love is at the heart of their campaign”

She tells me: “At the beginning, I didn’t really leave my bed and I was in hospital a lot,” before her mindset shifted, realising, “actually I’m really lucky to be alive. It’s amazing that I get to live with this and see what I can do instead of what I can’t do.” The campaign proved crucial in getting her through this time, creating a space with “people that saw me as a person as opposed to ‘the sick girl’”. Her younger sister, Tilly, was also indispensable, becoming Fenton’s main carer and running the campaign when she was unable to. “She once slept on my bedroom floor checking I was breathing throughout the night and studied whilst I was at the hospital.” Their experiences of Tilly being a young carer and Molly navigating a disability helped them reach demographics they otherwise never would have.

“I love working with my sister,” Fenton says, and this sisterly love is at the heart of their campaign, which consists of a team of around 75 volunteers. The volunteers’ age range, from 13 to 87, means that “everyone can have a big sister”, and ensures that they are able to offer workshops and speeches with “lived experience experts”. Having conversations with people who understand is crucial: “I could go and talk about biology all day, but how is that useful to anyone?” I ask whether too much reliance is placed on girls educating themselves, and Fenton agrees, saying: “We’re definitely filling a gap that ideally we shouldn’t have to.”

“Having conversations with people who understand is crucial”

She recalls being taught how to use a condom three times at school, yet she “could not get the school to put up a poster about how to use a tampon in the toilets”. This gap in education contributes to the stigmatisation and sexualisation of women’s bodies, with Fenton learning about the importance of checking for prostate cancer at school, but having no idea that women needed to do monthly checks for vulvar cancer until last year. “We hear the word prostate and it’s fine. We hear the word vulva and it’s like: ‘Oh, no, no, no, you can’t have that.’” Fenton is emphatic in expressing that “you can’t just chuck money at the issue […] we really, really need education. I don’t understand why we live in a country or a world where tampons are more sexualized than condoms.”

“If we shout loud enough, change will happen”

Fenton tells me that sexualisation forms one of the biggest issues she’s faced since starting the campaign. She says 90% of abusive comments she receives are personal attacks, with 80% of those being “inappropriate sexual comments”. Being a young female activist is hard enough – initially, “‘silly little girl’ was heard more than my actual name” – and her disability poses a further barrier. People try to use this against her, but she is determined to change the narrative: “Yeah, these things are against me, but first of all, if you’re going to say something about it, then I’m going to tell people, because I don’t care, I really don’t care. Second of all, look at what you can do instead of what you can’t do, which I have had to learn the hard way.”


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This positivity has served her well, with her optimism getting her through the tough days. She is determined to continue campaigning, saying: “Until every woman is equal, every single one, the fight doesn’t end.” The fight starts with “people being taken seriously and not being seen as hysterical […] we need to get rid of this whole word ‘hysterical’.” Women need to be listened to: “They shouldn’t have to spend £16 on period pants. They shouldn’t have to be irritated by plastic in period pads. They shouldn’t have to be in pain walking around with a tampon because they don’t know how to use it properly.”

For Fenton, the issue is about more than just money. “When I see poverty, it’s not just about the price – it’s about accessibility, inclusivity, education and understanding,” she explains. She laughs at her use of these “big words”, yet as she herself says, “if we shout loud enough”, change will happen.