serving much the same purpose.
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Forever was accessible to teens in a way that a book like Our Bodies may not have been. And it’s illuminating even today. Blume’s depiction of a young woman enthusiastically consenting and enjoying a yes-means-yes model for sex feels particularly relevant to contemporary conversations around #MeToo, sexual assault, and coercion.But Blume’s books are perhaps best known for their handling of puberty and menstruation. In her introduction to My Little Red Book, a 2009 anthology of first period stories by authors including Gloria Steinem and Erica Jong, editor Rachel Kauder Nalebuff writes that Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, “seems to be the bible for girls going through puberty.” What’s notable about Are You There God, as well as other Blume books on this subject, is not just that they dare to broach the subject of menstruation, but in particular how puberty is treated as unequivocally positive and exciting.
It was into this cultural moment that Are You There God was born, and its focus on period positivity can be seen as an extension of these ideas; a form of menstrual activism in its own right. Blume’s characters look forward to puberty, comparing themselves jealously to friends who have already begun menstruating. This eagerness feels downright utopian, given how menstruation is often treated in our culture—Bobel cites a 2004 study in her book finding that most women participants from all 34 countries surveyed reported negative emotions in reaction to their first period, while only a few mentioned positive reactions. This is a far cry from Margaret’s reaction of near euphoria, calling for her mom, crying with joy, and writing to God thanking him, finally sure of his existence: “I know you’re there God! I know you wouldn’t have missed this for anything!”
With their thoughtful, complex young women narrators who we once saw ourselves in, Blume’s books remind us of how far we have come, and how far we have to go.
Trite says that, for many women of her generation, “Margaret was the first person who presented us with the idea that it was a good thing to menstruate because it is a mark of maturity and the potential to have children, not some sort of curse or taboo.”Today, Judy Blume’s books still influence young women—a testament both to their timelessness and the rarity of honest stories about young women’s changing bodies. Their continued relevance reminds us that we’ve yet to see a real cultural shift around periods, and that teen access to sex ed is continually threatened by right-wing agendas, as are the services of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers. With their thoughtful, complex young women narrators who we once saw ourselves in as we looked eagerly toward the future, Blume’s books remind us of how far we have come, and how far we have to go.