A ‘Period Dignity Officer’ Seemed Like a Good Idea. Until a Man Was Named.
The man who introduced himself to the women in the office as “Period Dignity Officer” was quickly identified. He was a short, pudgy man with a bald cap, and he had an accent somewhere between North Carolina and New England. There were questions and rumors about his background, but they were quickly silenced by a round of questions by his superiors, followed by a series of meetings and phone calls with superiors, who reassured him that he was being a good example. Then the period-dignity-officer became the subject of a massive manhunt.
The story of the so-called “period-dignity-officer” goes back to the creation of the Office of Periodic Health and Periodic Sexual Violence, better known as the Health Department, of the New York City Department of Health. The Health Department, which did its work with much help from feminist activists, was created in response to the sex-work industry. There are some who argue that the Health Department should have been created under the auspices New York City’s Women’s City, but no matter: after the launch of the Health Department, the Department of Health was able to establish a unit headed by the then-secretary of Health, Suzanne A. Bittner. The Health Department, which by then had a staff of ten, would later grow to one hundred and five full-time employees. Among its efforts was a campaign to recruit and train other women who could work alongside men in the field of sexual and reproductive health, and, in 1971, it began taking a hands-on approach to providing the services that New York City needs to address the issue of its growing population of homeless and vulnerable children.
The office, in other words, was created because of the work the Department of Health did and the need to expand its work to address the growing problem of the homeless and vulnerable: New York City is having a housing boom, not a housing bust.