Activism can be messy — some sorts more than others. And in Massachusetts recently, a group got down to the dirty business of freeing females from stifling shame.
“Equity” is the word of the era, but it isn’t often mixed with menstruation. On January 28th, however, the two were transfused. Northeastern University hosted a conference combining forced outcome with a cyclical discharge of the uterine lining. Pro-woman group Mass NOW whipped up the Menstrual Equity Summit.
Per Mass NOW’s event page, the Summit featured University of Massachusetts Boston Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Professor Chris Bobel — author of such works as The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health and The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies.
The foray also flowed thanks to someone flowerlike:
Naomi Westwater (they/she) is a queer, Black-multiracial singer-songwriter and producer… … Like a rose with many petals, Naomi’s music is layered, striking, and tender, and she weaves in and out of folk music, flirting with rock and jazz.
The program likewise welcomed Northeastern law student Ally Crays, who — according to The Buckeye Flame — serves as “Youth Advisory Council Chair for PERIOD, a…nonprofit that strives to eradicate period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy.”
Via Medium in March of 2021, Ally asserted we should “Ditch the Binary Menstrual Mentality”:
Society tends to enforce the gendered binary — if you menstruate, you are a woman, and if you don’t, you are a man. This simply isn’t true. Gender identity is fluid and exists on a spectrum. The feminization of menstruation invalidates and harms individuals who don’t identify with womanhood or femininity.
Further supplementing the seminar:
- “Menstrual Hygiene Management” researcher Charlotte Powley
- Eiko La Boria, “menstrual equity” and “gender equality” fighter and founder of The Flow Initiative
- Cecilia Villero, “aka Goddess Cecilia…a Filipina Pleasure Educator, Advocate & Consultant who…believes…we are Mer-Made for Pleasure, even though the traumas and injustices of this world try to disconnect us from our inner joy and curiosity.”
As seen in a video of the Summit, Professor Chris plugged proud periods.
She pulled out all the stops:
“I want…us all to speak a different language — one that values menstruating in public. And I do mean that literally, if that works for you… … I want us to bring forth a bloody, messy, embodied version of menstruation so that the roots of menstrual stigma can be made visible.”
The activist oozed metaphors:
“Imagine if the health-at-every-size movement, instead of focusing on fatphobia, began promoting Weight Watchers. Imagine if the Black Lives Matter movement, rather than focusing on police reform and even abolition, held workshops to train people of color to politely interact with the police.”
It’s a lot to absorb. For those who considered her comparisons and saw red — and, perhaps, committed to tossing tampons and dispensing with pads — Chris clarified. The academic explained to Campus Reform:
“I am neither advocating nor discouraging free-bleeding. The change I promote is movement toward self-determination… I use ‘menstruating in public’ symbolically, actually. The message here is one of challenging menstrual stigma.”
As noted by the outlet, after Chris’s presentation, petal-bearing Naomi performed:
[She] and her bassist sat on red, globular cushions…though what they were singing could not be heard from the broken audio.
Plainly, the point still stuck; surely, the crowd soaked it in.
Menstruation is unmistakably part of life, and it certainly shouldn’t be stained by stigma. Readers stoked to celebrate that fact should know that October 14th is Period Action Day — otherwise known as PAD.
For potential free-bleeders jonesing to join the shame-free cause, visit PeriodEquity.org. Doubtlessly, the movement is dripping with opportunity. And presumably, participation won’t have many strings attached.