We love periods here at Gurl.
Well, maybe “love” isn’t the right word. Periods themselves–you know, with the cramps, the PMS, the bloating, that whole literally-bleeding-from-your-literal-vagina thing–are not so lovable, exactly. But we do love talking about periods (as you can see here, here, and here), if only because because most people tend not to talk about them. Periods are often viewed as being dirty and taboo, so it’s uncommon to hear legitimately important conversations regarding menstruation, like the tampon luxury tax and lack of access to period products for people on the poverty line, in the public sphere.
This is why we’re so excited to talk about periods again today–specifically, the Power to the Period Donation Drive. This is a new joint project between U by Kotex and DoSomething.org–with YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen as the spokesperson–that helps provide period products for the 3.5 million Americans who experience homelessness each year by encouraging people to donate extra packages of period products. You can check out all of the info here:
This is actually the second edition of U by Kotex’s new Period Projects series, which aims to make access to period products easier for all women, specifically those experiencing homelessness or poverty. The Period Project–which resulted in the the recent pop-up Period Shop, which sold exclusively period-related items and donated all of the proceeds to a transitional residence for homeless–was inspired by a tweet from Holly Sanchez, a young woman who called for women to buy an extra box of pads or tampons when shopping for feminine care to donate to a woman in need.
Earlier this week, I got the chance to talk with Ingrid Nilsen over the phone about Power to the Period. The drive starts today (July 14) and ends on September 30, so check out what she has to say about periods, their stigma, and how you can get involved:
What made you interested in the Period Project?
I’ve been talking about periods and period products on my personal YouTube Channel for years now, and I’ve really made it my personal mission to stop the stigma around periods. I think one of the most effective ways to do that is talk openly and honestly about the stigma surrounding periods themselves. So this was really the perfect opportunity for me, because it combines the opportunity of helping women who are experiencing a state of homelessness and as well as focusing on my mission in helping people feel comfortable with their periods and knowing that they’re not something to be ashamed of.
What has the overall experience with Do Something and Kotex been like?
The shoot was so much fun. I was like, “This is my dream,” like, being surrounded by period products and doing something that is going to help other people. I wanted to help people in my community, and outside of my community in helping people experiencing homelessness. I think it’s an issue that a lot of us don’t think about, because for the most part we’re able to get the period management products we need. We don’t have to struggle to find them but for people who are experiencing homelessness, it’s a very difficult thing to come by. Even if you aren’t experiencing homelessness, they’re not always affordable. So if yo’re at the poverty line or below, they’re not always easy to get ahold of, and if you factor in having a family on top pf that, with multiple people having periods, plus the luxury tax put on period products that still exists in a lot of places, that’s a really real issue and a reflection of how our bodies are seen, not only culturally, but by our government and how restricted we actually are. So I think that this was a blend of two things I’m really passionate about–helping people and spreading a message. It’s really exciting to see a brand like Kotex that I grew up with becoming a part of erasing period stigma.
We’re teaming up with @ubykotex and @ingridnilsen for the first-ever national period product drive! 3.5 million people in the United States are experiencing homelessness, and period products are some of the most needed items in shelters. Collect and donate period products to your local homeless shelter. Text PERIOD to 38383 for the deetz or click the link in our bio! #PeriodProjects
How can readers help out with the cause?
Power to the Period has made it super easy. Basically all you need is the internet and/or a phone. So one option is to go to DoSomething.org/Period, and you can sign up and get involved in donating period products. You can also text PERIOD to 38383 [to find out the same information]. And for people who sign up to do a drive and post a picture to DoSomething.org, they become eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship.Every participant will be able to receive one scholarship entry for every ten products they donate. So they more you donate, the higher your chances.
Back in January, you interviewed President Obama. One of the first questions you asked him was about the luxury tax that’s often put on period products. What was this like? Were you nervous to ask Obama about this?
I think I talk about periods so much that I wasn’t specifically nervous to talk to him about periods, I was just nervous to talk to him in general. But, honestly, the period question was the one I felt most comfortable with, because it is something that I’ve talked about all the time. I felt like it was something really important to ask because my number one question was “I wonder if the president knows about this.” It was just a very natural thing to want to ask the president, because I felt like if I didn’t know about it, there must be other people who are really in the dark as well.
You spoke a lot about how, in addition to periods, women’s bodies themselves are often stigmatized. Do you have some advice for any girls who might not feel totally comfortable with themselves or with their bodies?
I think it’s really important to find a safe space where you feel comfortable talking about normally-taboo things like periods, and cultivating that within a group of friends or finding a group of people online where everything can be in the open and you don’t have to hold everything within yourself. [Body issues] come up when you’re circling around your own thoughts, and these feelings can kind of create a feeling of shame, and I think holding onto people who are most likely going through something very similar, if not the exact same thing, is just invaluable as an asset. You can cultivate it anywhere, you just need to put effort and energy into it.
Final question–what about the stigma regarding periods in general? Is there anything girls can do on a day-to-day basis that can help reduce it?
One of the biggest quiet statements you can make is if you’re in a public place, whether it’s an office or restaurant, if you go to the bathroom and you’re on your period, instead of hiding your tampon or pad or whatever you use in your bag, hold it in your hand and walk with it. That within itself is making a statement. We’re taught that when we have a period, we’re supposed to hide the products and be quote-unquote “discreet” about it, but there’s nothing gross about showing people a wrapped tampon that’s never been used. You don’t have to, like, wave it in front of people’s faces, since you wouldn’t do that with anything you were holding–but just bring it with you to the bathroom like you would anything else. And treat it like a normal thing to do, because it is. Periods are normal. And something that is so common and happens to so many people every day. Periods themselves are not the taboo, it’s talking about them that’s the taboo. So we have to work towards changing that, so I think that carrying period products openly in your hand is a great way to make a quiet statement.
What do you think of period stigma? Will you be joining the Period Project? Let us know in the comments!