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“There!” I thought satisfied as I hung the blood stained long john bottoms under the bathroom sign.
Of course it wasn't real blood. Just paint that I strategically sat in in order to create an art piece that would hopefully bring about a new awareness towards period stigma.
Just a few more touches and we would be ready to open the doors for our Red Tent Revival.
I had moved onto the stage as my partner found pens and notebooks to gather signatures for the petitions that will help bring an end to the pink tax and secure menstruation equality for all.
I plugged in my instrument and stood back to give the stage a once over when a young man and woman pulled opened the front door, pouring daylight into this dark and once unassuming rock-n-roll club.
They slowly made their way into the room, blinking their eyes and then staring in awe at the transformation. They were obviously unsure and completely unprepared for this event.
What was once a safe and predictably blank space was now decorated in period art, signs and information.
I didn't pay a lot of attention to them at first but then it happened... Tickles had come back in from the patio just as the bartender approached. They intersected right by the bathroom sign and without hesitation the young woman exclaimed; “That's Nasty!! Who did that?!”
Taken aback but not missing a beat, Tickles quickly explained that our shows were about ending period poverty and that it starts with ending the stigma.
Indeed the Art seemed to be working.
And there it was. The doors hadn't even officially opened and that toxic patriarchal narrative had already introduced itself, knocked over the center piece and kicked a hole in the wall.
There's something so deeply disappointing when people with a uterus habitually keep the order.
I understand it's not happening on a conscience level but rather the product of societal conditioning. Nevertheless, how do you break down a taboo that has the very people who bleed believing there is something “nasty” about something so natural. How do you stop the habitual cringes or feelings of shame and embarrassment from the very sight of blood. How do you break apart a systemic taboo that is centuries upon centuries in the making?!
Understanding the history of period stigma can help shed a light on the issues and give historical context to the inequalities at play. But the only people interested in the academic research are already engaged in this movement.
What we need is education on a grander scale and the ability to reach people from all walks of life.
The ability to communicate what is considered “taboo” in a safe space and make it relatable. When you're able to make that information fun and engaging you begin to break down the taboos.
Considering all the ways in which we divide ourselves and then all the ways in which we connect...What I've noticed is how Music and Art have always been a bridge.
Think about the different concerts, shows and exhibits you've visited and how many different people you find yourself surrounded by.
All there with one common goal... To find out what the Artist is going to communicate this time. Almost subconsciously we find ourselves rallying behind the message of an Artist even before we fully understand its impact. There is great power and influence to be found in this formula.
That's why we created the Red Tent Revival. I believe an Artist's job is to record the truth as it's happening. To be unafraid, unapologetic and unashamed. We bring together femmecentric Artist's who magnify the work through their music and entertainment, helping to promote the movement to end period stigma and ultimately, end period poverty. We also celebrate the business and organization who take on the Period Positive Challenge and commit to becoming a menstruation supportive space and encouraging other local businesses to join in as well.
We hope by engaging our community through music, art and entertainment we can encourage more businesses to step up and choose to support the people who menstruate increasing dignity and opportunities for everyone.
In the U.S. many of our leaders still find it difficult to even utter the word, “Period”.
Currently (HR1882) The Menstruation Equality For All Act 2019 which was drafted by, NY.D.Rep. Grace Meng was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security back on 05/03/2019 where it still sits today with only a 34% chance of passing.
If we truly hope to change this paradigm, to end the stigma that perpetuates disadvantages and missed opportunities connected with menstruation and period poverty we can not wait for our “Leaders” to do what is right.
We must be willing to stand up for one another and to make better decisions as a community.
We must be willing to commit ourselves to creating a more equitable society.
This all begins with a choice... We must first be the change we wish to see in the world.
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Written by, Za Unitt
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In Dececember of 2018, my friend and bandmate, Julia, and I sat in her kitchen talking about the future and what direction we wanted to take with our newly formed Duo/Act, Tickles And Pokes. We’re both mothers, entertainers, and over 40. Neither one of us were interested in doing the whole traveling “band thing” again. With the music still flowing and the love of entertaining the people not waning, we decided that whatever we did, we needed to be able to use our talents and art in order to give back to our communities. Focusing on women’s issues was a no brainier. But with so many issues facing women, where do you even start?! In January of 2019, I found an article concerning period poverty and for the first time things began to click.
My life started like many others. I was the seventh child in a large and religious home. My father, who is a US immigrant, joined the AirForce. His job took our family all around the world, which is how I came to be born in the Philippines. My parents were loving, talented and kind. My father, among his many talents, was an artist and my mother, among her many, was an opera singer. We were big, loud and energetic but most importantly, we were loving.
In 1976, after moving back to the States, my mother was hit by a drunk driver on her way to work and was killed as a result of the accident. I believe my whole family died that day. With all the pressure of being made a suddenly single dad of eight children, the “good intentions” from members of the church and under the weight of his own grief my dad remarried that same year and his new wife was not ready to deal with eight children who were still morning the loss of their mother. I watched as my older siblings were removed one after the other from our home until it was my turn.
At the age of 13, I was put into a psychiatric hospital and then moved into the foster care system. My last foster home was supposed to be with a mother and her adult daughter. While the mother was never around, the daughter had an unfortunate dark addiction. It was just another night. I had gone to bed and was almost asleep when I heard the knock at the door. I recognized her dealers voice. I knew I had to keep my door locked. I went back to my bed. However, I noticed that the voices were getting louder and he was becoming angry. Soon, they were yelling about money and within moments he began beating on my door demanding; “If I can’t get it outta you, I’ll take it outta her!” I grabbed my backpack and made my way out the window to the streets, where I lived homeless for almost 2 years.
The struggle is real. Not having access to bathrooms, clean water or menstruation products are only a part of it. I remember starving myself during my periods in order to slow my flow – which didn’t always work. I had to use dirty socks, cheep toilet paper, scratchy paper towels. It was humiliating and exhausting. It not only took a toll on my physical health but my emotional well being as well.
Much like my story, Julia was raised in a working class family. She, on the other hand, had the experience of stability and a strong connection to her community. Her family was loud, fun, fierce and creative. You know, your classic Irish Catholic family of eight. While she was never homeless, she, like many, lived with well-intentioned parents, who were not interested in or maybe even educated enough to be talking about periods, sex, birth or anything to do with a uterus. There was a need for access to information but her family still subscribed to narrative of “We’re not supposed to talk about that”. Ever the mystery buff, she was determined to solve the case of, “Why is having a uterus so taboo?!” She experienced a lot of trials and errors in order to know what she knows today and admits she still learning more all the time.
As a young adult, she started working in mental health, which opened her eyes to the more extreme cases of period poverty. This experience prepared her for the bigger issues yet be revealed to her in her journey. Even as a well prepared adult herself, she has had many ‘Oh, shit!’ moments where she found herself short on cash or short on pads. However, she always had a tribe to call – not everyone is so lucky.
Period poverty is real and period education is an opportunity that has been missed too often. Now, our duo had something to really focus on and the more we learned, the more determined we were to see this through. We believe the systemic attacks on menstruating people are one of the fundamental starting point for the war on women. Tickles and Pokes found our purpose and so we created the Red Tent Revival, A Period Positive Movement!
Our shows are designed to address the systemic shame attached to menstruation and a shortage of resources that stop the people who bleed from going to school and work every day. The Red Tent supplies period positive education and petitions to a broader platform in order to change legislation and improve lives. We’ve teamed up with period.org to insure the systemic changes we seek and we’ve partnered with Aunt Flow as our official product sponsor. We’re not looking for band-aide solutions.We believe in the power of communities and to be able to respond and support those in need without discrimination.
Written by, Za Unitt
Featured in A Tribe of Women, an online blog for women and by women that aims to empower, connect, and inspire us to reach our full potential. https://atribeofwomen.blog/