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Lavanya Bahuguna

Blogger-in-Chief

While We Dug Into Their Period-Art, These Women Shared Stories Of Helping Those Bleeding In Public

  • IWB Post
  •  May 28, 2018

Believe it or not, there is an Instagram page that exhibits ‘period artwork’ starting its own kind of ovulation (read: revolution) on social media.

From women’s first memory of periods to artworks revolving around vag and menstruation, Her.Period bleeds it all. It was when a 16-year-old Bel Garza from Texas who came up with the idea of forming a period community about two years ago. Initially, it was about providing sanitary products to homeless women and menstruating teens in Texas, but as the popularity spread, the girl decided to expand the campaign and call it a pussy-positive movement.

“I hate to hear you talk all about women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives,” Jane Austen, Persuasion. Art from @pusssywitch. #goodgirls #feisty #adventure #gogirl #girlpower #nude #floral #roses #janeausten #persuasion #calmwaters #pussywitch

620 Likes, 6 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “”I hate to hear you talk all about women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures….”

Bel was soon joined by her mommy, Susan, who began helping her with social media management. Moreover, Bel, now 18, is preparing to join college this semester and is left with little time to handle it all by herself. Susan, a nurse and medical editor, built Her.Period’s web page as she holds some web design experience.

Enjoy the excerpts from my conversation with the inspiring mother-daughter duo to know more.

Bel’s life is so inspiring. But why is it that she never shows her face?

Susan: As far as anonymity is concerned, Bel felt some judgment as a teen starting a nonprofit group. Some people refused to respect her project thinking she was too young to make any difference with this cause. She never wanted Her.Period to be overlooked simply because she was a teen. She thinks it’s best she remains rather anonymous, keeping the focus on pussy-positivity and clean sanitary supplies.

This is so thoughtful. I am sure you’re a lot of help, Susan.

Susan: Although Bel is the driving force, I keep up with things like correspondence, thank you notes, and general office duties.

What kinds of product/service do you provide?

Her.Period holds a drive for tampons and pads approximately four times a year, about every three months. This gives us time in between to get the word out and set a new goal for the next set of donations. We chose not to work with cash donations, as there is so much responsibility in taking money. It is easier to show accountability with donations of supplies.

From where do you get the financial aid? Is the government supporting you?

We get no financial aid. While we have had to use some of our own money for our website and stationery, the costs have been minimal, thus far. Since we collect sanitary supplies for local shelters, our biggest investment is time.

However, today, we are particularly excited because Her.Period was contacted by Lickstarter Underwear which is donating 300 pairs of brand new panties (that have a small stitching or production issue, leaving them unsellable, yet perfectly wearable). We are now going to have the chance to donate clean, fresh underwear along with the sanitary supplies – something that we may try to include on a regular basis. On a daily basis though, Her.Period is working to create the International Directory of Giving – a listing of individuals and groups, around the world, who collect and disperse sanitary supplies to people in need. Hopefully, this listing will help people find a local organization, where they can simply and easily donate products or their time.

This is remarkable! Share one heart-touching story of a woman whom you helped.

There was a point when we made more than 8 separate donations to local homeless shelter and women’s shelter. While on a trip out of town, we came across a woman of about 40, asking for money on street. Not only was she homeless, she was an immigrant from Mexico, who spoke no English.

Thankfully, we had ‘emergency kits’ in the car (bags filled with pads, panty liners, and feminine wipes).   Giving her the ‘emergency bag’ of sanitary supplies brought her to tears, she felt it was such a kind and personal gesture. These situations make me feel happy but longing to do more to help. On a side note, we have had multiple people say how much Her.Period’s help meant to them or brightened their day.

Let’s talk about the day when Bel came up with the idea of providing sanitary products to homeless menstruating women in Texas.

Bel: Two years ago, I met the director of a local homeless shelter at my library. Through this conversation, I heard about their need for more sanitary supplies. I realized that while I had thought about clothing and food for the less fortunate, I had never considered the problem of finding tampons/pads would pose for homeless teens and adults. This total lack of awareness stunned me, and I decided to raise donations for our local shelter, as well as a local residence for abused women/families. Since that day, I have held a fundraiser for supplies every three to four months.

Is it along with this that you began voicing menstruation and other women-related issues on social media?

Bel: I had the idea that using social media, specifically Instagram, I could increase my donations. However, two things happened. One: while it did help get the message out in my community a little bit, I start hearing from many people who were far across the country and around the world. It is so expensive for people to mailboxes of tampons to Texas (and we have chosen not to deal with the huge responsibility of cash donations). I decided that this was not a good way to get more donations at home. However, the positive response kept growing every day – making me realize my voice could help encourage people to donate locally, wherever they live. Second: I heard over and over how much the period-positive message of Her.Period touched women and transgender individuals. I knew social media was a place to be heard.

This @msmapes Menstruate With Pride poster says it all! ?????? #sarahmaple #menstruatewithpride #respect #womenstandingtall #periodproblems #dignity #supporteachother #breakthetaboo #girlpower #positivity

384 Likes, 11 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “This @msmapes Menstruate With Pride poster says it all! ?????? #sarahmaple #menstruatewithpride…”

Why do you call it the ‘pussy-positive movement?’

We decided to refer to our cause as the pussy-positive movement because our true goal is to spread a positive message for women. We want teens and women to love how they look, genitals and all, menstruating or not. We do support menstruating transgendered teens and adults, and never mean to discriminate against ‘men’ at all.  However, women around the world need to be reminded how amazing they are. But we know it is hard to feel beautiful when you do not have adequate, clean sanitary supplies – these things go hand in hand.

The handle name Her.Period sounds interesting, too!

We called our Instagram account Her.Period because we wanted to validate women and menstruation. Although it says ‘her,’ we also try to include anyone who ever menstruated, even those who are now transgendered and consider themselves a ‘he.’ The account celebrates everything menstruation.

“Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create,” Oprah Winfrey. Outstanding embroidery from @jessdewahls. ✨??✨ #oprah #ovaries #growth #makehistory #herstory #lovingyourself #embroidery #embroideryart #anatomicalembroidery #jessdewahls #create

686 Likes, 15 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “”Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to…”

How can artists and illustrators send you their entries? Do you publish all of them or is there a selection process?

There is so much gorgeous pussy-positive and menstruation-positive art being made – also something I never knew! People send their work via Instagram DM and we consider using it. We still spend hours looking for the ‘just right’ art (always with permission from the artists). We do not use all of the work that is submitted, simply because not every piece meets our aesthetic requirements. While some of the art we use is extremely provocative, we do not want to use anything over sexualized, dangerous, degrading, pornographic, or vulgar. Some people send crazy pictures that are just not part of our positive message. We accept submissions via email at herperiodtexas@gmail.com, as well.

Touching #repost from @thephotographersgallery and @hebakhalifa_77. ——————————— From HOMEMADE project : I wait for my period. Although it is something I dislike very much, having my period means that I am not pregnant and I won’t have to go through another abortion here in Egypt. I don’t even want to imagine this situation in this country. It scares me to death. ___________________________________ This work was supported by the Arab Documentary Photography Program (http://arabdocphotography.org/), produced by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in partnership with Magnum Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund. #thephotographersgallery #IGtakeover #tpg #feministavantgarde #feminism #Egypt #homemade #menstruationmatters #dignitymatters #womenforwomen #femaleartist #menstrualart #periodart #prochoice #prowoman

347 Likes, 10 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “Touching #repost from @thephotographersgallery and @hebakhalifa_77….”

What has been the most emotional art piece so far, and why?

The most emotional art piece is either the Katriona Pritchard art piece combining a beautiful pencil drawing of a woman and real menstrual blood…

“When she bleeds, the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She smells like a gun,” Jeanette Winterson. Art by @katriona.pritchard, please check out her tremendous art project! #blood #iron #gun #smell #menstruation #periodpositive #jeanettewinterson #femaleartist #periodpower #artproject

1,092 Likes, 42 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “”When she bleeds, the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She…”

…or one which is a real photo taken right after the photographer removed her menstrual cup. Honestly, we thought twice about posting the menstrual cup picture (we don’t like ‘shock value’) however, the photographer was honestly capturing her issues with heavy bleeding. The photo garnered more comments than any other artwork, showing us that it really touched a lot of women struggling with their cycle.

“How wild it was, to let it be,” Cheryl Strayed. Menstruation caught on camera by @sleepy__spice. #sleepyspice #period #menstrualcup #menstruation #whatamess #blood #girlproblems #periodsarenotaninsult #stopperiodshaming #girlpower #cherylstrayed #cherylstrayedquotes

1,700 Likes, 110 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “”How wild it was, to let it be,” Cheryl Strayed. Menstruation caught on camera by @sleepy__spice….”

And, most quirky?

With such an interesting theme, Her.Period gets to post the offbeat pictures that ‘normal’ people would never see. The uterus drawn from lettuce, the embroidered cat/ovaries, and the monkey/jungle uterus are certainly quirky.

Women ARE the fruits (and veggies) of the earth! ? Thank you @xxmayro for sharing your delicious artwork! #fruit #veggies #femalefruit #ovaries #ovaryart #foodart #veggieart #lettuce #radishes #ovaries #earthlypleasures #femaleartist

1,709 Likes, 17 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “Women ARE the fruits (and veggies) of the earth! ? Thank you @xxmayro for sharing your delicious…”

Celebrate National Hug Your Cat Day with some pussy-positive embroidery from our favorite threadster, @jessdewahls. #hugyourcatday #pussypositive #meovaries #ovarygang #pussypositivemovement #lovecats #catsofinstagram #embroidery #threadster #jessdewahls #bigswingingovaries #girlpower #meow #catsandovaries

849 Likes, 5 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “Celebrate National Hug Your Cat Day with some pussy-positive embroidery from our favorite…”

You are the queen of your own, private jungle. Fabulous art from the wonderful @du_in_space. #jungle #vaginaart #ovaryart #ovaries #vagina #yoni #monkeys #uterus #uterusart #queenofthejungle #devonurquhart

480 Likes, 19 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “You are the queen of your own, private jungle. Fabulous art from the wonderful @du_in_space….”

Our favorites are the pieces made using embroidery, paper mache, stained glass, pottery, and other unusual materials, not just paintings or drawings. The artists put so much time into these pieces and we’re endlessly amazed at their talent.

I see how artists have used embroideries, clay, charcoal paintings, watercolors, beads and even x-ray sheet to come up with stunning period-art. Have you met any of them in person?

In a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, at the Feminist Bookstore, we had the chance to see some clay vaginas. This has been our only opportunity to see any of this wonderful art in person. While we have not met any of the artists, the Instagram account has given us a wonderful place to talk to these artists, around the world. We have had many enlightening and heartfelt dialogues with the creators, both men, and women, about their art and the reasons behind their work. We are thankful for social media and one day, maybe we’ll have the chance to thank some artists in person!

As rapper, Kreayshawn, so eloquently said, “I got the swag and it’s pumping out my ovaries.” Fabulous, edible uterus by @madelineadamo. #ovaries #kreayshawn #food #foodart #edible #ovaryart #uterusart #broccoli #eggs #chicken #salmon #beets #swag #bodypositiveart

646 Likes, 18 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “As rapper, Kreayshawn, so eloquently said, “I got the swag and it’s pumping out my ovaries.”…”

“A waterfall cannot be silent,” Mehmet Murat ildan. Wow! Love the handmade yoni creations from @project_wallflower. ?? #projectwallflower #femaleflower #period #menstruation #periodpositivity #vaginalove #girlsrock #vaginaart #clay #crafts #handmade #madewithlove

495 Likes, 13 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “”A waterfall cannot be silent,” Mehmet Murat ildan. Wow! Love the handmade yoni creations from…”

BEAUTIFUL. Embroidery by @creativepotpie. #embroidery #vagina #beautiful #women #vaginaart #feministembroidery #ownit

466 Likes, 11 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “BEAUTIFUL. Embroidery by @creativepotpie. #embroidery #vagina #beautiful #women #vaginaart…”

I told you that you are beautiful, both inside and out! Nice collage work, @sarashakeel. #beautiful #flowers #xray #collage #collageart #xrayart #beautyintheinside #beautyontheoutside #flowerart #girlpower #uterus #pelvis #wow

508 Likes, 8 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “I told you that you are beautiful, both inside and out! Nice collage work, @sarashakeel. #beautiful…”

In one of your posts, I read how women have to trade sex in order to buy sanitary supplies in jail. Really? This is so sad.

Did you know some women are forced to trade sex for sanitary supplies in jail? NYC council member, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, is fighting to change this, “No student, homeless individual or inmate should have to jump through hoops, face illness or feel humiliated because they cannot access pads or tampons.” We agree! Thank you to @farouterotica for making this incredible art work!???? #dignityperiod #menstrualsuplliesforall #freethetampons #prison #tampons #pads #huffpost #nyc #itsnatural #farouterotica #julissaferrerascopeland #citycouncil #fightforchange #pussypositivemovement

2,509 Likes, 18 Comments – herperiodtexas@gmail.com (@her.period) on Instagram: “Did you know some women are forced to trade sex for sanitary supplies in jail? NYC council member,…”

Yes! How crazy is it that women are trading sex, selling their bodies in jail, for sanitary supplies? These are issues that no one cares to take about – the rights of prisoners, the rights of homeless women, and the lack of menstrual support in other countries. Because the upper-middle-class Americans are often only concerned with their own lifestyle. They can buy their own tampons, so why bother with these unfortunate issues.  Her.Period hopes to bring these issues out, and if only one person learns a few facts about the needs of menstruating women in the world and decides to help, then our work has been a success.

In India, many rural women still cannot afford to buy sanitary pads, let alone tampons. What is the scene in Texas?

In Texas, most women have the money to buy a variety of cute and cleverly marketed tampons, pads, menstrual cups, eco-friendly cloth pads, and more. Unfortunately, it is an all or none situation, however, because not everyone can buy these products, which are still rather expensive. There is a relatively large homeless population that has no money to buy sanitary supplies. While there is less taboo about tampons/pads/menstruating, it is still considered poor taste to discuss. Plus, many Texans believe you should take care of yourself, and those who are living on the street should just “get a job” to buy their own items. This means few people take the time to learn what they can do to help those less fortunate.

I wish you all the best, dear Bel and Susan. I am super impressed with your selfless efforts.

 

First published on Dec 15, 2017.

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