We're not supposed to talk about it. We're not supposed to normalize it, or have any evidence of it, or even try to do anything about it to make it better.
Let's break all those rules.
"It" comes once a month. It's totally normal. It's all-natural. It's your period. Aunt Flo. "That time of month." Shark week. We have all these euphemisms so we don't have to talk about it, but maybe we should.
And yet I can't even begin to tell you how difficult it is for me to write this post; the social stigma of women's hygiene leaves me at a loss of words, that's how powerful period-shaming can be. It's a culmination of micro-aggressions over a lifetime that silence women when it comes to their periods. They can be minor things to make you self-conscious: how your mom almost freaks out when you start your first period and calls an emergency nurse phone line because she had no idea you could start your period at thirteen, to teachers who can't talk to you about your body and send you to the nurse's office like you're sick just to get a pad, to the snarky comments about "oh, she's just PMS-ing," to the disregard of women's pain, to the awful sandpaper-like supplies you have to resort to when you forget your stash and you're stuck at the office with quarters borrowed from your coworker (and that's assuming the coin doesn't get stuck and you're without pad or quarter).
Yes, every woman has these horror stories, even those privileged to have some semblance of sex education and regular access to supplies. Every woman has been surprised by an unexpected start or horrified by a leak. Every woman has scrambled to find supplies at the last minute. What's even more infuriating is that menstrual supplies are considered "luxury" items. "Necessary" items like food, medicine (including Viagra), and even condoms are all exempt from sales tax, but tampons, pads, Thinx, and cups (like DivaCup) are not.
While you might argue "well, that's just a problem with the tax code" it has greater implications for displaced or homeless persons or persons in crisis. Since menstrual supplies are "luxury" items then they have added costs for shelters and nonprofit organizations and are not purchased with regular supplies. And yet period supplies are some of the items in highest demand but with the fewest donations from community drives. The shortage is not exactly intentional - most times community organizers and those who donate to shelters and organizations just don't think about what it might be like to be on your period and be displaced - but it doesn't make the need go away, and the social stigma around having your period can prevent people from speaking up and asking for supplies.
The Displaced Period Project is working to fill this need in Durham and Orange counties. By collecting donations on their GoFundMe page TDPP is raising money to purchase very necessary supplies to donate to the Durham Crisis Response Center and the Compass Center for Women and Families.
As part of the fundraising effort, TDPP organized a 1 Mile and 5K "Ugly Sweater Fun Run." Runners donated their registration fee to the GoFundMe page and showed up at Herndon Park in Durham for a fun romp on the American Tobacco Trail in their tackiest holiday sweaters for a chance to win prizes.
Nambi Ndugga, the founder and organizer of TDPP, marked the course while Kelly Partner set up a table of hot chocolate and baked goods and then led the group in a proper Fleet Feet dynamic warm-up (because of course we did!). It wasn't until Nambi reappeared with her tacky sweater that she and another runner realized they'd showed up with the same apparel.
Some happy laughs at the goofy sweaters and some cute antics from the Mini Milers that Nambi coaches and the group paraded down to the start line.
Of course it's not a proper fun run if you don't have goofy poses at the finish line!
Runners enjoyed hot chocolate, baked goods, and good friends after the finish line, laughing and enjoying the cool weather and tacky sweaters and figuring out who is running which upcoming races.
A huge thanks to Nambi for organizing all this, and to Kelly Partner for helping to make it a reality!