NYU Club Holds Bloody Good Event To Destigmatize Periods
Oh, periods. Though many have tried to shield the menstrual cycle’s existence from the public eye, there has been quite a fuss about it lately. There’s the controversy regarding ads for new period underwear Thinx, the taxing of tampons as a luxury item in the UK, possible carcinogens in major tampon brands… the whole thing can be bloody overwhelming.
That’s why it was so refreshing to hear about Destigmatizing Feminine Hygiene, an event hosted by the NYU Asian American Women’s Alliance (AAWA) in Kimmel on Thursday evening. The event was aimed to empower education and discussion about menstruation. “Come be a part of the DEMYSTIFICATION GENERATION,” the Facebook page for the event boldly declared.
Despite recent news headlines that focused on menstruation, the AAWA tells Local that no singular occurrence moved them to hold this event. “At AAWA, we noticed that we hadn’t seen anything like this within the NYU community yet for the semester,” AAWA reps Amanda Tiew and Julia Yuge told us. “The thing about feminine hygiene is that it is truly a concurrent issue. Women have been fighting for the right to bleed safely and autonomously since forever, which is ridiculous when you think about how our bleeding is at the crux of this earth’s fertility and lifegiving. The world we live in demands that we speak up for ourselves or be silenced.”
Like any good NYU club event, there was free food, including sushi, rice, and cupcakes. However, these goodies thankfully proved secondary to the actual content of the evening. There were two guest speakers: Dr. Veronica Ades MD, an OB/GYN at NYU Langone, and Becca Freeman, head of marketing at LOLA, an all-natural tampon brand. Andrea Gonzales, co-founder of the video game Tampon Run, was also scheduled to speak but could not make it due to illness. Instead, her TED talk was played for the crowd and Tampon Run was briefly played live. Watching someone dodge rapidly-approaching enemies because they’ve run out of tampons to shoot is more stressful than you’d expect.
Cool and candid Dr. Ades prefaced her part of the presentation by saying, “Full disclosure, I say vagina a lot.” She brought a slew of knowledge to the table, including the explanation that the vagina is self-cleaning and discharge is normal, distinguishing between a normal and abnormal period, and anecdotes regarding her experiences working with women in Uganda and with victims of sex trafficking in Queens. She was careful to not only discuss menstruation, but also abortion, vaginal health, and sexual violence.
Freeman gave us a quick tampon history lesson, explaining that since the 1970s they’ve been made with synthetic material, and despite being classified by the FDA alongside electric wheelchairs and condoms as a class II medical device (“higher risk”) there is no requirement to reveal a tampon’s ingredients. She said that 90% of women they asked had never thought about what might be in their tampons, and there has not been adequate research to tell if synthetics or chemicals in tampons could be damaging in the long-term. Her company’s product is 100% cotton, and can be delivered to your door. Attendees received free samples to take home.
In addition to the speakers, the Asian American Theater Alliance presented two short humorous skits that poked fun at stereotypes regarding menstruation, including quips about that ridiculous blue liquid they always use in commercials.
The AAWA was also accepting pad and tampon donations throughout the evening that they will donate to Women In Need, an organization providing housing and resources for homeless women and children, who often lack the means to purchase feminine hygiene products (which, all agreed, are not a luxury item).
The event closed with an open Q&A session, which was lively and peppered with questions about research on menstruation and feminine products (shocking: there’s very little of it), pesky UK tampon taxes, imagery and language in pad and tampon ads, and individuals who do not identify as women but still get periods.
Overall, it was a stimulating and well-attended (a surprising amount of men attended) evening that raised useful information and questions about an issue that even today remains largely shrouded in shame and euphemism. “Hopefully, this will lead to more student leaders taking an active role in demystifying feminine hygiene and a larger, continuous conversation about it,” Tiew and Yuge told Local. However, they acknowledged that not everything can be solved or understood in just a couple hours. “We’re trying to shift a cultural attitude here, but in the ways we can right now. Every step counts.”