Check out www.periodpositive.com

periodpositivesquareThis blog is lots of fun but is mostly on hiatus right now to give Chella time to work on research and policy advocacy for #periodpositive. To keep up with our news and events, please follow this link to periodpositive.com. This here blog will be updated when the new issue of Adventures in Menstruating is out!

Cheers,

Chella

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You guys, what a year!

You guys! I can’t even. This year has been a real adventure in menstruating, let me tell you! I have been terrible about blogging about it all, but expect some updates very soon, as soon as I catch up with myself. They’re calling this year the year of the period!  If that’s the case, please help me make 2016 the year of #periodpositive education. Go to www.periodpositive.com for more details, and follow @chellaquint and @periodpositive on Twitter. All the best, thanks to everyone who helped make 2015 so awesome, and see you in the new year!

Let's make 2016 the year of #periodpositivemenstruation education. join @chellaquint's #periodpositive campaign!www.periodpositive.com

Audience responses and the STAINS™ #flashblob!

You guys – only two shows left!

And the #flashblob! www.stainstm.com is gaining hella momentum. (Also, Chella momentum.) We are going to demolish leakage fear once and for all you guys!

Things to say to acknowledge stains and reject the narrative of ‘leakage horror’:

Leaks happen. Just like other bodily functions happen.

I meant to do that. 

Leak chic. 

Red is the new black. 

It’s clot couture.

My cup (pad/tampon/sea sponge) runneth over! But you do not need to run over in a panic and tell me about it cos it’s totes fine and I’m just gonna you know… change my clothes when I get a chance.

Don’t you wish your bloodstain was hot like me?

I keep bleeding. I keep bleeding, love. – Leona Lewis (hat tip to Kate Fox for pointing this out in poetry form) 

Had a great review which really endorsed the comedy AND the #periodpositive campaign!

“This shouldn’t just be at the Fringe, it should be on the curriculum.” –  **** Three Weeks

And check out my  audience responses! 

uni leeds alumnae

“Chella manages to both inform and entertain at the same time.”

“She’s incredibly warm and make the audience feel utterly relaxed.”

“I really appreciated this show. It’s important that people don’t feel ashamed of periods. Keep it up!”

“I had so much fun – Thank you!”

“Chella is super funny and makes periods less of a taboo. Talking about it in a less serious light makes me feel more comfortable.”

“Brilliant show!”

“Awesome show!”

“Great show! I learned a lot today and Chella made the learning fun and exciting.”

“Delightful! Very upbeat, relaxed and informative!”

“Brill show! Funny and educational! Kids will love it too.”

“Really interesting.”

“Funny! Informative! Feminist! Inclusive! Engaging!”

“I wish you had done this show when I was a teenager 50 years ago!”

Adventures in Menstruating!

You guys, I’m back. And boy am I back. I went from research hiatus to 10th anniversary zine and comedy show special, taking my first full run to the Fringe.  If you’re in or near Edinburgh, come along – it’s free – but if not you can still join in. 

square pic show (3)

I can’t believe I’ve been writing and editing Adventures in Menstruating for 10 years. The celebrations have already started, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research threw me a zine birthday party and Leeds Zine Fest shared all my films and did a Skype chat with me just last week.

Stay tuned in the Autumn for details about the anthology I want to put together about all the zines so far and join in with some #periodpositive activism at home while I’m in Edinburgh.

Periods have really been in the news lately. Have you seen it? 

It started with a new zine on the block by friend-of-a-friend Soofiya. Bloody hell – another UK-based intersectional and trans-inclusive period zine! The Indigogo campaign for it has ended, but you can still find out details here

The other week, London marathon runner Kirin Ghandi revealed that she decided to do the race free bleeding to avoid chaffing and aim for a personal best. She is a menstrual superhero. (And is totally up for supporting STAINS™!)

And just a few days ago, the US and then international media finally realised that it’s not okay to make fun of someone by saying they menstruate. Whatever Donald Trump meant, it’s nice to know that the shame is on him and not on menstruators, even if for some people periods can be a pain in the “whatever”.  It amazes me about no one’s made more fuss about this getting him ejected for the Red State Convention.

Keep track of more frequent updates here and up to the minute info on twitter @chellaquint and @periodpositive.  I think the best way to resolve all this stuff is to take all the #periodpositive stuff global as a benchmark for excellent provision of menstruation education and management – a way to show that we’re serious about the sustainability of menstruation education and management locally and globally. How about a #periodpositive network, set up to award a benchmark to best practice, like the Fair Trade logo?  I hope you will join me  to help make this possible, and have a laugh along the way. 

Cause once we sort out period taboos and reproductive health, we can go back to talking about how cool dinosaurs and outer space are, right?

28 May is Menstrual Hygiene Day

28th May is Menstrual Hygiene DayIt was initiated by WASH United and announced at the SMCR‘s Making Menstruation Matter Conference last year. WASH United are joined by over 100 partners around the world to make May 28th “a global platform for partners across all sectors to engage in action, advocacy and knowledge-sharing around menstrual hygiene management.”  You can find loads of resources and research at the link.

Since I’ve spent the past year undertaking menstruation education research, and the previous nine years engaging in comedy activism, I’ll be taking part today in a combination of ways, some silly, some sensible, all in the name of action, advocacy and knowledge-sharing.

Here’s what I’ll be doing, and you would be very welcome to join in:

This morning, I’m starting up this here Adventures in Menstruating blog again, because I have completed my MA in Education! It was an amazing experience, and I can’t stop reading academic papers. I am also launching www.periodpositive.com today because I am starting to disseminate findings from my research with suggestions for Period Positive Schools.  My top ten tips will be tweeted from my @periodpositive  account (please follow!) and shared on Facebook throughout today and will be going up on the website at the end of the day.

periodpositivesquare

I’ll be following and posting on Twitter all day from @chellaquint and @periodpositive, and using the #periodpositive hashtag. I’ll also be retweeting and joining in with some of the many excellent projects and discussions taking place around the world all day. The Menstrual Hygiene Day hashtag is  #MenstruationMatters. Some recent discussions I participated in have also used #periodtalk if you would like to follow the conversations.

Later today, I will be returning the Victorian Lady Bags which I may have ‘borrowed’ a number of days ago from my university toilets with the blessing of some of the staff,  and disseminated among audiences at some comedy shows and science communication events. A Victorian attitude to menstruation is not  what we’re looking for, so I decided to modernise these ladies with the help of some #periodpositive speech bubbles provided by some science-loving pals.  I can only imagine that Queen Victoria would not be amused.

victorian lady

If you are amused, and if these bags are a familiar sight where you work or study, you can join in!  Simply take them out, add  a #periodpositive message (and the hashtag) about why #MenstruationMatters, and put them back. I’ll be tweeting the best ones throughout the day. If you find one, share it!

Speaking of amused, I’m pleased to share that STAINS™ is becoming an exceedingly on trend logo and fashion forward brand.

leak chic square

Like I always say, you don’t need to use real blood to reclaim. You can join in the fun by downloading your own stain at the link above or finding your stain if you picked one up at a show or a workshop, and wearing it today! Just make sure you follow the brand identity guidelines.

On a more serious note, I’ll be speaking about the history of advertising messages about Menstrual Hygiene Management and its effects on mainstream attitudes to menstruation in the UK this evening. If you’re nearby, please come along to this event at the University of Sheffield with Irise International, which is hosted by Friends of Irise.  I’ll be deconstructing this advert from 1926:

1926 ad

You can click to enlarge and read the eye-opening fine print. I’d also invite you to explore the wonderful Ad*Access Archive for many more vintage ads from the 1920s through the 1950s.

It is great to be back. In the coming weeks I’ll be analysing all the ads I missed, revisiting some new and improved disposable packaging, and tracking the recent history of reclaiming stains.

Stay in touch and come back soon!

 

 

Press round up.

Hello! I’ve been away working on my Master’s dissertation.  How have you been?

This year has been quite a busy one, even more than usual, and most of the ad analysis has gone into my university work, education resources for #periodpositive and Stains™, and quite a bit of science communication comedy.

While I’ve been getting on with the research, though, menstrual activism media coverage has been growing, so I thought I’d do a round up.

Today there’s a lovely piece in the Telegraph by sex-positive scientist, writer and blogger Dr. Brooke Magnanti, with a link to my TEDx Sheffield 2012 talk.

The end of October saw a feature on all things period in the Times Style Section by Sweetening the Pill author Holly Grigg-Spall, with shout-outs and contributions from a number of us. If you don’t want to get your eyes all Murdoch-y, click the image below to embiggen a scan of the piece.

times article

Sarah Maple, who created the Menstruate With Pride triptych featured in the article, did a shout out in this interview in April about her visit to the 2010 Adventures in Menstruating show at Bluestockings.  jo and sarah stains

Eagle-eyed viewers of my TEDx Talk will have spotted this photo when Sarah and Jo volunteered to wear Stains™Also in April, Autostraddle came across Adventures in Menstruating at the Brooklyn Zine Fest and did a lovely feature and interview.

In March, Alternet  did a menstrual taboo round up featuring many of the usual suspects, and I was quoted in an article about Riot Grrrl and DIY culture in the Guardian.

Finally, back in February the ad agency behind the Mooncup rap battle campaign, St. Luke’s, nods in agreement at my last two blog posts at the start of the year analysing their Mooncup campaign.

For more details on the Mooncup story, and the truth behind that Bodyform viral ad, just keep scrolling down the blog.

I’ll be back soon enough to post updates about #periodpositive and Stains™, which you can also check out at their respective blogs, or find me on Twitter @chellaquint or @periodpositive.

Peer Review

So I like the new Mooncup ad for lots and lots of period positive reasons.

Here it is again:

I watched it, I enjoyed it, I shared it, but I couldn’t ignore this other blog post title forming in my head after the first viewing:

“OMG! They’ve used an educational rap!” say several slam poets and rap battlers (including a statistically small number of female rap battlers) at once as they collectively facepalm.

Yeah, so, there’s that. A number of readers will know I perform regularly on the spoken word scene and I’m on my university’s slam team. Lately, there’s been a little more slam/battle crossover in the spoken word universe, so I thought I’d check in with a few pals for some peer review. They’ve each agreed to weigh in below on their impressions of the video’s effectiveness from a wordsmith’s perspective.

Sticking with the marketing point of view though, cultural appropriation of rap for commercial purposes is such an old trope that it’s more status quo than newsworthy. In fact, in this particular advert, I really think that the usual criticism is mostly offset by the genuine use of rap as protest against disposables.

Interesting as it might be to me, I know that the femcare industry and most consumers don’t need to read a peer review of the authenticity of the rap battle. I had a hunch that Mooncup’s choice to adhere to some of the conventions of the genre has actually helped them get the message across more effectively (and certainly more effectively than more typical #OMGRAP ads currently making the rounds).

I don’t think it’s a gratuitous use of rap. I think it’s a well observed and effective pastiche.

When I got in touch with Mooncup last week to get the stats for last Friday’s post, I also checked out the origin story for the rap battle. Kath Clements, their Campaigns and Marketing manager, was happy to share their process:

“It was a real collaborative effort between Mooncup and [the ad agency] St. Luke’s. We needed a device for positioning a debate and a conceptual framework – we put it in our natural habitat which is the toilet! We were aware we were appropriating a thing with cultural connotations, so we tried to do it with finesse.”

I asked her about how it was written, and she told me that St. Luke’s worked with a producer who battles in his free time, and liked the concept enough to help them out and write it pro bono. He also coached the actors who play Tampon (who has actually rapped before in her own right) and MCUK (I just got that joke), who appeared in Mooncup’s last viral ad campaign.

With that insight, it looked to me like I could analyse the battle in good conscience. See, I really like the wordplay, puns and syncopation of classic freestyling, and my twelve-year-old self delightedly and ignorantly partook in gentle games of The Dozens with my middle school pals. The casual sexism and homophobia that I’ve witnessed on the current battle scene puts me off, though. I valued this ad’s depiction of women in a rap battle scenario. So I wanted to check out my theory that the quality of the pastiche and the rhyme are part of the payoff for this ad.

The first bit of commentary comes from Harry Baker, who’s been on Don’t Flop but who also raps about maths and slams about dinosaurs, both of which are more my speed.

“I think it’s almost too obvious that it’s made up of key statistics made to rhyme, but I guess that is the point of the advert. Things like the ‘no strings attached’ line would get a reaction from a crowd probably. So first reaction is ‘eye roll’ + ‘rap to get down with the kids’ but the rhyme/hook is there. For me I’m fine with it being a rap battle between two women, and it makes sense as a way of A vs B advert information, but the rhymes themselves aren’t really good enough to get away with it, or do the genre justice – I guess it’s good they want to use the format in mainstream media (pastiche is a great word) but what I would watch for/do in a rap battle is the intricate word play and rhyme schemes which I feel this lacks!”

Next up was Paula Varjack, originator and host of the Anti-Slam:

“Cheesy rap as an advertising device has been in effect since the eighties. I think the device only works if the rhymes are very clever or funny or both. Like a bad slam poem this doesn’t totally work as its more didactic than clever, and definitely not funny enough. I’m not sure I would have watched to end unless you asked me, and it’s only a minute and a half long. But as advertising for menstrual products go, it’s nice to not have abstract scenes of tennis playing and the like and I did actually glean info about Mooncups. Also I give them a couple points for rhyming mental with lentil.”

So the first two responses swung more toward the #OMGRAP side of the cringe-o-meter.

I spoke next to Kate Garrett, my captain on the Sheffield Hallam University slam team.

“Wow – first impression is, yes a bit cheesy as many ads are, but it’s also wicked cool and far more clever than most. I enjoyed that. In the case of women selling femcare, I think that’s a good device and empowering, that side of it isn’t cheesy – I just find most ads cheesy because they’re ads. Also as the Tampon Crew started the rap battle, it’s showing how those companies are quietly bullying us all into using what’s already widely known, and trying to bully other options out of the market by going, ‘ew weird reusable femcare omg go away’. So if anyone wakes up to that, the ad’s done a great service. Mooncup had good rhymes, and great lines ‘we only collect from the menstrual flow’ and ending the ad with ‘no strings attached’ – love both of those, great wordplay (I like ‘flow’ because a rap is someone’s ‘flow’ as is the intended meaning in this context, and obviously strings/tampons – excellent …)!

“Nothing particularly jumped out as a bad rhyme, it scans well and seems to work, however, I’d say they shouldn’t use the phrase ‘it’s making me mental’ just to rhyme with ‘lentils’. There are other words and other rhymes more suitable. In an advert empowering women to make informed choices, which is refreshingly free from the usual sexist stuff, it’s probably better not to use any ablist language either. Then again, the phrase came from Tampon Crew, among several insults, so I guess they could’ve been making a complicated point about tampon companies being bullies by giving them certain language? I’m not sure now. Could’ve been lazy writing, could’ve been super clever subtext.

“Anyway. I also loved that Mooncup were honest about loving the earth in the face of being called tree-hugging hippies and whatever else. The Mooncup Crew clearly don’t care what people think in this rap battle, which is ace. In a rap battle, if the other person can’t insult you, you win! I prefer this ad over other femcare ads. I actually started mentally blocking ads for tampons and sanitary towels years ago, but this ad is totally honest, clever and genuine – it uses words like “menstrual” which I’m not sure I’ve even heard in an ad for tampons!”

Regarding mental/lentils: In real life, the intersectionality of oppression means avoiding the word ‘mental’ to challenge mental health stigmas at the same time as challenging the menstrual ones. Examining all of Tampon’s lines, though, I think Kate may be right about the super clever subtext.

Throughout the rap, here’s what Tampon is says about herself:

  • She is criminally dismissive of outer space
  • She has no qualms about repeated name calling and putdowns
  • She uses the phrase tree hugging hippies, so she stereotypes people
  • She does not believe in global warming and equates it with herbal remedies (which, David McCandless style, can go both ways).
  • She uses the word mental when describing her own escalating emotional state after considering the implications of reusable femcare gaining in popularirty and stubbing her out once and for all.

This is a clever way of alienating Tampon from the audience, it’s a little bit Brechtian, and works in Mooncup’s favour. Kate’s right: In rap battles, blatantly ignoring a dis and coming back with a better one is in keeping with the genre. But maybe next time they could try to find another rhyme or have Mooncup use counterspeech to call her on it within the ad. After all, most people watch viral videos and move on – there’s not a lot of time for deeper analysis.

To round off all that food for thought, I asked the University of Sheffield’s slam team captain, for balance. He’s a good guy, when we’re not in direct competition on stage. He thought the battle format was essential for allowing a reusables company to challenge the disposable femcare industry. Here’s Jack Mann, captain of Dead Beats Poetry Society:

“Rap as a medium for advertising always seems cheesy, however I didn’t know about Mooncups, and so I followed the link to see what they were. As such, the ‘cheese’ was necessary for awareness and, in such an ephemeral zone as online media, worked exactly to spark intrigue. It’s a parody, soI knows that it isn’t to be taken seriously as a medium, however as a poem in that sense is spot on ! it pits them as equals, as if that’s assumed.”

I point out that the Tampon and the Mooncup don’t have equal time – that after the first round, Mooncup actually has two extra lines per round to make its point and subtly influence the viewer: not only do Tampon’s excuses seem shorter and whinier, but Mooncup grows more articulate as each round continues.

Back to Jack:

“Because [Mooncup] want to usurp the grip of the tampon without seeming like upstarts, the only way to do that is to forget that they aren’t on the same level and then use the language behind the established leader to assert that the tampon is not just (relatively) silly but no longer on the same level. In a live battle she would potentially be scored down for exceeding the time limit, but because of crowd reaction would invariably score higher – same as with slams – if a poet pleases the crowd, the crowd then usually influences the judges who then want to please the crowd also.”

These guys all took my questions seriously, scored the Mooncup rap as if there were weighing in after a battle or judging a slam, and answered my slightly tongue-in-cheek queries about the battle rules honestly. It looked overall, whether they thought the rhymes were cheesy or not, that this worked.

I asked Erica Mitchell Packington, social media tech consultant and Chair of Sheffield Steel Rollergirls why it works.

“I think it’s clever, funny, the rhythms work and its factual as well as being kind of kitch and knowing. I guess if I was properly going critique it, I’d recognise the ‘cat fight in the toilets’ thing, but it comes across more strongly as a rap battle that situates the choice in the place that it’ll be enacted and the Mooncup character role models ignoring insults and using stats to fight back against bullying.

“If people don’t know what a Mooncup is, it might prompt them to look them up. I love the way they deal with the whole hippie aspect of it. It’s ridiculous, but I felt a bit sorry for the tampon woman at the end. But rap battles are battles and someone has to lose, I suppose. Might have been better if the victory was softened by her taking a Mooncup or something, but I doubt that fits with the practice of rap battles!

“From a social media perspective, they have really tried to honour the conventions of the rap battle. In the past, advertisers might have been able to get away with a vague approximation of an art form or subculture, but now it’s much easier for the audience to check. The access to the ‘real’ (or at least the real that is shared) means marketers have to quite finely balance the tone.”

Details in this ad are very well observed, and the tongue-in-cheek nod to rap battle as product showdown, despite the initial cringe-factor, is satisfyingly executed. So? Does the battle complement Mooncup’s game plan?

Harry summed it up well:

“On the whole I like the ad because it gets its message across without insulting women, which is a lot more than you can say for many femcare ads and many rap battles.”