Most people are familiar with the phrase, “It’s that time of the month.” No, it’s not time to pay bills, it’s not time to take a shower (gross), and it’s certainly not time for werewolves to struggle with an uncontrollable blood-lust (any Teen Wolf fans out there?).
No, most people are familiar with this phrase when it references the lovely menstruation cycle of women all around the world. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about periods.
So for anyone who is unsure about what the term “menstruation” actually means, here is a definition courtesy of Google Search that defines the word oh-so delicately:
“Menstruation is the periodic discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina.”
Sarah Jenkins, program coordinator for both Ohio University’s Women’s Center and OU’s LGBT Center, recognizes the negative connotations that are associated with menstruation. In order to reveal and debunk some of those associations with periods, Jenkins coordinated the “Red Party: Menstruation Celebration” through the Women’s Center.
Just as the name suggests, the Red Party was an afternoon event held Wednesday in the Women’s Center that offered a variety of activities to anyone interested in the discussion of menstruation.
“I think society is really shaming of menstruation,” said Jenkins, whose goal for the event was to call out the negative stereotypes of periods and create an environment that welcomed an open discussion of menstruation.
“It’s important to be open about menstruation,” said Jenkins. “It’s nothing dirty.”
The celebration, which lasted about three hours, encouraged attendees to wear red clothing and featured a red-themed snack table that included strawberries, watermelon and fruit punch. Materials such as glue, red glitter and magazine clippings that featured advertisements for female menstrual products were provided for the arts and crafts portion of the event.
Many attendees created menstrual-themed artwork during the event, such as one that featured an enthusiastic woman posing for a picture in a magazine clipping that had red glitter flowing from her pelvic regions. On the side of said picture, the artist had written, “Bloody Proud.”
Olivia Usitalo, a senior studying strategic communications at OU, attended the group with friends Michelle Robinson, a senior studying journalism, and Leslie Stine, a sophomore pre-med student.
Because of her specialization in women, gender and sexuality studies, Usitalo possesses a desire to become more involved in the Women’s Center and felt as though the Red Party was a great way to do so.
“I love learning more and more about these topics,” Usitalo said. She explained that the topics highlighted by the event are relevant and informative for her as a woman. “They’re things I need to know about myself,” she said.
All three women were interested in attending the event in order to learn more about their own female bodies as well as the arts and crafts that were included.
“Crafting is always a plus, especially when it’s about vaginas,” Robinson said.
The celebration also offered a viewing of the movie “Red Moon,” which is a documentary that discusses the shame often associated with female menstruation and primarily focuses on the life of filmmaker Diana Fabianova, who dealt with those issues during puberty.
Several informational packets were provided during the event for anyone interested in learning about the menstruation cycle from sources such as GladRags and the Menstrual Activist Research Collective (MARC). Those sources provided information on the dangers of chemicals found in tampons and pads while also suggesting alternative menstrual products that are considered by these companies as healthier and eco-friendly.
The celebration offered an opportunity for attendees to win some of the alternative products during a raffle for items such as the Diva Cup and the Moon Cup, which are both silicone cups that collect menstrual flow instead of absorbing it and are reusable.
As an extra red-positive and aesthetic bonus for the event, photography by Lacey Rogers, a publication administration graduate student at OU, was displayed around the snack table.
Rogers, who was previously an undergraduate commercial photography student at OU, had wanted to do something different for a project. In the photos, Rogers had model Emily Dunlap, a now alumna of OU, pose with tampons shoved in her mouth for some of the pictures. Her goal was to create a fashion commentary on women and their menstrual cycles.
“Women are expected to be beautiful,” said Rogers as she pointed out why the photos challenged the society’s shaming of menstruation.
As undergraduate students, Rogers was the president of Empowering Women of Ohio and Dunlap was the president for Women Acting for Change, which eventually became People Acting for Gender Equality.
This was the first year that the Women’s Center hosted the Red Party. Because of the great turnout the event received and its topical message, Jenkins will consider making it an annual event for upcoming years.