These days, it seems that our failing sex ed classes play a role in the negative stigma of periods. “I blame America’s sex ed classes. Girls were in one room and boys in another. Girls would learn about their period and boys would learn up about sex and pleasure.” It is no secret that America has battled with maintaining comprehensive sex education. In fact, teaching sex education is not mandatory in less than half of the U.S. Additionally, some states are even teaching negative (one-sided) information about teen pregnancy and sexual orientation.
Chelsea VonChaz is a down to earth, easy-going, entrepreneurial activist from Los Angeles, California. She started a movement and non-profit organization called #HappyPeriod in February 2015. The mission of this organization is to distribute menstrual products to women who are homeless, low-income, or living in destitution. #HappyPeriod came about when Chelsea, while at a red light, saw a homeless woman wearing undergarments stained with blood. Three years later, Chelsea continues to dedicate her life to #HappyPeriod by hosting volunteer events every last Saturday of the month to collect, assemble, and distribute pads, tampons, pantiliners, and all products necessary for that time of the month. Through researching and inquiring about menstrual kits for homeless women, she understood that period products are not frequently donated or required in any shelter’s operation budget.
Regardless of gender, it is important to understand that everyone should be educated about menarche. “It’s a very basic and mediocre talk. Hey, this is what happens. Make sure you get a pad. There is nothing else to really know or find out about. Everybody was so negative about it. I mean I like to talk about everything that makes people uncomfortable. I was always that person that was like let’s talk about it.” Chelsea not only educates people about menstruation but her goal is to break the stigmas that are associated with it. Menstruation is not a taboo. It is reality, biological, and natural. Chelsea has referenced Native American women leaving their homes to go to menstrual lodges not as an act of shaming, but actually a time to bond and connect. However, in present times the discussion around are periods is more taboo.
Our country lacks a standard in educating men and women about our bodies, making it difficult to really understand and adapt to our bodies. Even in the attempt to learn about sex education, skewed information permeates the minds of boys and girls. Menstruation is not subjected to women only. Men should be equally informed as well. “With men, they only talk about a period when it’s about pregnancy. There’s no concern about our health, pain, and all this other stuff like women going into cardiac arrest, getting endometriosis and amenorrhea.” Bringing awareness also initiates more questions and curiosity. The positive feedback is “How can I talk to my son about periods? I tell them, “Talk to them like you would your daughter.” Chelsea encourages men to be a part of the conversation. “I actually find that some of them do, but they are scared to say something.”
#HappyPeriod is an ongoing movement that has expanded to over 30 cities. Chelsea has teamed up with artists and social media influencers in other locations and has ambassadors continuing the work that she started. Not only does #HappyPeriod focus on providing menstrual kits and eliminating negative stigmas, it also focuses on period brands, period products, and much more. “We are period everything. Period content, period branding, about period products, education all of that. It’s possible to do all of that and provide. I’m really heavy with creating conversation. Like letting people know about the product. At a volunteer event, we bring a new brand and they have the option to sponsor or donate. Two years ago was the last time I can remember where people were like, “What’s this? Cora, they make tampons? What’s their Instagram? Why is this good? Well, their tampons are pure. Their cotton is clean. It has no bleach in it. I feel like that creates a change in a person and in people as far as how they view periods. We also give them a decision to choose for their bodies. “So yes, we all know the commercial brands like Always, Kotex, Tampax. There are more alternative brands that are also healthier for the body. There is always so much to learn just when you thought you knew it all.
This is more than doing charity work. Chelsea is wholeheartedly committed to her organization. She also expresses how people tend to discredit charity work while gaining income just like any other business. “It’s super tough to be an entrepreneur that is in the business of helping people. People feel like because you do charitable work you should be okay with being poor or not getting paid. I tell people, “Oh No!” We have to limit that kind of thinking automatically.” We tend to exclude charitable work as anything other than a business, but it is a business. Why is not possible to an activist that is for a cause such as #HappyPeriod or any other cause and not gain income? That is encouraging to people who do plan to establish a community organization or non-profit organization.
Moving forward, Chelsea hopes that policies would be implemented to advocate for women and their menstrual cycles. “I think policies are super important. I think that’s really going to push for huge changes that are well overdue especially when it comes to tampon taxes. With us though, our mission is providing the product and also talking about menstruation and eliminating the stigma.” Thankfully, social media has brought Chelsea to the platform that she is in. You can find #HappyPeriod on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as well as wearehappyperiod.org.
By: Priscilla Brown
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