chapter 7 – meeting kiran gandhi, and copious toast with diandra from untabooed

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Upon arriving at Diandra’s place in NYC I knew I was going to feel very at home. This woman appreciates toast in all it’s forms and especially lathered with chunks of avocado. Toast in the morning, toast before bed, and fine fine bread. I was in heaven there, in her NYC pad for a while!

Would you believe it I have just stopped writing this article to actually put on some toast! (Yes you probably would believe it actually!) The very memory of spending time with lovely Diandra; quick witted, informative, to the point, super-efficient and very sweet helpful New Yorker has made me peckish and I have one piece left. I’m toasting you as I type, Diandra, quite literally (FYI with olive oil and balsamic vinegar)!!

Diandra came into my sphere and became a part of my Tour thanks (once more) to connections from Kathy and Jessamijn from EcoFemme – Oooh BUY AND USE CLOTH PADS everyone! Remember – no toxic chemicals, better for the environment, no odours, easy to fold up and carry, cheaper over the long term. I know we have to wash them, but that should be a joyful process now you know how amazing they are!!

OK, so back to the story of NYC… Apart from lots of catching up on blogging, tour-organising, and basically sleeping at Diandra’s place(!) she also took me to this cool event:

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Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is a Lawyer and is interested in policy, because ultimately big policy changes end up affecting the most people’s lives. She shared that 14 US states have now introduced tampon tax legislation to eliminate people having to pay tax when purchasing menstrual hygiene products. She was still adamant that this could be improved and is also campaigning for legislation to support women with no income (there are still no free products available for women at homeless shelters).

Thanks to organisations like Diandra’s project UnTabooed which is centred around awareness, education and distributing free eco-friendly reusable products like cloth pads and menstrual cups to economically disadvantaged and homeless girls and women, there is a lot of valuable and amazing work being done already. But Jennifer argues that more would happen if law dictated that these people be taken care of better. She is also an advocate of free menstrual products being available in public areas to reduce the stigma around menstruation.

Oooh it was turning into an inspiring evening…

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And then Kiran Gandhi spoke! Feminist and musician (drummer for MIA) who free bled during the london marathon! I had posted all about her marathon on FaceBook last year and yet had NO idea I would be meeting her!!

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She told her marathon story; that she had an idea menstruation would be coming during the race and there was no way she was going to miss something she had worked so hard to train for; pads would not be an option because of chafing, tampons would not be an option because there was no privacy to change them en-route (competitive runners even pee themselves on the racecourse to not lose their position!) So Kiran chose to free bleed while running in the comfortable clothes she had worked so hard in to train for the race (what’s the difference between that and peeing on the move!!).

I LOVE her reaction to some of the (unfortunately negative) press she got at the end of the race. Her attitude? Its about what you do yourself to make the change. A defiant and definite “talk to me about it after you have run 26 miles” attitude. Go sister.

So what, in Kiran’s eyes can we do to make change? 4 things.

Radical activism: Shocking acts/making statements, like the marathon.
Use Media: This makes the topic relevant and accessible to many more people.
Policy and legislation: Campaign for tampon tax etc
Innovations: Ask people “what is your experience so I can help you?” Making new products / developing social enterprises, like pepole making their own cloth pads for example, or sustainably providing education.

And what, in the panel’s eyes can the average woman do about social justice change?

Prioritize our own comfort and advocate for the same comfort for everyone. Be brave enough to talk about menstruation with each other, for example continuing to talk about menstruation related topics even if a male colleague comes up to you. Being truthful. Instead of saying we have a ‘bad stomach’ explain that we have ‘severe menstrual cramps which are making me uncomfortable and I need an hour off work to feel better’ Honouring that and ourselves enough to do that.
Learning to to believe in the power of your own voice – creating a dialogue. Being brave. We are privileged to have a voice so let’s use it.

YESSSSSSSS!

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Women in the audience ranged from menstrual activists and business women alike; Vera Papisova wellness editor of Team Vogue, Jill Miller head of the NYC chapter of Days for Girls, and a woman representing Maxim organic disposable pads, plus Diandra and me!

Huge cities like NYC have Menstrual Activist evenings almost every night of the week, but for me it was a refreshing blast of no-nonsense common sense debate. I enjoyed every second.

I mustn’t go without showing you a pair of sustainable cycles socks on a real life sustainable cycler’s feet – Ruby’s! She modelled this pair of the funky ankle variety and then kindly gifted me a pair to take home. What a privilege!

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Next I meander into Wild West Country to Colorado where things hot up and I attempt 3 workshops in 3 days…!

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