Next month, Ode to the Flow, a fundraiser for a club at Kingston High School called Period Power!, will attempt to erase the stigma of menstruation with a night of music, comedy, poetry, art and other performance. The event will be held 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at Good Work Institute, 65 St. James St., Kingston.
Period Power! and Ode to the Flow came together through Tina Dierna, the transitional coordinator and internship and career coordinator at Kingston High School, and Rebecca Hansen, a grad student at Adelphi University and intern for Dierna at the KHS Intern and Career Center. “We help find students careers and internships in the community and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Hansen. “We also provide students with information and advice when they are near graduation from high school.”
It’s been awhile since Hansen was near graduation from high school, though as she recently learned, certain things are still the same. “When Ms. Dierna expressed to me that she wanted to start a Period Power! club, I honestly was shocked that the stigma behind menstruation hasn’t changed since I graduated in 2006,” Hansen said.
Period Power! drew modest numbers at first, but quickly grew, demonstrating the need for the club. “When we started the club, we had about two students who came in the beginning,” Hansen said. “As the weeks continued, we have grown from two students to 10-20 students who come in regularly. It’s amazing to see the level of passion and commitment that these students have to end period poverty and the stigma behind periods.”
Menstruation stigma is a worldwide issue. On June 5, 2018, the Public Health Advocate of the University of California, Berkeley published a piece by Jill Litman called “Menstruation Stigma Must Stop. Period.” in which the author called menstruation a “necessary biological function experienced by half the global population yet still a dirty word in countries all over the world.”
Litman goes on to reference a 2016 study by the International Women’s Health Coalition that found there are more than 5000 slang words and phrases used to refer to menstruation around the world. And according to Litman, while a “necessary biological function,” the stigma surrounding menstruation has resulted in a lack of health education that can sometimes lead to women feeling ostracized and humiliated during their monthly cycles.
“Period poverty” has been described as inadequate access to menstrual education and the products used by women during menstruation. And period poverty is something clubs like Period Power!, which is part of a larger movement called Period (period.org), is trying to eliminate.
“Our club’s mission is to eradicate the stigma of periods and end period poverty,” said Hansen. “Period Power! is a youth led club that provides advocacy and information to our community and peers.”
Hansen echoed other menstruation education advocates in discussing the importance of ending period poverty, both locally and globally.
“I believe that the reason why there is stigma behind periods is because of the lack of education being provided to our peers,” Hansen said. “This isn’t just a community concern, this is a worldwide problem. The taboo behind periods can subliminally teach our peers to be ashamed or embarrassed when talking about menstruation. In recent years, studies have proven that some families can’t afford menstruation products due to their high prices. Students and peers who face these challenges end up deciding on whether to go to school or not. This affects their education and well-being. As a whole, we need to realize that these challenges exist and need to figure out ways that can help change the perspective of periods in our community.”
Ode to the Flow is set to bring the community together to help in the efforts of Period Power! at Kingston High School, and perhaps even beyond.
“Everyone is invited and we encourage people to speak out on either their own personal experiences or a friend’s experience with menstruation,” Hansen said. “The goal is to speak out loud about a subject that was once taboo and help normalize menstruation.”
And the goal is also to raise money for the efforts of Period Power! at Kingston High.
“We are raising money to help provide free, equitable, and comfortable menstruation products to our students at Kingston High School,” Hansen said. “Not everyone is built the same and has the same flow. We want to be well-equipped and fully stocked so our students have the options they need and the care they deserve.”
The Ode to the Flow evening will include an appearance by Aunt Flow and Bloody Mary, and is still open to interested performers, who can register at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1R2bzlaUzlnN7paMxIVVlz47rP0MCOUitgGclt2Tjw_4/edit
Ode to the Flow will be held at Good Work Institute (65 St. James St., Kingston) on Saturday, May 21 from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. with a suggested donation of $20 at the door.
For more information on Ode to the Flow, see: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FKkWk4KoWFIGO9H979vO0D5WAMcYSMHyZaXyLMK9VUw/edit