When I first heard about PERIOD CON I immediately knew I had to go. As a Mom and primary caretaker of 4 little boys, wife to a busy husband, fur-mama to crazy dog and two working parents, we had to juggle schedules and children to get the boys watched for the day. As a pelvic health and menstrual advocate and educator, I knew I couldn’t miss it. We juggled, I got my Mom and I two bus tickets and we were off!
When I thought of who I would take to NYC with me, I knew it would be my Mom. Growing up she told me the tale of her period. She didn’t know anything about it, one day discovered blood in her underwear and assumed she was dying. This lack of education was common then, and sadly is still the case for many parts of the world today! My Mom has spent 47 years as a nurse, and if anyone knew first hand about period stigma, it was her.
When my alarm went off at 3:30 AM, I was prepared. Hubby took the day off from work and was ready to watch the brood. I had barely slept the night before, packed my bags, my breast pump, threw on my The Green Vagina t-shirt and necklace and hopped on a bus in Wilkes-Barre PA at 4:15 AM!
We arrived at the Port Authority bus terminal in NYC just over 3 hours later and quickly found the closest Starbucks. In NYC, unlike rural Pennsylvania, there is a Starbucks every few blocks in every direction. That day, I drank 4 lattes.
As our cab driver navigated the streets of NY like a retired agitated race car driver, I glanced at the city. I hoped he was going the right way. Thankfully Siri was following along on my phone. Soon, we arrived at the tall brick building hosting PERIOD CON and were greeted by a man at the entrance. “You ladies here for the conference?” We headed up in a creeky elevator to the unknown. We exited the elevator into a hallway where we stood in line for our nametags, picked up our PERIOD CON goodie bag and headed inside.
What we found was a dream NYC penthouse. It was lined with tall windows with natural light pouring in, a perfect view, a maze of rooms and steep stairways, shiny coated oak floors, white chairs in every direction, the best breakfast table I have ever seen at a conference. Soon, leaders in the menstrual movement from all over the country and beyond joined brand leaders, advocates and educators.
PERIOD CON Grab Bag
I blog for another conference and one of the main things people search my site for…is the goodie bag. So let’s get right to it! This is the 2017 PERIOD CON grab bag. If attending the conference wasn’t enough, attendees received these amazing grab bags full of menstrual products…including a Diva size 1, a PERIOD t-shirt in your choice of size, lip liner with matching Infallible long-wearing lip and disposable menstrual products. See full package below:
After we exited the elevator, my Mom and I waited in line. Two people searched through a pile of tangled name tags. We tossed our lanyards around our necks and did a quick tour. While the setting was beautiful, it was not ideal for someone in a wheelchair. As an OT, and Mom of a physically disabled child, I am constantly assessing environments for accessibility. There were steps leading to two separate platforms, twists and turns and different levels that would have served as a great backdrop for the once deemed risque Sex in the City show…and if they ever need a pent-house-sitter….I’m their woman!
Seconds after I snapped a few shots, the seats filled quickly leaving the event standing room only. Next, the presentations started. Much like a lecture in school, a group of attendees sat patiently, watched a power point show with the occasional & typical remote glitches and listened to speakers and panels present about menstruation and their experience in the field.
After a short intro, a passionate young woman took the microphone and began speaking. Nadya Okamoto opened the conference with the origin of Period, The Menstrual Movement: As Sophomores in Highschool, “Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand co-founded PERIOD…in 2014 after realizing that menstrual products are not reliably available to those who need them the most.” Three years later, the first PERIOD CON event launched with leaders from around the globe in menstruation. Hear Nadya’s story in the video at the end of this post.
About PERIOD CON
What is PERIOD? PERIOD is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization delivers products in PERIOD PACKS to those in need. The group also educates in high schools, colleges, and communities. In addition, they raise awareness through events, campaigns, media and strives to help repeal the tampon tax and ensure period products are available to menstruators in public. This conference brought everyone together, from chapters everywhere plus brands and leaders in the menstrual movement.
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David Linton: “We need to stop saying Feminine Hygiene, menstruation is not dirty.”
In contrast to some conferences I attend, where I wander freely throughout, PERIOD CON felt more like I was back in college. The event was set up classroom style where attendees were fixed in chairs listening to educational panels. As the conference grows, I imagine the location will be larger and attendees will have their choice of event session and activity.
I was trying to strategically plan a time to use my pump, without having to walk in front of the audience and panel in search of a location. To my surprise, when I got the chance to take a pump-break, I was shown to a narrow set of stairs that lead to a room I could have spent the day in!
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After I finished pumping and found my way back down the stairs, I was stuck on the other side of the room looking at the packed house. What an amazing turnout! Each person I met had an integral role to play in menstruation. I was unable to make it back to my Mom, who sat quietly watching the next panel however, I did get to shake a few hands and say a few hellos!
I met the founder & CEO of Lunette cup Heli Kurjanen and met with their PR rep whom I’ve spoken to many times over e-mail, MaryAnn! The Lunette team was just as amazing as I imagined them and I was fortunate to receive one of their product samples, an amazing abstract vulva racerback tank. Living in a conservative area of the globe, I doubt few will know what the image is…but I will continue to my part educating. Vagina is on the inside, vulva is outside! Read more about the vagina vs the vulva here.
The owner and CEO of GladRags, Tracy Puhl was manning her booth! Not an employee, an intern or a volunteer. It was her! I had just finished testing out my XO Flo cup the month before, a high capacity reusable menstrual cup, and couldn’t wait to talk to her about their successful kickstarter for the Mini Flo, soon to hit the market. The mini is a smaller version of their XO Flo which will help them reach a larger range of menstruators!
Important and recurring topics
There was a lot of discussion about menstruation worldwide, the struggles women face in the USA and abroad including the inability to afford menstrual products, stigma around periods, stigma concerning inserting products into the vagina, lack of education about sex and menstruation, lack of access to reliable products and how we can reach those most in need.
Something to remember
One important message that hit home with me. During the Menstruation across the globe panel Alaina Wayland, far left, said that it’s important to listen. Before taking any action, ask the community what their needs are and really listen before jumping in. It’s great to want to help and throw products at a group in need, but if you hand out menstrual cups to women who will not insert them or reusable pads to women who can not wash them…then your work is in vain.
Include all menstruators
Every time I hit instagram, I’m reminded of the strength and importance of the gender inclusivity panel. While I didn’t get a great shot, due to my post-pumping location, I wanted to include this one from IG for you from the Portland Menstrual society. The panel covered the importance of including all menstruators such as transgender persons in outreach, language and approach. Read more about transgender menstruation visit the portland menstrual society on Facebook for more information on their chapter.
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I hope the event has an even larger location next year, while I loved this penthouse and will fantasize about living there for the next several months or so, I hope for a larger and more accessible location next year. Plus, I hope the attendee list explodes and the conference increases in size. A convention center? Hotel? As PERIOD CON continues to grow, so will the message and mantra. This was a power-packed event with an amazing and inspiring message. Menstruation is normal. Every menstruator should have access to safe, free or inexpensive period products and the stigma needs to go. We menstruate, it’s normal and it’s time to make it accessible and easy to manage. No one should be shamed, miss school or work or live in fear and consequence from this normal cleansing and renewing process.
While my Mom and I didn’t make it to the end, after our initial cab ride we thought it would be both safer and a bit of an adventure to hike to the bus terminal and meet our 5:00 departure time. On our way, we accidentally stumbled across the Rockefeller Tree, ate the most amazing macaroons and had the best time we’ve had in years! Next year, my kids will be older, able to sleep without me home, and I’ll stay overnight…maybe make the weekend of it! Planning for next year, I hope to have the opportunity to host my own booth and maybe even bring a brand or two along I know would be an amazing addition to the event!
We made it home, my boys were excited to see me and I couldn’t wait to get started on this post for you! I’m happy to answer any questions you have. You can comment below or e-mail me at TheGreenVagina@outlook.com