Fierce

Middle School Girls Formed ‘The Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society’ After Principal Refused Request To Provide Free Tampons

In recent years, there has been a movement among women’s rights activists to educate the public about the harmful cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. This movement, that pushes for “period equity”, aims to make it possible for all women of all ages to manage their period hygiene in a humane and dignified way. Although this mission seems simple, it is actually a deep-rooted and complicated one. 

There is almost a universal culture of shame that surrounds women and menstruation. So much so that according to UNESCO worldwide, lack of access to period products is one of the reasons that many school-aged girls in developing countries miss classes. One study by UNICEF showed that 35% of girls from Niger sometimes miss classes due to the shame surrounding their periods. Other cultures across the world isolate girls from their homes and families when they’re on their periods. In conclusion, the stigma surrounding menstruation combined with structural obstacles preventing school-aged girls from easily accessing hygiene products interfere with their education. And it’s a problem.

Recently, three middle school girls went viral with their creative response to their principal’s refusal to offer free period products in the girls’ bathroom.

According to a Tweet by reproductive rights activist and President of Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue, students at a middle school in the U.S. “organized for free tampons in the bathroom” because their school didn’t offer any. Apparently unmoved by the students’ display of activism, the male principal the students’ request. In his response, he stated that students would “abuse the privilege” of free period products in the bathrooms. Rightfully, the students took issue with this reasoning. Three of the female students responded with an eye-catching bit of activism: none other than tampon-shaped cookies, complete with blood-like frosting and strings.  

The Tweet describing the girls’ reaction to their principal went viral, racking up over 9,000 retweets and almost 60,000 likes. Not only were people outraged that the principal refused to provide period products to young students, but they were also upset that he labeled access to menstrual hygiene products as a “privilege”. As the non-profit organization PERIOD so eloquently states on its website: “menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege”.

Since the Tweet went viral, the girls that made the cookies have founded an organization called The Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society, that aims to “bake a difference” through “one bizarre confection at a time”.

According to the newly-formed website, the three anonymous girls decided to form the society once they and their families were encouraged by “the groundswell of support” from the public. The website also provided an update to the situation at their middle school. According to the statement, the “principal and the school board are now working to make sure every girl in [the] town will have the products they need readily available so no girl misses a day of school”. The Society added that they “are very grateful that the school has taken our action seriously and is making a change”. 

Although it’s exciting that these young women were able to make a difference by their activism, the bottom line is, many young women are still negatively impacted by the stigma surrounding menstruation. “Period poverty” is real and it is globally pervasive–America is no exception. According to a recent study commissioned by PERIOD and Thinx, one in five teens has struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all. Keep in mind, menstruation is a bodily function that most women experience almost universally–the fact that there are still so many obstacles surrounding period management if proof of society’s inherent disregard for women and women’s health.

As usual, the internet expressed its own opinion about a male authority figure asserting a harmful influence over girls’ bodies.

Twitter was pretty vocal about what many considered the principal’s ignorant comments about privilege and menstruation. 

This Twitter user was confused out how “abusing” tampons would work:

The fact is, due to their privilege, many men are ignorant to how expensive period products are and how they can be difficult to get your hands on–especially when you’re in a pinch. 

This Twitter user was frustrated with the principal’s lack of education on the topic of period poverty:

Once the principal’s argument was investigated further, it became obvious that it held no ground. 

This Twitter user exposed the double-standard and built-in misogyny of refusing to offer hygiene products to help handle a normal bodily function:

It’s brilliant arguments like these that expose the hypocrisy of structural sexism and how it works against women at all stages of their life.

Remembering Pedro Zamora, The HIV-Positive Man Who Changed Hearts And Minds While On ‘Real World: San Francisco’

Culture

Remembering Pedro Zamora, The HIV-Positive Man Who Changed Hearts And Minds While On ‘Real World: San Francisco’

juddwinick / Instagram

Back in 1992, MTV first aired “The Real World,” which went on to define reality TV forever. The shows premise and tagline — “This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house… and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real… ” — seemed like a fresh concept. At the time, viewers were simply taking in how people from different backgrounds got along. A lot of the time, they didn’t. In the middle of all that TV drama, something unusual was taking place: viewers were meeting individuals that presented extraordinary stories. In the show’s 27-year span, only one person stood out among them all and is remembered for literally changing the world. 

In 1994, MTV’s “Real World” San Francisco featured a 22-year-old Cuban named Pedro Zamora. 

Credit: @dc408dxtr / Twitter

For those not familiar with Zamora, his life story is a remarkable one of survival. He was just 8-years-old when he and some of his family members left Cuba on the Mariel Boatlift and settled in Miami. Sadly, his mother died of cancer a couple of years later when he was 13. Zamora still excelled in school. It was around this time that he realized he was gay. While he did come out to his family, they mostly feared that Zamora would get discriminated against because of his sexuality. 

At 17, Zamora found out he contracted HIV and decided to bring awareness to his disease. 

Credit: @theadvocatemag / Twitter

While attending Miami Dade College, Zamora became a fierce AIDS educator. One of the most impressive traits that he possessed was that he could engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. He was a great speaker. It was his charming characteristics and profound knowledge that made him perfect for TV. He ventured into several famous talk shows of that time to speak about what it was like to be a young gay man living with AIDS. 

With the encouragement of friends, Zamora felt he could reach more people with his message of empathy and education about HIV and AIDS by auditioning to be on MTV’s “Real World.” Naturally, he was one of nine to be cast on the show. 

As a cast member on the show, Zamora helped to educate his housemates about living with AIDS. Those moments on MTV also informed millions of viewers. Zamora loved for people to learn about his Cuban culture. 

Credit: @simplymiatx23 / Twitter

Today with the lack of Latino representation in the arts and entertainment industry, we now see how rare it was to have two Cuban Americans on MTV talking about their culture and family. Another castmember that has continued to be in the limelight was Zamora’s housemate Rachel Campos Duffy. She was a young conservative back then, and she still is today as the wife of former GOP representative Sean Duffy (he too was a former cast member of the “Real World” Seattle). While Rachel and Zamora clashed on various topics, including his homosexuality, their bond broke through her closemindedness. 

While Zamora died shortly after the last episode of the “Real World” aired, his legacy continues to be inspiring 25 years later.

Zamora’s housemate and one of his loudest advocates today, Judd Winick, who wrote the 2000 book “Pedro and Me” said this on social media: 

“I’d ask that on this incredible milestone that we try to remember how he lived, and how he literally changed the world, rather than focusing on our loss of him. By appearing on The Real World in ‘94, he showed everyone what it was really like to be living with AIDS, to be living out, to love, to be loved by friends, supported by family—to have a full life. And it seems crazy that this was a lesson that needed to be taught. But it did.” 

Rachel echoed that sentiment on the 25th anniversary of his death on Twitter: “@RealWorldMTV changed many lives -including mine. #PedroZamora died 25 yrs ago today, but his impact lives on. I miss Pedro & the days when MTV respected young people enough to make shows like the Real World, San Francisco.”

For those of us who watched Zamora on the “Real World,” we learned about showing empathy and compassion for those that suffered AIDS and HIV and continue to live with it today. Zamora also taught viewers to always show kindness, respect, and love for one another.

Credit: nycaidsmemorial / Instagram

Click here for more information on the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship

READ: A Single Mom On DACA Is One Of The Newest Cast Members On MTV’s New Season Of ‘The Real World

Selena Gomez Says That Social Media Users Had Attacked Her When She Gained Weight: ‘Really Messed Me Up’

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Says That Social Media Users Had Attacked Her When She Gained Weight: ‘Really Messed Me Up’

selenagomez / Instagram

Two years ago, actress and singer Selena Gomez opened up to fans about her experience with lupus and undergoing a kidney transplant. The summer before she took a public break from her music career. The singer had been traveling her for Revival world tour when she announced her decision to take a break to focus on her health. She cited anxiety, panic attacks and depression as side effects to her lupus diagnosis and expressed her need to take care of her health. Now, Gomez has revealed why she spent so much time out of the spotlight. She was undergoing a kidney transplant.

Since her surgery, Gomez has been open about her experience and its impact on her physical and mental health.

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The singer opened up even more about the process of recovery during a recent podcast, in which she revealed that she’d experienced body shaming her health led to weight gain. During an appearance on a recent episode of “Giving Back Generation,” a video podcast by Raquelle Stevens, Gomez said criticism impacted her “big time.”

During the interview, Gomez said that after being attacked by body shamers online she decided that she needed some time away from social media. This was primarily because they were having so much of an impact on her mental health.

“I experienced [body-shaming] with my weight fluctuation for the first time,” Selena told Stevens during the podcast. “I have lupus and deal with kidney issues and high blood pressure, so I deal with a lot of health issues, and for me that’s when I really started noticing more of the body-image stuff.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus. Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.” 

Speaking about how the autoimmune disease has affected her weight, Gomez said that it’s normal for her to fluctuate.

“It’s the medication I have to take for the rest of my life — it depends on even the month, to be honest. So for me, I really noticed when people started attacking me for that,” she explained. “In reality, that’s just my truth. I fluctuate. It depends what’s happening in my life.”

Gomez went onto further explain how the body shaming affected how she has chosen to interact with her fans moving forward.

“I’m very happy with living my life and being present. Because that’s it. Similar to me posting a photo and walking away. For me that’s it. I will do a red carpet, I will do whatever. I don’t need to see it. I participated. I felt wonderful and that’s where the extent of it is,” she said. “I don’t care to expose myself to everyone and hear what they have to say about it… I don’t care about that stuff but I did start gaining weight and I didn’t mind it. And that hurt…I’ve experienced people who try to control that kind of stuff before. This is my time and I want to do it the way I want to do it.”

It’s not the first time Gomez has opened up how criticism about her appearance has affected her mental health and how she chooses to include social media in her life. 

In 2018, Gomez explained that she was taking a step back from social media because she was being affected by disparaging and negative comments online.

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”

“Update: taking a social media break,” she wrote to fans in a post on Instagram at the time. “Again. As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given. Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember— negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings. Obvi.”