Humanizing the Period! :: An Interview with Eva Woolridge & Jewel Addy
By Patricia Rogers
Woo! What it takes to be a woman. The strength we have dealing with the daily struggles of life. In addition to all of that, there are things to worry about like birth control and our period. As a young woman I have had my own experiences trying so hard to hide that I was on my period. For some reason there’s a shame about it that I am sure every young girl has to grow out of at first.
Humanize the period! That is what Eva Woolridge and Jewel Addy are saying. They are the dynamic duo that founded the Red Dot Campaign. I met the lovely, and I must say, talented photographer Eva at Hat City Kitchen three years ago. It has truly been a pleasure watching her growth and journey. I was also able to talk to her and Jewel a little more in depth about the Red Dot Campaign.
P.R.: How did you two meet?
Jewel Addy: Eva and I met sometime in middle school in South Orange, NJ, but didn’t develop a strong friendship until college. Now when we’re together, it’s like the universe knows and is purposely working in our favors.
What moment did you realize a campaign like this was needed and important?
Eva Woolridge: In January 2015 Jewel and I read an article about the growing number of women who are homeless in DC. These women are without menstrual health products and no one really seemed to be talking about it. We were shocked by the concerning health risks associated with not having hygienic menstrual resources and began brainstorming how we could help.
Talk about the journey of this cause.
J.A.: We first started #RedDot at the University of Maryland-College Park (UMD). Eva Woolridge and I were both in the final semesters of our senior year when we created the “#RedDotCampaign.” “Campaign” specifically referencing our UMD efforts. We decided we’d collect 10,000 tampons and pads for women in need in D.C. since the city had just experienced a 13 percent increase in homelessness. Reaching out to health, cultural and women’s on-campus organizations and departments, we invited groups to help collect for and promote the #RedDotCampaign. More than 15 organizations participated. Originally, we wanted to hold the collection for the month of March, but realized the time frame didn’t allow for proper activation of a community or for us to reach our goal. We held the collection until about June when we were moving out of our college apartments. In promoting the #RedDotCampaign, we hosted a bar night where the cover fee was waived if you donated tampons or pads. We also gave educational presentations to local organizations in efforts to humanize the period. Finally, we made the Broad City-themed video to spread collection awareness. In July 2015, we performed final counts and dropped off collections at three locations in the DMV including N Street Village in D.C. and Patty’s Place in Baltimore. We originally started the campaign solely for D.C. but after Freddie Gray’s death and the unrest in Baltimore, we wanted to give back to the community.
E.W.: In December 2015, Sage Youngblood joined the team with the idea of our upcoming art exhibition (more on the exhibition is below). She’s been a tremendous addition to the team and has truly increased our aesthetic online presence.
Who are some of your female role models?
E.W.: Tessa Thompson. Tessa Thompson is the perfect example of an intelligent, creative and fabulous actress who doesn’t settle for any role. She is respected for her role decisions and plays characters that are powerful, outspoken, and yet still vulnerable.
J.A.: Lena Dunham because she perfectly summed up our feelings as women in this magical quote: “It’s a special kind of privilege to be born into the body you wanted, to embrace the essence of your gender even as you recognize what you are up against. Even as you seek to redefine it.” Amy Poehler because she knows one of the keys to success is the ability to dance freely without embarrassment. Essentially, to be comfortable in your own skin. And naturally Abbi and Ilana. Our moms because they are the original examples of confidence in strength and pride in womanhood in our lives.
Speaking of Abbi & Ilana, talk about shooting the Red Dot Campaign promotional video.
J.A.: Abbi and Ilana from Broad City inspired the promo video. Two women who are so proud to be themselves; who are activists in their own right. Because we relate so much to the friendship and personalities of their characters, we wanted to pay homage to their creativity and women-empowering themes.
What specifically would you like men to learn and take away from the Red Dot Campaign?
J.A.: From #RedDot, we’d love for men, and everyone, to feel comfortable openly discussing the period. When most people learn about #RedDot, or other organizations doing similar work, their first thought is “I didn’t even notice my oversight or that I was failing to donate such products.” The only reason this oversight exist is because, historically, periods haven’t been welcome into public conversation. But periods affect half of our population and are only hushed because they don’t affect the privileged, dominant gendered half. The more we talk about them, the more we humanize them and people stop going without health-necessary resources.
What other issues regarding women are you ladies passionate about?
J.A.: Where do we begin? How about we talk about how the government feels the need to claim a woman’s reproductive system? Or how in 2016 we aren’t paid the same. Slut shaming; objectification. Should we continue? We think we will. Catcalling; injustice in rape and sexual assault; hypocritical exposure and suppression of a woman’s body (think Instagram and #FreetheNipple vs. perfectly exposed women’s bodies in entertainment and ads). Art is art.
What is next for the Red Dot Campaign?
J.A.: We are holding a one-night event called the Red Dot Exhibition. We are gathering 15+ artists to show their work inspired by the period. The exhibition will be August 20, 2016 in Manhattan. We expect a large turn out and tremendous art, so bring your friends!
What are some of your projects/initiatives/creative endeavors?
J.A.: Eva is a photographer and has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Business Insider and more. Sage is a graphic design artist and painter whose design is the official student t-shirt at her alma mater, New York University. Other than that, our main project is #RedDot. We all work full-time jobs for community-focused organizations. Eva at the Harlem School of the Arts in New York, Sage Youngblood at Sandow in New York, and me (Jewel) at Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, D.C.
About the Writer
Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more. She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services. Visit her blogwww.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).