It’s easy to get overwhelmed with how much we still need to change in today’s society, especially when it comes to attitudes surrounding periods. I see so many clickbait articles about women being shamed for something that’s so natural. Sometimes I feel like there’s still so much period stigma to overcome and I need a reminder of everything good in the world. For every rage-inducing article, there’s a great viral story which features some creative activism of sorts. Whether it’s a stand, an amazing advert, or a new product, it usually restores my faith.
Melbourne water ballet ensemble, The Clams, are just another fantastic example of this. This group of 30 women started off as a feminist book club and is made up of accountants, musicians, business-owners, and even marketing professionals. The one thing they have in common? They’re tired of periods never being seen as fun.
And if you think about it, they’re right. Showing you can still live your life whilst bleeding is definitely a big passion of mine. These inspiring ladies are on a mission to owning the period and showing there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Because guess what? There isn’t. Menstruation is normal, healthy and some people (i.e. me) will embrace it. I love that The Clams want to make periods fun and what a creative way to do so too!
Crimson Tide: A Period Piece aims to ‘clam-ourise’ menstruation to raise money for women who can’t afford essential sanitary items. I caught up with founder Francis van Beek to find out more about The Clams, their debut show, period stigma and other things.
How did The Clams come together?
Many of the women in the group originate from a feminist book club that Jo started just over a year ago. We quickly discovered however, that we’re not too great at reading the same book at the same time. It became a bit of a long-standing joke that we turn our energies to water ballet instead (I had participated in a water ballet in Auckland about six years ago). When the topic kept cropping up it became apparent that there was actually a fair amount of genuine enthusiasm and so I decided (with a good dollop of blissful ignorance about the amount of work it’d be) to form a Melbourne team. Considering our origins as a feminist book club it only seemed fitting to do a show about periods. That, and the pun opportunities are fantastic!
What’s it like working with a huge group of women? I imagine it’s so fun
The culture of the team has been humbling. The team is made up of women with such diverse skill sets and everyone has been so willing to lend their expertise. We even have a woman on the team who has recently founded her own bamboo sanitary supply startup called Tsuno. She donates half her profits to women in need, both here in Australia and in Africa. It was Tsuno, that put us in touch with Share the Dignity, the charity our water ballet is supporting.
What can we expect from your debut show? I love the tampon floats!
Thanks, they’re crafted from pool noodles and socks! The show is a light-hearted, creative interpretation of the menstrual cycle performed by 30 rookie water ballerinas. Hardly anyone has a dance background, although there is one water polo player in the mix! And a few BeyDance alumni.
The Clams have been making a huge effort to make this a very female-centric event. We’ll be syncing up to medley of female-centric music (with only one exception, which will make sense on the night) to represent the various stages of the menstrual cycle.
What motivated you to put on this show, or was it just the tampon tax?
I would like to open up conversation and remove some of the stigma that comes with speaking about periods. Let’s do away with secret code names like ‘Aunt Flow’ and ‘that time of the month’. I don’t think men need to be ‘protected’ from hearing about periods and I think it holds women back when they can’t speak frankly about their experiences. It’s puzzling that sanitary supplies are taxed as a luxury good here in Australia. Perhaps if menstruation wasn’t such a secret, our politicians (predominantly male) would cotton on that these are items women have to buy every month. Not a luxury, but a necessity.
What does a really bad period look like for you?
Stomach cramps, mostly!
What is your period product weapon on choice?
Do you think we are making waves with period positivity?
The fact so many other women were enthusiastic about jumping on board with this project makes it pretty clear periods are no longer taboo in our (albeit inner northern Melbourne) circle. What we want to do now though is actually own the period, without even acknowledging there’s anything to be embarrassed about. Because there isn’t.
If you could sum up period positivity in a sentence, what would it be?
Being able to talk about our experiences without that sense of taboo.
I personally cannot wait to see what else The Clams have in store and wish them a bloody good first show!
All profits from Crimson Tide are going to Share the Dignity, which makes sure disadvantaged women around Australia have access to essential sanitary items. The Clams believe Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and other essentials are a right, not a privilege. Period. Melbourne-based social enterprise Tsuno is supporting the Clams in getting these very much NON-luxury items into other women’s pockets.
Saturday March 18
Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre
180 Victoria Rd, Northcote
5pm – 8pm (doors from 4.30)
Bring your bathers – because you better believe you can jump in too. All ages are welcome, although the show will get a little sweary.