MISS BRIHAVIN': Speech team member demonstrates group's ability to start conversations with speech on menstruation
Bri Kirkham is a senior telecommunications and journalism news major and writes ‘Miss Brihavin'' for Ball State Daily. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of The Daily. Write to Bri at email@example.com.
Being a member on the speech team has most-often prompted the response, “You give speeches for fun?”
Sure, I guess. Whatever.
Bri explains speech competitions
Collegiate speech teams are competitive in public address speaking (speechy speeches), interpretive speaking (think theatre majors/dramatic monologues) and limited preparation speaking (exactly what it sounds like).
I know this activity is hard to understand for people outside of our community (some competitors call outsiders “muggles”), but we’re basically like a cult, a really academic-centered cult.
The Ball State Speech Team competed at both national tournaments this year: American Forensics Association and National Forensics Association.
Berkley Conner, one of the three seniors on our team, won After Dinner Speaking at both national tournaments. ADS is basically a humorous, persuasive speech and is one of the most entertaining events in the activity. She battled against about 140 competitors at each tournament to earn these titles.
Her topic? Menstruation and the messed up ways we view and treat it. Before you check out completely, hear her out.
“The fact that menstruation products are so expensive, inaccessible and packed with unsafe chemicals, points to a cultural apathy for women’s safety,” Conner said.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that hundreds of girls in developing countries are forced to drop out of school when they get their period because they can’t afford pads or tampons. This is not only extremely troubling, but because these young women never receive attention or help, this perpetuates the fact that women’s issues aren’t important.
As a feminist (and just a decent human being) I think women should always have access to feminine hygiene products. Of course we don’t talk about this because periods are considered taboo and to quote Conner’s speech, “Ew, girl blood.”
“People will [say], ‘I’m not sure if I want to listen to you talk about periods for 10 minutes,’” she said. “Consider the issue outside of the U.S. – women in developing nations more frequently contract infections and die because of poor menstrual care. I wanted to speak for those women too.”
And Conner isn’t alone in her journey for inclusive and accepting attitudes surrounding periods. Feminist scholars, writers and artists have been combating against this stigma increasingly more often.
“Guardian” columnist Jessica Valenti (and feminist badass) tweeted a question out to her followers while doing research for a piece she was writing: “Twitter friends: Anyone know a country where tampons are free or somehow subsidized?” The online backlash and abuse she received from “meninist” trolls was proof enough that there is cultural discomfort surrounding menstruation.
A German artist who calls herself "Elonë" has been posting sanitary pads on light poles all over her city. They have feminist messages printed on them, such as “imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods.”
Conner has been replicating this artwork across campus. If you’ve seen these pad posters around and it grossed you out, you’re part of the problem.
And most recently Rupi Kaur, a student in Toronto, had a photo removed by Instagram officials because it showed period bloodstains on her bed sheets and pants. The photo was part of a series for her visual rhetoric class. After her story gained public attention, Instagram reversed its decision saying it was removed by mistake.
I know people find this inappropriate or even gross, but this is only because we don’t talk about it as a society. These women, along with Conner, want period discourse to be considered not just normal, but necessary.
She claims in her speech that menstruation is a biological miracle. Women should never have to feel ashamed or embarrassed because their bodies are doing a completely healthy and natural function.
“When I realized that restrooms provide me with toilet paper and soap, and that I can get a condom for free anytime on this campus, I decided someone needed to talk about how messed up this is,” Conner said. “I’ve gotten comments like ‘Why should menstrual products be free when not everybody uses them?’ …To that I say, ‘Not everybody uses condoms.’”
Speech gives us an outlet to discuss and share issues and ideas that are important to us. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to hear such important topics, and it’s even better when these messages come from my own teammates.
While I share Conner’s passion for menstrual health, this is just one example of the many things our team has raised awareness to. Other topics my teammates have written and spoke on this year include: food insecurity among college students, the suffering of the creative class, 911 GPS tracking errors and student loan forgiveness fraud.
The greatest thing about competitive speaking is that, for about 10 minutes, a room full of people have to listen to what we’re saying. They don’t have to agree with us or even like us, but they always hear us out. And that’s what I asked you to do while reading this, so thanks. That’s so cool of you.
We have this joke among my teammates and coaches that we “like to be offended.” But, honestly, sometimes people just make it too easy. Chalk it up to our standards of political correctness or us just being liberal hippies, whatever. These are my people. So don’t be an asshole, keep an open mind and say some important words – if you feel so inclined to do so.