Bloody Bat Mitzvah

What I wanted was a little different than simply the classic (or basic, depending on how you want to frame it) b’nei mitzvah centerpieces. Mine had to be reusable: items we could donate after the event, something others would benefit from in a meaningful way. They had to be something that was also significant to me, with a purpose that was more than just random items on a table, pretty as they might be.We talked about various options: donatable canned goods, or school supplies, or maybe (another issue close to my heart) used books. But I wanted something deeply connected to the event itself.

That’s how my guests came to sit down at tables and be greeted with buckets of menstrual pads. Well, not just buckets, there was some tissue paper wrapping the pads themselves, and ribbons tying everything up nicely, and of course some glitter involved. But (hopefully) none of that distracted from the pads and the point of them: to draw attention to period poverty and period stigma, and to combat it.

In the end, it was all very on-theme (purple: purple was the whole theme) and accomplished my goal of fighting the stigma around periods and talking about them with the card taped to each bucket, a description taken from the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank’s website, reading:

“Like diapers, period supplies are an unmet basic need. Too many women and girls living in poverty are unable to access the basic products required to manage their menstrual health. One in four women have struggled to purchase period supplies in the past year due to lack of income. We believe every woman and girl deserves to participate fully in their daily lives. No one should have to miss work or school because it’s ‘that time of the month’. We believe that all women and girls deserve to be comfortable, clean and healthy.”

We added: “The items in this centerpiece will be donated to the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank to combat period poverty.”

I hope my centerpieces helped some people, but the fight isn’t over yet.

Luckily, we won’t forget about it due to our monthly reminder. Without access to supplies (or even with) the blood can sometimes make us feel small and weak and insignificant. So talk to someone about it. Periods aren’t shameful. That needs to be repeated over and over until everyone gets the point. I repeat that for the girls who came before me and the girls who will come after me, but most of all for myself. I am strong and powerful and not insignificant. Which is why it was so fitting to step into being a Jewish adult while I stepped into the version of me ready to talk about these issues. And to make my bat mitzvah most reflective of my commitments, I needed the people around me to talk about it too. I was thrilled to bring menstruation to my bat mitzvah, because the only shame is those who don’t have the supplies they need. Period.

From the Lilith Blog, June 2022. Read the full article here.