My daughter’s friend, R, 14 years of age, was buying tampons for herself. She thought, ‘these sure are expensive.’ Then she wondered how homeless women afford feminine products. She researched a little and realized it was a big issue. A lot of homeless women use newspapers and other inefficient and unhygienic methods.
She called my daughter, Z, also 14. They met in a coffee shop, tossed around some ideas. They founded the Red Spot Project (facebook.com/theredspotproject) with a goal of raising $750 during the month of June. R had called a few women’s shelters in Toronto and one welcomed her initiative.
As my daughter was explaining the project to me, I thought of my father. Dad was born in 1919 in what was then British India. He died in 1989 in Canada. He outlived the Raj and the Commonwealth, and survived the early decades of a nascent country. When asked why he came to Canada, when he had family legacy and a respected name in Pakistan, he always said it was to give his kids better opportunities in life.
Would Dad understand the Red Spot Project? ‘Dear Dad, your granddaughter is collecting money to buy tampons and pads for homeless women!’
I’ve talked to a few women of my generation. Most of them relate that when they were 14 they wouldn’t dare admit their menstrual cycle to anyone. Some had their mothers buy the
products. One said even her mother didn’t want to talk about it—gave her a book to work it out for herself.
It was a shh-cycle; so much not talked about or admitted; so much unsaid. Shame attached to normal body functions. To hear some of my contemporaries tell it, it was a society held together with shame; a culture of condescending superiority.
Of course now everybody seems to talk about everything and you wish for those sotto voce days. It edges occasionally to political correctness; often languishes in over-indulgence. But as annoying as it is, I suppose, it is better than the cultural silent treatment. The quiet and hopeless anxiety, the shame filled days for feeling weird and different.
Would Dad understand his granddaugther’s project? I don’t know. He was always amused by the differences between Canada and the world into which he was born. He enjoyed watching hockey, now and then, and called it the Narowahl Hockey League, naming it for the city where he was born. It was his way of claiming one myth in the name of another. A way of saying this thing here is very different from that thing there. Not better, not worse, just different.
I think he might have been amused by the Red Spot Project. Not embarrassed. By the end of his short life he was a lukewarm apologist for things Canadian. He recognized how different the world was and he was mostly okay with it.
I think, he would have been proud of his granddaughter for the person she is. And if along the way she happens to launch a project that deals with distasteful subjects to help the less fortunate, he would have been her greatest defendant.