27 August 2015

Interview with Chella Quint & Adventures in Menstruating

This is a very special interview with someone *Top Funder Alert* who donated a massive £100 of periody goodness to help fund the printing of this zine. Now, what sort of person spends a hundred quid on a zine about periods? Turns out a badass Menstruation–expert–turned–comedy–activist does. Chella Quint is no stranger to period zines having published Adventures in Menstruating for around a decade and being the mastermind behind #periodpositive we got in touch for this exclusive interview. www.periodpostive.com

Favorite period product? I don’t have a favourite, I can’t really, I test new ones all the time and rate them for #periodpositive qualities for their advertising, packaging, and effectiveness, so I don’t want to be biased! If you are privileged enough to be able to choose between reusables and disposables, it’s great to know about both kinds so you can mix it up in a way that suits you and your menstrual needs! If you want to teach about or recommend products to others, I made up a little dance called the Menstrual Product Mambo to remind people that menstrual products aren’t just ‘pads and tampons’ but come in four types – internal, external, reusable and disposable.

Favourite Sesame Street character? Ernie. Definitely Ernie. I often cast others as the Bert to my Ernie. When I meet another Ernie, watch out. Although strictly speaking, I have a number of Bert’s traits - particularly regarding opening gift-wrap neatly and liking things to be tidy. I love Sesame Street. I talk about Sesame Street and periods for TEDx: bit.ly/periodpositive They use spoof advertising to educate too!

Do you have any good period anecdotes? Too many to choose! I collect them for my zine.  I will have to give you a set of Adventures in Menstruating zines - my favourite is issue 5, but some of my own anecdotes are in Chart Your Cycle and AiM issue 1. By the time I’d done issue 5, lots more people knew about the zine and there was less room for my own stuff, which was pretty awesome. There’s only one sad story – it’s kind of my origin story – it’s on this podcast: https://soundcloud.com/standuptragedy/edinburgh-2015-the-second-show

You're doing some pretty game-changing stuff with #periodpositive, tell us a bit more about how that got started and how it’s going? I said ‘period positive’ in a press release in 2006 when I was trying to get more stops on a zine reading and workshop tour. I was describing the workshops and said it was “queer positive, body positive, sex positive and … period positive!” And I’ve been saying it ever since. I also use the terms menstruators and non-menstruators because gender isn’t a binary – in the show I say ‘some men menstruate and some women don’t’. I’ve been using #periodpositive  on Twitter, in shows and in the zines to mean frank and open talk about periods whatever your feelings about them.  It was a natural choice for the name of my campaign and dissertation.

I even have a manifesto! Check it out at www.periodpostive.com .   

Adventures in Menstruating is your zine, which you started in 2005, how did you launch it? There have now been 10 issues: Chart Your Cycle, the Poetry/Comic split special, and AiM 1-7. I launched the zine with a reading tour in the US - my wife Sarah Thomasin (who is a performance poet) and I did poetry and readings from the zines and invited local performers to attend each show and perform themselves. They loved it so much they came to a couple more stops of the tour with us! They were great events and I’m still really close with the other people who hosted and performed with us! There’s a diary section in each zine that talks about the road show. I’m planning to do an anthology for the 10th anniversary this year and I’d love to hear from anyone who read the first printing of Chart Your Cycle in 2005 because their charts are now full!

What was it like working on it? How was the process? I always keep the same format to keep printing costs down - 24 pages, black and white, colour covers that spoof other print media like comics or pulp novels or glossy magazines, but always with the extra addition of periods somewhere on the cover! I think you had a great idea doing a fundraiser to spring for colour throughout – now you can get some more red in there on each page!!! There are sections like the diary, a comic, vintage and modern ad analysis, poems, leakage horror stories, product testing, and comic essays and fiction. The only criteria are 750 words, funny and #periodpositive! I’ve never turned away a contribution. I tend to do one every year or two but there have been some gaps - 10 zines in 10 years is pretty good though – something to be proud of, I think.

Your zine wasn't just a zine, it was so much more: you took it one step further with making it a performance, how well did that translate/what was the response?  People love its multimedia aspects, and I enjoy doing each type of media, so it’s pretty fun all round! It’s also been a lecture series, an art exhibition, a punk song, a short film, a workshop, lesson plans,and a Maker Faire stall! Audiences have responded really well to the topic in all formats, and I think all I’ve got left is podcast and video game and I’ve covered all the media! There is just so much need for menstruation in popular culture that is produced positively by artists and writers - not by corporations. Their goal is selling, my goal is entertainment and awareness raising. Activism over capitalism every time.

As for this version of the show, people love it! They even love it when I flyer them! I’m the first person to take a menstrual comedy show to Edinburgh Fringe and it’s a real privilege - the show has just started its run and audiences are already really enthusiastic - I hope it continues to be so well received.

Anything else you'd like to add? I just wanted to say that as this is the 10th anniversary of my intersectional menstruation zine, it’s incredibly cool and apt to welcome you and your zine to the period zine gang, I’m so glad you’re doing this in the UK and I have a period zine pal here (who’s also a designer! Word!). Here’s to ten years of your publication too! We are part of a much bigger worldwide tradition of independent menstrual media makers. It’s why I really wanted to support BloodyHell and #periodzine

There's only two more show's to go at Fringe, so catch them while you can.  There's even a flash blob tomorrow, so don't miss out: www.chartyourcycle.co.uk

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