Talking Period Empowerment With Social Justice Badass, Ashni Mehta

menstrual-expert

Mimi Millard is the Founder and CEO of De Lune, on a mission to support and improve the lives of menstruators everywhere.

Ashni Mehta is a Digital Marketing Strategist at the Brennan Center for Justice — a political legal nonprofit that works to reform, revitalize, and defend our country’s systems of democracy and justice. Ashni uses her voice and skills to promote social justice and intersectional feminism via her blog, social media presence and contributions to the Huffington Post and Brown Girl Magazine. In her free time, you can catch her eating, laughing, and dancing her way through NYC and the world.


MM: I'd love to start by introducing your work to our community given you've been such a strong advocate for feminism and social justice. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

AM: Of course. I'm currently the Digital Strategist at the Brennan Center for Justice, where I manage our social media channels and email campaigns. But that's just my full-time job! I also write for the Huffington Post and Brown Girl Magazine as an advocate for intersectional feminism and social justice. I use my blog, With Love Ashni, to share some of my food, fashion, travel, lifestyle and career tips. And, of course, I perform with Ajna Dance Company, New York's premier Indian dance ensemble.

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MM: That's quite the resume! We were moved by your January article in Brown Girl Magazine, The Bloody Truth About Periods, in which you called out the social stigma and legislative inequity surrounding menstruation. What inspired you to write this piece and what response were you hoping it would generate?

AM: I was actually inspired by my colleague's book, Periods Gone Public. Through her writing, Jennifer Weiss-Wolf—author, lawyer, and 'Tampon Tax Slayer' (just one of her amazing super hero names)—forced me rethink the way I approached the topic of menstruation. The lack of access to menstrual health care across the world is astounding. And the worst part? No one is even talking about it, because society has taught us to keep our periods a secret.

After finishing her book, I knew I had to do something. So, I wrote The Bloody Truth About Periods to help end the cycle of shame and silence around menstruation. I hoped it would compel others to share their experience with menstrual health and be the first step towards normalizing periods, especially in the South Asian community.

MM: We really appreciate everything you're doing for our community and menstruators everywhere. What has the 'period positive movement' meant to you? How does it overlap with your values of feminism and social advocacy?

AM: The period positive movement aims to break down the financial, health, and emotional barriers created by the stigma surrounding periods. Approximately 50% of the world's population menstruates at some point in their lifetime. And yet very little is being done to ensure access to adequate menstrual hygiene products.

Womxn are being taxed for buying tampons, as if menstruating is a luxury. Because of this lack of access to proper healthcare, the United Nations has not only declared menstrual hygiene a gender-equality issue, but also a public-health issue.

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MM: We love your stance that periods should not be viewed as a dirty little secret. In what ways do you honor and nurture your own menstrual cycle?

AM: Having your period is nothing to be ashamed of—it's a natural part of life. And it's extremely important to honor your body during your cycle. For me, that's a two-step process: I listen to my body and accept the way I feel, and I take the time to indulge in some much-needed self-care.

This can mean different things at different stages in your cycle. On some days, I feel short-tempered and fatigued. On those days, I remember not to be too hard on myself for acting moody or not being my usual bubbly self. Sometimes it's a struggle even getting out of bed, so I spend as much time as possible sleeping. Everyone's body is different, but the most important thing is to do what works best for you.

MM: Can you talk a bit about your journey to this point and how you came to work with the Brennan Center for Justice? What have you learned managing the digital marketing side of a political think tank?

AM: My work, especially in our current political climate, has been quite the adventure. Prior to working at the Brennan Center, I had very little understanding of the nuances that surround core political issues such as voting rights, gun control, and criminal justice reform—even as a college graduate. What I learned very quickly is that the communities and demographics that are impacted most heavily by political and social issues are the ones that are most often left out of the narrative.

My biggest challenge and greatest takeaway continues to be finding creative ways to break down those complexities and make these topics accessible for everyone. Informed citizens are our democracy's best defense, and I want everyone to be a part of the conversation.

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MM: What incredible things are happening now in the world of social advocacy that more people should be aware of? What are the biggest challenges?

AM: There are always so many incredible things happening in the world of social advocacy. Last year was deemed the 'Year of the Period' and 2018 saw the start of the #MeToo movement. No matter what you're passionate about, there is room for you to get involved. Find organizations that align with your values, and if you can't find one, create one.

The truth is, there is so much work to be done. While that is a constant source of motivation for me to be more involved, it's also what I see as the biggest challenge in the social justice space. It's very easy to get overwhelmed and drained by the vastness of the work that we have left to do. But if we can do it all together, it truly is possible.

MM: We're really looking forward to supporting your incredible journey. How can De Lune's readers get involved with your inspiring projects?

AM: Reach out to me! You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and if there's a particular project you want to get involved with, don't hesitate to shoot me a message. There’s so much you can do, and a great first step is starting conversations. Encourage your friends and social networks to have difficult conversations and challenge social norms.

But it’s important to remember that social media and conversations are not a replacement for real action. Find organizations that have the same values as you, and ask them how you can help. Get political. The truth is, everything we do is impacted by our government—so why are people constantly trying to avoid participating in our government?

If you are passionate about voting rights, pledge to help the Brennan Center #ProtectTheVote this fall. And of course, check out Brown Girl Magazine for regular updates on how you can become a more intentional intersectional feminist.