Last spring, Portland State University graduate Elizabeth Tiffany Prescott was thinking a lot about periods. “I was having some menstrual issues of my own,” she explains, “and I was looking to volunteer with an organization that was addressing product insecurity, maybe in a developing nation, and I wasn’t really finding was I was looking for—but I did find that May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day.”
After realizing that Portland didn’t have any menstrual-centric events planned for that date, Prescott and her sister decided to plan her own. Now in its second year, PDX Red Party includes raffle prizes, dancing, carnival games, and an array of community vendors. “Unlike other tabling events where you walk around and grab a couple of business cards or pens, or sign up on some mailing sheet, we’ve really asked our vendors to think a little bit outside the box and provide interactive activities,” Prescott says.
This year’s vendors include menstrual cup start-up VoxaPod and cloth pad company GladRags, as well as national activist groups like Period and organizations from Lincoln High School (Project Dot), University of Oregon (Rosie Center), Portland State University (Portland Menstrual Society, the event’s co-sponsors). Activities range from games like “pin the pad in the panty” to a cakewalk featuring menstruation-themed prizes.
Inspired by the success of the inaugural PDX Red Party, Prescott founded Periodic, Inc., an organization focused on addressing menstruation-related social inequities through advocacy, policy, and education. “I felt really compelled to contribute in a way that wasn’t already being focused on,” she says. “There are other organizations here in Portland that are working on providing supplies to folks, there are retailers making pads and tampons and reusable products, but there weren’t a lot of folks who were focused on that advocacy piece.”
To that end, Prescott hopes to see a federal ban on tampon taxes, as well as the passage of menstrual equity bills. There’s work to be done on a local level, as well—as it stands, Portland State University leaves its menstrual product dispensers empty, leaving student-led organizations like the Portland Menstrual Society to distribute products around campus to students in neeed.
PDX Red Party is open to attendees of all ages and genders, and Portlanders who don’t menstruate are encouraged to stop by. “I think that when we frame menstruation as a women’s issue, it’s a lot easier for the burden and the responsibility of solving things like product scarcity or education gaps squarely on the shoulders of women alone,” Prescott says. “One of the focuses of us as an organization is, how can we make the menstrual movement more inclusive? How do we talk about menstruation in a way that engages everybody, regardless of whether or not they have a period themselves?”
Vendor fair 4–6 p.m., dance party until 10 p.m., Friday, May 12, PSU's Smith Memorial Student Union, FREE