By Sasha Nasir
On a cold, gloomy day last fall, I found myself beaming with pride while sitting in a pile of bras and other feminine hygiene products on the front lawn of the UC Santa Barbara student resource building.
That day, "UndAWARE", my co-ed fraternity’s first personal hygiene product drive for homeless women had turned out to be extremely successful. Now, we are doing it again this Wednesday, May 30.
When I joined Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) co-ed pre-law fraternity, I had no idea that I would also go on to become the community service chair and, with the help of a committee, plan a philanthropic event like this one for our organization.
After some brainstorming and research, we came up with the name “UndAWARE.” Bras, panties, pads and tampons are basic human necessities, yet they are the items least donated to women’s shelters. Often, homeless women have to make a choice between paying for meals or buying a box of tampons each month. Furthermore, wearing the same undergarments for extended periods of time can lead to serious health problems.
Our event meant setting up a booth where students could come and donate new underwear and boxes of feminine hygiene products. These items would then be delivered to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission women’s shelter. To make the event interactive, we included a card-making station where students could write words of inspiration for the women residing at the shelter.
Even though I was really excited about this event, I was also extremely nervous. Not only does the success of an event like this require a lot of planning and a fair amount of publicity, the private and unusual nature of such an event could keep some students from openly participating.
I knew that there was no way for me to execute this event successfully unless I got help. When I discussed this with my peers, I noticed that even though the men in our fraternity were very supportive, they struggled to look me in the eyes when I said the words “pads” or “tampons.” Female hygiene products are used by a large majority of women, but we still shy away from talking about women’s health and hygiene products openly. This event was a chance to finally break taboos and erase stigma about pads and tampons, especially with men on campus. While we were planning the event, slowly but surely, the men in our fraternity started to feel more comfortable.
On the actual day of the event, everyone from Phi Alpha Delta who had offered to support us showed up and was ready to help. We set up our table and within minutes, we had people making the first batch of cards. Members of the various sororities on campus also showed up to donate. By the end of the event, we had collected 154 boxes of pads and tampons, 20 packs of brand new underwear, and 20 bras. We also collected upwards of $200 in cash.
Still, most of these donations and most of the cards that were made that day came from female students. Because of the nature of the event, many men on campus passed by us without stopping or dismissed us when we tried to grab their attention. By making this a bi-annual event, Phi Alpha Delta is working to erase this stigma and move towards a more tolerant, open and understanding society at UCSB.
Sasha Nasir is a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara, majoring in Feminist Studies. She is currently an editorial intern for the UCSB Humanities and Fine Arts Division.