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Sit down here. Right now, tell me what you know about Menstruation. 

Arms by my sides, I felt too uncomfortable to sit down…

Earlier that week, I’d been invited to visually record a workshop in Brussels for Zero Waste Europe. They were gathering together a whole bunch of women from various organisations to re-think plastic usage in menstrual products. And so I began a journey to lands hitherto unknown. A land far outside my comfort zone.

I say unknown, and if you’re a menstruator, you may already be rolling your eyes at me. Quite right! - how can it be that a large proportion of the planet’s population are affected by a monthly cycle (in different ways, depending on wealth, culture, bodies…) and yet until recently, I’ve never had a single open conversation about it with a woman. To make matters worse, I have no idea what other men know, because we don’t talk about it either.

And so to help me, my wife of nearly 20 years very gently asked me to explain to her how menstruation works. An impromptu test. I thought about the strategies my children deploy: cause a distraction; change the subject; slowly back out of the room... But what was I avoiding anyway? I decided that this was good for me. After filling in the missing details I had fumbled my way through, we agreed my knowledge of the general facts of menstruation bordered on a C+. Could do better. The thing is, my 20-year-old self wouldn’t even have gotten an F.

A few weeks later, I was in the design thinking workshop as the only man amongst 15 very gracious women of different ages and nationalities. I’d practised drawing some mooncups, tampons and other items on the train from London - and got a few strange looks from those who had glanced over my shoulder at what I was drawing.

I now know that plastic (and chemical) usage in period products is a complex issue. The profit-driven manufacturers, the ignorant taxes, the taboos, the poverty, and the shame surrounding it all. Dialogue doesn’t let you down; it was a privilege to listen and create as the participants shared their experience and their insight.

But it’s the shame that surrounds this that disturbs me most. The need for codewords - riding the crimson wave, the English are invading! - the products that reinforce the shame - no-one ever needs to know! I’m trying to understand the source of it: my culture, my religion, my gender, me...

If, as a man, I think I can’t talk about this, I’ll blindly continue in my ignorance and prejudice, because I can’t see inside my own head. But it works the other way too - no dialogue means that we hold on to our shame, without seeing it for what it really is - oppression.

¡Vulva la Revolución! (a direct quote from the workshop...)


Demonising the binaries

#mozfest, @epilepticrabbit

Demonising the binaries - Greenpeace - Mozfest18

When I was growing up, eggs were good for you. Then they weren’t. Then they were good again. Then just the egg white was good. Binaries are so often unhelpful – especially when they are just a shortcut for not having to use your own brain.

This is also the case in environmental activism, as we discussed in a Mozfest session lead by Laura Hilliger and her colleagues from Greenpeace

The post Demonising the binaries appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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Privacy in Sub-Saharan Africa

#privacy, @JulieOwono

The state of privacy in sub-saharan africa - mozfest18

Business behaviour around use and exploitation of people’s data, is dictated by the local privacy law (or lack thereof). Julie Owono was speaking at Mozfest on research into sub-saharan subsidiaries of European telecoms companies. It’s no surprise really – capitalism is about capital, so everything is a possible resource waiting to be exploited.

The post Privacy in Sub-Saharan Africa appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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Data in Oppressive Regimes

#innovation, #mozfest

Data in Oppressive Regimes - Mozfest18

At Mozfest, I participated in a discussion on the use (monitoring / controlling / blocking) of data in oppressive regimes. Hearing the issues first hand from those who live there was horrifying. I realised how much I was completely unaware of. One clear call was the need for financially supporting homegrown communication platforms, as opposed to projects by white guys from Stanford…

The post Data in Oppressive Regimes appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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Equity Unbound

#mozfest, @bali_maha, @catherinecronin, @MiaZamoraPhD

Equity Unbound - Mozfest 18

It was great to be back at Mozfest this weekend. And whaddayaknow, I got the chance to catch the #unboundeq (equity unbound) team explain what their project is all about. I’d seen the hashtag floating around on Twitter – but when engaging with a think, it’s dialogue that gets me going – and listening.

So I drew what I heard…

The post Equity Unbound appeared first on Visual Thinkery.

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