It could be argued that no Women’s Institute meeting would be complete without eating jam and singing Jerusalem, and at November’s meeting that’s exactly what we did. So far, so WI. Then along came native New Yorker, Chella Quint, with her insightful take on the unsanitary messages found in sanitary product advertising to talk to us about her Adventures in Menstruating.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love jam and I LOVE (attempting) to sing Jerusalem, but it’s SHWI’s ability to embrace the traditional whilst also championing the new, the quirky and the challenging that keeps things interesting for me.
Chella opened by asking each of us to rate how comfortable we feel talking about periods. Despite the prevalent view that we delicate females dare not mention periods in polite company for fear of turning the milk sour, it was interesting to see that most of us were actually, well, OK with it.
She then spoke with wit and passion about how advertisers have used fear (‘Leakage? Noooooo!’) and shame (‘Sshhhh! Do NOT mention the P word!’) to sell sanitary products throughout the decades. Her energy was infectious. A few well placed one-liners made me snort with laughter. These helped sweeten the pill, but Chella’s talk acted as a reminder to me that women’s issues are ever present and that we, as members of the Women’s Institute, are uniquely placed to actually be able to do something about it. So, sartorially speaking, I’ve been all over the Leak Chic look this week and have worn my removable Stain with pride #periodpositive.
November’s Annual Meeting also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the last year. Highlights were a visit from SHWI’s favourite crafty lady Mary-Jane Baxter and our cheeky look at the History of Knickers with the aptly named Janet Stain. Our spinoff groups – Supper Club, Book Club, Walking Group and the newly launched Dining Club – have really taken off thanks to the hard work and commitment of our members who set them up and run them. We hit new heights in the media when we were featured on the One Show (you woz robbed ladies). But perhaps our biggest achievement has been raising a significant sum for our chosen charity, Haven, through our stall at the Sheffield Food Festival and proceeds from the Pampered Chef night. It was a proud moment indeed when Lindsay presented them with a cheque for £795.77 which we know will be put to good use in helping to support victims of domestic abuse.
So ends our penultimate meeting at St Matthew’s. Here’s looking forward to our December meeting and our new start at the Electric Works in 2013.
Photos by Laura Bainbridge