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Claim your cycle: Q&A with Petra Mattheis

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Petra Mattheis is a Leipzig-based activist demanding a bold reclamation of menstruation. As the founder of "Become a Menstruator" (BAM), Petra is putting a new, positive face on menses that annihilates past euphemisms and stereotypes by creating a global community around menstruation.

BAM encourages everyone to participate. On their site, you can download open-source stamp templates and spread the word no matter where you live.

This is right up our alley at Clue, so we caught up with Petra to learn more about BAM and her latest exhibition: "Arts and Crafts Week at Panty Camp."

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What inspired BAM? Was there a specific event that triggered the idea?

When I first started to menstruate, I learned very quickly that this was something I should not talk about. I roughly estimated how long it would take my body to menstruate if it would be possible to combine all menstrual cycles in one session. About six years! And I asked myself repeatedly if I would do it, just to get it behind me. About two years ago I realized that I am still hiding and concealing my period. BAM! That was the beginning of "Become a Menstruator."

Advertising has a big influence on how menstruation is perceived. In Germany the taboo might not be as big as in other countries, but we still have this unspoken "agreement" to hide and conceal our menstruation. In this way, an everyday part of femininity is tabooed.

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Can anybody become a menstruator?

Yes! Anyone can participate. The project aims to form a positive outlook on the topic of menstruation and everyone is welcome to be a part of it. Regardless of age, gender or whether one has the ability to menstruate. It is important for me to include everyone. The BAM project is supported by very diverse group of people, including a lot of men! "Become a Menstruator" should be some kind of Starter Kit, that equips you with the necessary tools to spread your own message. In my view this message should not appear inhibited or coy, but bloody, bold and resolute.

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You mentioned being a Clue user yourself. How did you find the app and what are your experiences with Clue?

I stumbled across Clue during my research. I like the user interface a lot. In the old days I made a mark in my calendar because I wanted to know at which point in my cycle I was. Clue is not pinkish or squeaky, it takes menstruation seriously. It is easy to manage and I love to watch the PMS cloud looming and passing. Knowing when it hits you makes it so much easier.

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One of your templates reads: "Claim your cycle." What prevents women today from claiming their cycle?

"Claim your cycle" is a phrase I came across many times while I was researching on the web. For me it is the key to everything, so I placed it in the center of my manifesto. Around this time of the menstrual cycle, ovulation is likely to occur.

Reproduction has been the center of everybody's focus for so long that everything revolves around it. When you are young you are urged to take the pill to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or to soften problems with your period. At an older age, hysterectomies are still very common in Germany. The organ has served its purpose and can now be removed. But there are side effects that are not always considered.

I want everyone to be more aware. You should know what your options are and then decide which path to take. That's why you should know and claim your cycle. Don't let others make decisions for your own body.

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What will you do next? Are there any other social taboos you'd like to tackle?

The menstrual taboo is not yet overcome. It will take much more time and effort. I would love to show the project in different cultures. To see what kind of reactions it gets and to create new work out of these reactions. So I'm working on further translations of the BAM Manifesto. BAM is a living project. It is meant to grow with time and with the people that are involved.

For everyone who wants to support these endeavors, there is a limited edition of Fine Art Prints of BAM-Stamps available at e-artis.de.

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Stop hiding. Like BAM on Facebook.

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