You may have seen this picture before. Elona Kastrati's guerrilla campaign, #padsagainstsexism, was a viral hit on the internet this year. We were intrigued that a German teenager from Karlsruhe fueled a worldwide outcry for gender equality (on pads!), so we reached out to find out more and share her story.
When did you initially get inspired to speak out on feminist issues? Why did you choose to put your messages on pads?
I once saw a destroyed pad that was sticking on a window in Kreuzberg in Berlin, and I had an intense response. I was wondering why. Instead of not bothering, I was captivated and I asked myself: "why do you feel provoked by a maxi pad?" And that was what motivated me. I realized I should be doing more, so I thought about this for a month, especially about how negatively menstruation is viewed in society.
The message: "Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods" got the largest reaction. How can we change the way we talk about and deal with rape?
I believe the most important thing is to make sure victims of rape never feel blamed.
How have people reacted to the pads around Karlsruhe? Was there any negative reaction?
One of the most extreme response was someone telling me: "I will rape you to death." Or the other day, someone asked me: "Would it be sexist if I felt strange about 'you' talking about your periods? Why can't you just let it be?" There were a lot of different responses. Some asked me not to be so hysterical, others said I should stop whining. The most extreme were death threats.
What was the most positive feedback?
The most positive was that people glued pads with their own messages on different places in the world. That was amazing because everybody could speak about their own experiences. I don't know what it feels like for women in India or Mexico, for instance. I can only talk about my experiences in Germany and Kosovo, because these are the cultures I was raised in. Some friends saw pads all around Dresden, Hamburg, Heidelberg and Freiburg.
Why is the period such a taboo?
The vagina is an object of lust. The thought that blood might come out of it destroys pictures in peoples' heads, I think. I try to talk as bluntly as possible about this. There will always be someone who'll say: "Ew, stop saying that. Stop destroying my idea of the vagina."
What will you do next?
I'm not really sure yet. I recently bought a vegan menstrual cup and I'm ecstatic about it. Maybe I will do something with them. No pressure, though. I didn't stress myself with #padsagainstsexism either. Everything was pretty spontaneous and I want to keep it that way. Everything that happens under pressure is forced and it loses its artistic meaning.
Word. To see more from Elona, follow her on Instagram.