Project TMI: The Feminist Humor Defense Against the Assault on Our Bodies

VIDEO: Reproductive Health Advocate Ramey Noël Connelly on Reproductive Rights

Richmond Reproductive Health advocate Ramey Noël Connelly speaks eloquently on what is at stake here. She knows the people left out of the consideration in this legislation and their personal stories: the poor, the minorities, the people with no health insurance. A very compelling testimonial at the Rally for Reproductive Rights in Richmond – Feb. 20 ,2012

It’s a strange sensation to start something as a joke, expecting that only your friends on Facebook will see it, and then all of a sudden to see it all over the internet. That’s what happened with my decision to report on my menstrual cycle to all of the Virginia legislators (not just the Republicans, contrary to popular news sources) who voted “yes” on HB462, the “mandatory ultrasound” bill.

The idea itself started as a passing snarky comment, at a meeting of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project- the abortion fund with which I work. It was before the bill even passed- I think we were discussing all of the current legislation that was slated to legally subjugate women – HB1, HB462, etc. I made a comment about how we should keep legislators updated on our bodies, since they are “so concerned” about them. I may have also mentioned sending hand-painted valentines using menstrual blood. Just sayin’.

A few weeks later I was at home, sick in bed, and getting really bored. I was browsing Facebook, and found myself getting angrier and angrier as I read through a frenzy of posts about the newest competitors in the “which state can oppress people the fastest” Olympics. And all of a sudden, something kind of snapped. All of my rage, all of my disgust, my stir-crazedness, culminated into a sarcastic Facebook post. I started with Senator McDougle, the Republican Caucus Chairman, and then made my way down the list of Representatives who had voted in this absurdist, shaming legislation. I went to each one, and I wrote this message:

Hi Senator/Delegate _____________! I just wanted to let you know, since you’re concerned with women’s health, that my period started today! Color looks good, flow not too heavy. Cramps are pretty manageable but don’t worry – I’ll make sure to let you know if that changes! Thanks again for caring so much about women and our bodies!

I took a screenshot of my post on McDougle’s wall, and posted it on my page. My friend Stacey Burns, the Online Communications Coordinator at the National Network of Abortion Funds, asked if she could post it on Twitter, and from there it made its way to the RHRealityCheck tumblr page, and it went on, and on, and on… all of a sudden, in what a friend dubbed “Project TMI”, women all over Virginia were doing the same!

A few folks were critical, calling me “catty,” “bitchy,” and “overly emotional” (is it coincidence that these are all insults frequently used to delegitimize women’s opinions? Probably not); others said that I was “playing into” the idea that menstruation is “icky.” With that I greatly disagree. I’m not ashamed of my body, or the way in which it functions. I think that menstruation is an amazing thing, and I believe that others who posted openly and honestly about their bodies did so without hesitation, without shame. I believe that this was intrinsic to why Project TMI is such a hit – it is a way to fight back against legislators who were attempting to shame us, who were attempting to tell us not to worry our pretty little heads, because they were there to take care of things for us.

So, despite some critiques, most were hugely supportive. It spread like wildfire. Last I heard, there are efforts to do the same in Arizona and Texas and now in Kansas as well. And I think that it SHOULD continue. In this time of desperation, where it has become blindingly apparent that our government doesn’t give a damn about female-bodied people, as well as other historically-marginalized peoples, I think that a touch of humor was sorely needed. People are hanging onto it as a shred of humanity, as a way to call out to our legislators, to demand accountability. These legislators have no problem playing doctor in the GA – so why not have some follow through, and play doctor to your constituents? Because that’s who these people are that are posting these items. We are not mere “protestors”. We can’t be dismissed as “humorless feminists” (because, let’s face it, this is utterly hilarious).

We are constituents. We are the people who are being represented by these legislators. Legislators like Dave Albo, for instance, who voted “yes” on HB462. In a disgusting display of public misogyny disguised as a (pathetic) attempt at humor, Delegate Albo felt it necessary to stand on the House floor and tell an utterly inappropriate story about how his wife wouldn’t have sex with him because of it – but he couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “vagina!” Instead, he used the sanitized “trans-v this, trans-v that.” Because apparently, when it comes to vaginas, it is always necessary to retreat to adolescent baby-talk. Legislators need to know that if they can’t bring themselves to say the word “vagina,” they probably shouldn’t be legislating them.

This is a way to show our legislators that misogyny isn’t funny. But rather, that anything they can do? Feminists can do it better.

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  • adolmd

    Thank you for your brilliant action!  i hope women in all states will follow your lead.

    The government should FOCUS on the economy, and get the US out of my Uterus. and TRUST WOMEN with personal health decisions.


    Everyone, please do check out the Silver Ribbon Campaign to TRUST WOMEN with repro rights and wear a Silver Ribbon and talk about all the crazy that is going on.

    Twitter: @oursilverribbon

    and then perhaps DONATE to support some pro-choice MDs for US Congress? donation of any amount helps! Dr. LaFerla and in Maryland, and Dr. Gill in Illinois. Dr. LaFerla is running against an MD who doesn’t believe in abortion even in the case of rape/incest!

  • veggietart

    As I live in DC, I have no voting rights, but I’m not shy about going onto the FB walls of anti-choice politicians in other states and posting my opinion.  For the idiot who thinks women should have to get the father’s (i.e., responsible party) approval before she has an abortion, I suggested that men should have to get their intimate partners’ approval before getting Viagra.

    Sometimes a touch of snark is necessary in the face of utter stupidity.

  • truth-in-packaging

    To up the impingement to closer to that which women face perhaps men should be required to get their partner’s approval before getting a vasectomy of any sort, or maybe before they choose to use a condom or buy a condom.  Viagra is just for an erection.  Vasectomy has to do with their choice regarding having children.  There is such a greater meaning for a woman because of the physical aspects of actually dealing with the pregnancy and labor and all.  Men do not really have any thing to face that way, except the prospect of dealing with raising a child.  Which many have shown they are quite capable of walking out on.  Women do have what it takes to make the important choice of whether they can or cannot handle all aspects of what it means to have a baby.  Only we face it, and we have to be able to make our own decisions.  Just like women have 5 to 7 centers in the brain for language and men only have up to two, women are the nurturers and teachers of the next generation and we are built differently for this.  It is our choice.  We are different for a reason.  If we were like men there would be no human race.  Men need to support our capabilities and knowledge.  Without us they would not exist and it is a desecration of the human spirit, the spirit of trust and unity which we must nurture between us, for any man or group of men to try to put laws upon our choices with our bodies.  They would never allow us to do this to them.  I see this and it makes me think they just think we are a joke, and belong to them for them to handle as they see fit.  But they do not have enough capacity to do what we do.  They cannot think well enough in this regard.  There must be balance.  So women get your game on.  Our men are getting ridiculous over there.