In 2012, Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, created the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) "with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world." And in the spring of 2017, BTWF launched Channel Kindness, a social media platform promoting feel-good stories from communities around the world, which has now spawned a book of the same name.
Channel Kindness — a new book from BTWF and Lady Gaga — contains 51 essays and articles by young writers highlighting good things that have happened to them in the recent past. Combined with notes from Lady Gaga herself, and set against brightly colored backdrops, these stories remind all of us that there's still good in the world.
“Within these pages, you’ll meet young changemakers who found their inner strength, prevailed in the face of bullies, started their own social movements, and decided to break through the mental health stigma,” the artist shared in a statement. “These storytellers share how they felt, created safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, and embraced kindness with every fiber of their being by helping others without the expectation of anything in return.”
Read one of the stories from Channel Kindness, Taylor M. Parker's essay on the luxury of period products, and check out Lady Gaga's comments, below. Because who couldn't use an extra dose of kindness these days?
Excerpt from Channel Kindness, exclusive to Bustle
The Kindness of Offering Access by Taylor M. Parker
By way of introduction, my name is Taylor M. Parker and, as of this writing, I’m a college student at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Everyday philanthropist is the best term to describe what I do and why I care.
There are many areas of the community in which I serve. One area in particular is a concern I’m most passionate about. Whenever I’m asked what it was that sparked my interest, I usually respond, “I don’t know if there was any one speciﬁc experience that made me realize people deserve humanity.”
That answer lies at the heart of why I am most passionate about my work as a menstrual hygiene access activist.
Let’s face it: Given the social stigma, conversation around the need for menstrual hygiene access is essentially nonexistent. To some, merely speaking about menstruation in a public setting is viewed as radical or even taboo; to others who may simply be unaware of the need in the ﬁrst place, the subject is still seen as TMI.
This is the climate in which my passion grows. After all, is it really Too Much Information to talk about the cost associated with menstrual hygiene products, or to ask, for example, Did you know that, for every person who menstruates, the cost is at the very least $7 a month? If you do the math and extend that to $84 a year for forty years (the average length a person will menstruate), then you’re talking about thousands of dollars — an expense far too many cannot afford.
If even that seems hard to imagine, almost all of us who menstruate, regardless of our age, can recall that feeling of panic we had, or a friend has had, when we, or they, forgot to bring a tampon “just in case” that day.
Now imagine living with that fear — always. That is the reality for people all around us — coworkers, classmates, friends, and family. More often than not, the people directly impacted by this inaccessibility will not bring up their plight in everyday conversation; they will struggle in silence.
Those who do bravely speak out on this issue are often overlooked and pushed aside, most of the time because of the unfortunate fact that people are generally uncomfortable with the topic.
There was a time, I admit, when I took access for granted. Early in 2015, however, during my junior year of high school, that changed when I was approached by a friend after class who asked, “Do you have ﬁve dollars you can spare for me to buy a box of tampons?”
As someone who had already gained a reputation for being an approachable, open-minded advocate for other students, I was quick to say, “Absolutely,” and I bought her a box — only for her to come to me again a month later with the same request.
This time my friend conﬁded in me, providing more context for her situation. Her father, her family’s only source of income, had been laid off, and her family couldn’t afford groceries, let alone tampons for her and the other women in her household.
As obvious as those points might seem, from the moment my eyes were opened to the urgency of the issue, I was also confronted with the challenge of getting past the social stigma surrounding menstruation. Without conversation, how else could others’ eyes be opened?
Flash forward to November 5, 2017, about two and a half years after my friend ﬁrst approached me with her predicament. It was on that night, as I stood outside of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, watching excited ticket holders arrive for a Lady Gaga concert that I witnessed the answer to my question.
In planning my ﬁrst large-scale menstrual product drive, I had been given the support of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, along with that of Peace First — a nonproﬁt dedicated to helping young people around the world become powerful and effective peacemakers. When next puzzling over how to get the word out about the drive, I’d been blown away to hear from executives at the venue and at mega-promoter Live Nation. They told me that, a week before the concert, they would share my mission on media channels and include a call to action for fans and ticket holders; they could get involved by bringing a donation to the concert.
And that’s how you create conversation — you get informed, become an advocate, engage partners, and, hopefully, inspire others. Clearly, there is power in numbers when it comes to tackling social stigmas. That said, I had no idea how our best-laid plans would turn out.
The response was unbelievable! I will never forget the thrill of watching thousands of excited fans stride up to our drop-off table with handfuls, armfuls, bags, and boxes of donations. What had begun as a small purchase of one box of tampons between friends grew into a massive collection that yielded upward of six thousand menstrual products — on that night alone.
Before the newly inspired activists hurried off, I had the chance to ask some of them, “What motivated you to donate to this drive?” The responses varied:
“I know how scary it is not to have these when I need them. I want to help someone.”
“I didn’t realize this was an issue, but I knew I had to do something about it when I found out.”
Most of the answers were similar... although one was pretty unique:
“I would do anything for Gaga, and if she tells me to give, I’ll give. She knows what she’s about. She knows kindness.”
In a position to help, each month I continued to buy menstrual products for her and her other family members — until her dad found another job and the family was able to get back on its feet. In the meantime, I became awakened to economic inequalities in so many communities, leading me to see just how pervasive the need was — and how inaccessible these very necessary products are.
Claire Coder, the founder of Aunt Flow — a for-proﬁt company that stocks business and school bathrooms with freely accessible 100% organic cotton tampons and pads — said it best when she stated, “Menstrual products are not a luxury. Yet, they are not covered by food stamps or WIC (Women, Infants and Children program), and are taxed in many states. No one should ever be forced to choose between food and tampons.”
In those moments of connecting to fans with big hearts from all backgrounds, there were more than a few lessons for me, including the truth that no matter how unfair or discouraging the world may seem at certain points, kindness is actually abundant at all times.
Over the next several days, I saw further proof of why it matters when celebrities use their massive platforms to raise awareness about issues that are being ignored. Thanks to the involvement of Born This Way and Peace First, we were able to collect and give away more than 6,700 menstrual hygiene products and 450 clothing items to be distributed to students in need, speciﬁcally low income, LGBTQ+, and women students on our campus. Our drive also directly beneﬁted more than a hundred IUPUI students, faculty, and staff. On the IUPUI campus, I’m keeping the momentum going, connecting to other campuses to ignite an advocacy campaign around the country.
Yes, it’s not easy to get the conversation going at first, but there are numerous ways you can take action to get involved. For starters, you might contact your local homeless and women’s shelters to learn about their donation process and how you can make menstrual hygiene access a reality for the people they serve.
If you don’t have the means to donate, spread the word to your friends and family and simply broach the subject.
If you are matter-of-fact, informed, and compassionate, your concern about lack of access can become contagious. Learn about the problem. Give to those in need. Share the passion with others. Support those also doing the work.
There’s always a way to help others gain access, whatever their obstacles and regardless of what resources you may or may not have, and there’s always an opportunity to channel kindness — through the smallest efforts that enrich your life as much as they do others’.
My prediction is that once you choose to become an everyday philanthropist, you will never look back.
“The term everyday philanthropist is everything, Taylor. How much better would our world be if people thought about how to meet others’ needs, every day? I didn’t know that the cost of menstruation is at least $7 per month — what a privilege it is to never have had to think about that cost; everyone deserves that peace of mind. We’re so appreciative of Taylor for recognizing a need in their community and organizing their peers around a cause that made such a signiﬁcant difference in the lives of hundreds of individuals. We encourage you to follow Taylor’s lead and start your own drive, and if you or someone you know is in need of menstrual products or would like to donate menstrual products, please visit PERIOD or call 211, a free, conﬁdential referral and information helpline.” — Lady Gaga
The Born This Way Foundation Reporters and Lady Gaga's Channel Kindness is out on Sep. 22 and is available for pre-order today.