How many of you men out there have been asked by your female significant other or even a female friend to run out and grab a box of tampons? How many of you ladies have ever felt embarrassed to ask a friend for a tampon in public?
For many males, of all ages, dealing with tampons can be a confusing and uncomfortable experience. Those feelings are often magnified for teenage girls, who can feel ashamed for having to ask a classmate or friend for one at school.
Film director Jessica Hester and her producers Angelica Hester and Caitlin Engel are looking to change all of that. Hester has tabbed the Ossining girls basketball team to star in, “Getting to the Point,” a working title for her short film on normalizing the discussion of menstruation.
“The focus is on teamwork and leadership,” said Jessica Hester, a 1996 Ossining alumna. “Really, what interests us is that the girls work together to help each other continuously thrive and push each other on the court, and being a girl has nothing to do with that.”
Hester is planning to submit the five-minute short film in the Bentonville Film Festival, which champions “women and diverse voices in media,” according to the event’s site. The festival will recognize winners at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. in May.
The inaugural short film category — named the, “10 Brands/10 Stories Competition” — includes co-sponsors ESPNW and Walmart. As part of the category rules, entries must incorporate a brand sponsor’s catch phrase, slogan, product, or essence, be family friendly in line with the image, must tie to the festival’s mission of championing women and diversity, and should portray the filmmaker’s interpretation of athleticism and perseverance.
Hester opted for U by Kotex as the brand sponsor.
“What’s challenging is that I don’t know if any of them are actors, so to put them in a scripted story and see what their acting chops are like is going to be a challenge for us,” she said.
It wasn’t much of a challenge.
Ossining junior Zaira Turner played “Jenny,” a basketball player who gets her period during the middle of a game, during the team’s first run-through Thursday afternoon. “It feels cool, because for basketball, I’m not the center of attention all the time,” she said, lightheartedly. “I feel like it’s good to get out that (menstruation) is a normal thing, because it’s life.”
Turner’s stepfather, Tyrone Carver Jr., is the head boys basketball coach at Mamaroneck. Carver said he has “no problem” buying tampons for the house, and attributed most of the discomfort in men to immaturity.
“I have Zaira. I can’t be a man that would feel a little weird about that, if not shy away from it at all,” said Carver, who also has an 8-year-old daughter. “Being a father and being an adult, it’s something that is a part of life,” he said. “It’s a part of everyday life, and a lot that young ladies and women have to deal with.”
“It’s something that should not be handled immaturely,” he added.
Engel, a Queens resident, said one of the main objectives of the project is to shine light on the topic in a “very natural, and realistic way,” unlike what is shown in most popular commercials. “It’s silly. They use blue liquid and women are walking down the street in a white dress — it’s just not realistic,” she said.
Ideas flew around the classroom as the players sat in a circle with Jessica Hester and Engel. Hoping to add a more realistic feel to the script, Pride captain Gabby Ferrao suggested that the character didn’t high-five her teammate after being handed a tampon.
“We never really look at each other as actors and actresses,” Ferrao said. “It was really nice to hear everybody’s ideas and how creative everyone was.”
Engel has a theory why the topic of menstruation came uncomfortable for, well, everyone.
“I don’t think people talk about it naturally and normally,” she said. “My own mother conditioned me a certain way, and you never really think to do anything other than what you’ve been told. I think now we’re living in a day and time when you can express yourself and maybe even kind of dissent from popular opinion.”
Engel said her and Jessica Hester remembered how the topic was discussed when they were younger.
“Both of us have been in relationships where we felt like it wasn’t necessarily okay to have this experience,” she said. “We thought, ‘Why is that?’ and we thought back to our childhoods, where it kind of started, where we also didn’t maybe feel like it was okay to talk about in class, or talk about around people — especially not guys.”
So now I’ll ask: Why is that?
Ossining players obviously feel like much has not changed since the time Engel and the Hester sisters were in high school some 20 years ago, but, given their enthusiasm for the project, it appears they are ready — and hoping — to change the perception with their work in the film.
“I was really excited to do (the film) because I think that the topic of menstruation is really uncomfortable for people, and I think this is helping normalize it,” Ferrao said. “For no reason, it’s a big deal, and it shouldn’t be.”