Monday, January 29, 2007

Arts: Putting Men in 'Struation


knowyourflow.com

By Julia Schweizer

Given Vinnie D’Angelo’s profession, it’s not hard to see why his 5th Ave. office is on the same floor as those of Bust , a feminist pop culture monthly magazine. They have a familiar relationship. A couple minutes into our interview, a Bust journalist breezed into D’Angelo's office and asked him to give a presentation on his work to a feminism class visiting from Hollands College.

It was just another day in the life of D'Angelo, a Brooklyn-based illustrator who, lately, has dealt in the design of tampon cases.

A feminist himself, D’Angelo began the project 10 years ago as a social experiment to get men to confront their embarrassment over discussing menstruation. At that point, he was standing on New York City street corners, giving the cases away for free, while wearing an embroidered “Vinnie’s Tampon Cases” shirt.

The cases are meant to “encourage men to enter a non-sexual dialogue about a woman’s body,” says D’Angelo, quite matter-of-factly. The first few years of giving them away proved so successful that people began recognizing him and the brightly colored, even ostentatious, products. Nowadays, he finds it so easy to engage men in an open menstruation dialogue that he recently found himself at a Yankees game talking to a group of alpha males about periods, some of whom ended up taking the cases home to their wives.

At first, D’Angelo made the cases to combat his own fear of periods, while hoping to aid ridiculed women in the discreet transport of their menstrual products to public restrooms. Growing up in a house with 3 brothers and no sisters, he didn’t hear much about menstruation during childhood.

Such lack of knowledge can be dangerous, explained D’Angelo: “The original idea was out of frustration for violence against women. Like racism, sexism stems from ignorance.” He hopes to beat this ignorance, and empower women, with the tampon cases and other Vinnie paraphernalia, which he designs to look bold and not stereotypically feminine.

One canvas case has bright red letters with a cartoon-looking male mascot sporting a unibrow.

His first product, a magnet portraying a sassy woman with a pistol, who is “tired of taking a man’s shit,” wasn't much of a success. Because of the gun, it wasn’t widely marketable or empowering, he said, so he began to make the tampon cases.

Incidentally, they are also more effective due to their utility. No more crushed tampons on the bottom of your bags, ladies!

Vinnie’s Tampon Cases are available for $10-15 nationwide and online (Amazon.com, the Bust magazine Boobtique), and at pretty much every store on Bedford Avenue. Check out Vinnie’s Web site at www.knowyourflow.com.


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