As people around the globe light their colorful Hanukkah candles, prepare celebrations for Muhammed’s birthday on Maulid al-Nabi, adorn Christmas trees with sparkly tinsel, reaffirm communitarian practices at Kwanzaa, or light fires for Yule, I have one request.
The central tenet of all of these faiths is to do good deeds for humanity. Many of these holidays have a theme of light. We live in a time of so much darkness: the sun sets earlier each December afternoon, but our skies lately are dampened with an excess of violence and fear. I have found the most effective way to combat the negativity is to boost my mood with something interpersonal. Essentially, help make someone’s life better, and you’ll find yourself brighten.
With many women in the United States and abroad who are homeless, the winters are especially difficult. Women fleeing abusive situations or economic troubles find themselves on the street. I took a little “Santa pause”, and wanted to see where I could make the most impact for a marginalized population. As I crossed my hands over my chest in thought, I felt inspiration. Literally.
Donate your bra. You know the one I’m talking about. If you open up your bra drawer, I know that many of you have 3 or 4 bras you wear in circulation all the time. A few bras that appear for special occasions under a fancy-shmancy dress, but not your everyday workhorse, or some sports bras floating around. I’m not talking about those brassieres. Nope. I’m asking for the ones that are shoved in the back. The neglected ones you may have bought years ago when you were a few pounds lighter, for a certain significant other, and the ones that didn’t fit snugly (but used to), and you liked the cheetah pattern so you kept it. The ones that fluctuate in fitting potential depending on that time of the month or that number on the scale. Or, the trap many of us are guilty of: the buy two, get one free bras that none fit perfectly, but they were SUCH. A. GOOD. DEAL, so how could you say no?
That’s why I created I Support the Girls this summer. What started as a closet clean-up when I lost weight became an effort in awareness and now a full-fledge donation appeal, especially now.
As a mom, my body has changed greatly in the past decade. It would be fascinating to see a time lapse video, or maybe not. Aging has changed my body. While I’ve retained my perky personality, some of my body parts have not. I’ve gained weight during pregnancies, lost weight, nursed two children, and needed different support during all this time. Instead of keeping those memories stashed away, a bra donation is an excellent time to pay it forward to another woman in need. Many of my friends and family members have battled with breast cancer, and their bra sizes have changed too. I’ve corresponded with women who have had bilateral mastectomies, and in wonderful dimension, I received bags of donations from survivors. Anyone can donate.
I took it to the bigger picture. While the number of women who are homeless in America is difficult to track, the majority of women have young children or are pregnant. According to the national Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies foundation, families make up 34% of the homeless population, and 84% of those families are female-headed.
Bras offer a good way for women at any age or size to ‘band together’. Bras literally support a woman in more ways than just holding up breasts. They are needed for health and employment reasons, especially for office dress codes. Those bras can improve self-esteem: they make some women more comfortable, both physically and emotionally.
From Free the Girls, a wonderful non-profit that helps prevent human trafficking, I learned that bras are seen as an economic luxury. In the United Kingdom, tampons and maxi pads even have a luxury tax attached. After the initial shock, I guess I don’t think of a tampon in the same category as diamonds. As a passionate human rights advocate, I just couldn’t let that stand. A bra and feminine hygiene products are necessary and non-negotiable. I decided to open up my collection to both.
After just a few months of collecting, I had more than enough tampons to lay end-to-end up and down 8 football fields, and enough pads to wallpaper my entire house. Speaking of football, my husband thinks I practically have a direct line of credit to my neighborhood drugstore given the frequency of visits. It’s an easy item toss into your cart: next time you’re at Walgreens, Costco, CVS, Duane Reed, Rite-Aid, or other pharmacy, consider picking up a package of maxi-pads or tampons to donate.
Have I convinced you yet?
All I want for Hanukkah is to give women in need bras and maxi pads. More than wanting front teeth or a beautiful Mariah Carey song about what I want for Christmas, I want women to donate something they don’t always think about or even take for granted.
For many homeless women in these cold months, it is an immediate issue. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between a meal and a tampon. Both are essential, and quite frankly, aren’t even comparable needs. With I Support the Girls, I want to bust through the sexualization of bras and the gross-factor of tampons and maxi pads. These aren’t items that should be hidden in the recesses of closets and medicine cabinets: they are crucial items that all women need.
Donate your bras! Pick up some tampons or maxi pads as an additional stocking stuffers. This holiday season, amidst the caroling, bells, and traditional songs, I’m raising my voice. As we all cele-bra-te our respective festive occasions, make this conversation heard. No more Silent Nights for homeless women.
Reach out to Support the Girls below: