May 9, 2023 - Politics

"Vangina" full of bras and tampons headed to Florida

A person wearing a face mask gives a thumbs' up in the driver's seat of a bright pink van with cartoon tampon on the side with a speech bubble reading "Yep, this van is full of tampons"

Photo courtesy of I Support the Girls

A big, pink "Vangina" is headed to Florida.

Why it matters: Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit I Support the Girls (ISTG) uses the van to distribute bras and menstrual hygiene products to people experiencing homelessness and incarceration, as well as victims of domestic violence, immigrants and natural disaster survivors.

Driving the news: ISTG founder Dana Marlowe is hitting the road in the "Vangina" Wednesday, making stops at homeless shelters in Tallahassee on the way to singer Brandi Carlile's Mothership Weekend, a new music festival in Miramar Beach celebrating motherhood.

Between the lines: Bringing the "Vangina" to Florida, organizers say, is an act of defiance against legislators who passed a bill banning public schools from teaching human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and related topics, including menstruation, before sixth grade β€” despite the fact that puberty and menstruation affect many children before then.

What they're saying: The less information kids receive about their bodies' natural changes, the more alone and uneasy they'll feel, I Support the Girls' Tampa Bay affiliate director Nancy Blount, who's meeting Marlowe at the festival, told Axios.

  • "This is especially challenging for kids in fourth and fifth grades, and those students need to be able to safely and comfortably talk to their teachers and school nurse if they need menstrual products or have questions," Blount said.

Hillsborough County School Board chair Nadia Combs told Axios she shares these concerns. She pointed out that Hillsborough parents have always been able to opt their children out of sex education curriculum. Now, parents who want it for their kids won't have the option.

  • "It's kind of scary," Combs said. "Where are they going to get this information from now?"

Hillsborough County parent Jeara Rodriguez worries about children, like her daughter, who've experienced puberty at an unusually early age.

  • "Some parents don't even know what to do or how to approach the communication," she told Axios. "Not talking about it, not expressing it, not making it a normal thing is going to traumatize those girls."

What's ahead: If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill would go into effect July 1.


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