An Interview with Chella Quint

Chella Quint, the zinester behind Adventures in Menstruating and the comedian behind Comedy in Space! will be visiting Manchester this month. Ana Hine caught up with her over Facebook.

Ana: So you’re appearing at the Manchester Science Festival, but also showing your face at the Women in Comedy Festival. How did this come about?
Chella: I was performing in the Women in Comedy Festival two years ago and got scouted by the science festival coordinator! She saw me host Comedy in Space! in a little theatre upstairs at the Lass O’Gowrie pub. She liked how I came across as so enthusiastic about science as I compered, and that the booked acts combined actual research with some really excellent comedy. Also, we gave out free cupcakes and flying saucers. She asked us to close the science festival last year on the main stage with the same show. This year both festivals have let me lasso them together with that show and Adventures in Menstruating, which I took up to the fringe this year, to get more science folks seeing women in comedy and more women going to the science festival. I’m also doing two other events with #MSF15 – one is an art installation where I recreate a life-sized working model of Adrian Henri’s Galactic Lovepoem.

Do you think it’s important, given the relative lack of women in STEM, for women to express their love of science?
Of course, but only if it’s really true. If someone doesn’t like science they don’t have to. I happen to, despite having studied drama and art. I really enjoyed A-Level physics, and was discouraged from taking it further. I hope what I do gets more people interested in science.

You were discouraged from taking physics further?
It seems kind of petty now, but my parents took my brother to a tour of the physics labs at Princeton University even though I desperately wanted to go, and read books about particle physics and astrophysics in my free time. I was so into languages and arts and creative writing type stuff that they kind of had me pegged as only one thing. My brother became a science teacher. But it’s weird because my MOM was a science teacher! They had a very odd blind spot. They were really glad I started doing science topics in my art and comedy though. I just warned my mom I’d told this story and she apologised. She said: “Did you happen to notice the Lego set I got you for Christmas? I had to go back several times to get that for you – it kept being sold out. I was just a little late to the game.” It was the Research Institute set with the women in science mini figs – it’s on the windowsill of my studio now. My mom and I just looked at the supermoon together, and talk space all the time.

Can you tell us more about your public health work?
I started saying my show was ‘period positive’ in 2006, and started the hashtag a few years later to support my on-going STAINS™ installation, and it has really taken off lately! Now lots of people use it, and sometimes people are shocked to find out I started it and that it wasn’t always a saying. When I started my zine in 2005 though, ads and attitudes were way worse than now. A lot of 2nd wave feminist reproductive health stuff influenced me and other 3rd wave menstrual activists, but I think now it has loads more momentum – it’s gone crimson wave! Periods shouldn’t be taboo. In the UK, it’s mostly down to echoes of historic advertising messages and a lack of proper SRE in schools. Words like ‘whisper’, ‘secret’ and ‘discreet’ go mostly unnoticed, but are upholding taboos. This year is also the 10th anniversary of my zines Chart Your Cycle and Adventures in Menstruating – they’ve gone all over the world, and I get lots of amazing letters and emails. I’d like to release a NEW 10-year cycle chart and an anthology of the zines to celebrate! Over the years, other menstrual researchers encouraged me to do an MA in menstruation education and I finished it last year. Research (including mine, now) shows that better menstruation education can change attitudes across communities, can improve attitudes to other sex ed issues like consent and pleasure across all genders, and can improve access to medical intervention earlier by empowering menstruators to talk about what’s both good and bad about periods. I want to set up #periodpositive as a benchmark like the Fairtrade logo, to show when a product or organisation is doing period talk in a way that respects menstruators. And I use ‘menstruator’ and ‘nonmenstruator’ because some men menstruate and some women don’t, and some menstruators don’t define themselves as having a binary gender identity.

Do you talk about this stuff in your show?
Yes. Adventures in Menstruating is a period comedy and it got some excellent feedback at the Edinburgh fringe. I actually also briefly mention NASA in that show! Comedy in Space! Is ALL about space, though, and we have some amazing acts confirmed for this year!

Performance Schedule

Oct 22: Adventures in Menstruating, The Castle, 66 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE, 10pm – 11pm, £5.50 (Booking Advised) #periodpositive

Oct 23: Comedy in Space! The Castle (See Above), 9pm – 11pm. £5.50 #comedyinspace

Oct 24-25: Tilting at Turbines, Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP, 10am – 5pm. FREE

Oct 26: Science in My Den, MOSI (See Above), 10am – 5pm. FREE

Words: Ana Hine

Image: Chella Quint


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