Support Planned Parenthood and Look Cool While Doing it
The reality of women’s rights is so incredibly grim, it can sometimes feel easier to just ignore it—a common belief being, what more could one extra voice possibly do? It’s an understandable mindset, but also a tremendously defeatist one that merely propagates the assumption that women can be chewed up and spit out, used for all they’re worth, and that they won’t even fight back. Tallulah Willis and Natalia Mantini are two such women who were, for awhile (and like most of us), appalled by the inequities women currently face—the ways in which congress has tactfully suppressed and silenced women, and the ways in which members of the far right have punished women for things entirely out of their control—but remained silent for fear of not being heard or respected. But as soon as they saw a window of opportunity that would allow them to contribute to the cause in a way that felt genuine and actually feasible, they latched onto it and haven’t let go since.
To understand the constant discrimination and injustices that women face, one must only look at the atrocities Planned Parenthood has been subjected to; an organization whose sole purpose is to provide affordable healthcare for women has been veritably demonized by the far right—and particularly the Center for Medical Progress. And it’s this twisted and infinitely bleak irony that catalyzed Willis and Mantini into action.
Now, it wouldn’t be too far off to call the two Los Angeles natives proud converts. Operating under the slogan “Ours not yours,” Willis and Mantini recently designed a collection of t-shirts, whose entire proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. Within the first week of their release, the tees had already sold out—and now, they’re back for another go-around.
We asked Mantini and Willis to have a casual tête-à-tête about their recent endeavor—which you can read in full below.
Natalia Mantini: I guess we should start with how we came up with the idea of making t-shirts to sell, and donating all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
Tallulah Willis: Well, for me, the idea of being involved politically always seemed so daunting. I kind of wanted to keep my mind in a tiny little box. And that obviously didn’t feel good, but it was just like this numbed state. So when you brought it up… and it was something that I could clearly see [myself being] involved in, I was like of course. It was almost like there was no question, even though I previously hadn’t been super involved [in Planned Parenthood] or made that a priority. It just felt natural in that moment.
NM: I think we were both feeling a little intimidated by taking a stance publicly because you can kind of psych yourself out that you don’t know enough and that you aren’t educated enough to speak out about something so serious. I think we were both wavering between being deeply affected by what we were [witnessing], but also feeling that we didn’t have the control to do enough to actually make a difference. And I think a lot of people, including women and minorities, may feel that we don’t have enough resources or power to go against what’s happening right now. It’s intimidating; it’s like a bully. We have to go against a big, big bully and [it’s easy to] feel kind of insignificant or ill-prepared.
I don’t want to downplay what we’re doing, but even if we feel that there are others who are more experienced on these issues, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do anything or that you don’t have the right to do anything and that it won’t be supported. I think we’ve both seen that what we’ve done has been widely and beautifully supported, way more than we both expected. I don’t think we expected the shirts to sell out in such a short amount of time, I don’t think we expected to see all the love that we have from various types of people acknowledging and appreciating what we’re doing. [Since we started] I haven’t felt a lack of momentum, which has been really encouraging and refreshing—that no matter how small or insignificant you feel your voice may be, that’s not necessarily the case and people around you can still appreciate it.
TW: I completely agree. I am still overwhelmed at how [every time] we’ve brought this up, it’s been met with universal excitement and, like you said, momentum, and that’s just so beautiful to be a part of. I have never been a part of something that feels like it has as much impact as this.
NM: It’s our first time making something politically charged and putting it out in the public, but it was also so natural and necessary because of what it’s based on—to us, it’s almost common sense. It’s a very intimate and crucial issue. I feel like the intimidation will always be there when you make anything, even if it isn’t inspired by your beliefs or political stance. Putting anything out in the world that you make is intimidating, but it’s especially intimidating if it’s something you feel passionate about, and it’s up for discussion and criticism. How do you even put into words what women’s rights are currently undergoing?
TW: It’s almost going through an interrogation.
NM: Yes, it’s an interrogation. And that’s insane. Like, I laugh because it’s so sad. And I laugh because it’s so scary—scarier than us making something and putting it out there. I’m really happy that the response has been nothing but love. Also, the women we interviewed in the series when we released the first run of t-shirts [were] so enlightening. It was so encouraging to speak to women who have been connected to this issue. The information that I received from shooting and interviewing them made me feel more connected to what we were doing. And it made me feel like what we were doing was absolutely necessary and a really good place for me to be right now. I don’t know if you did, but I didn’t expect that we’d make another run of t-shirts and be able to donate more money. Once the t-shirts were sold out in a week and we were both getting emails and texts and tweets and people asking for more, I was like I can’t even fathom [this]. [It] was a lot [of work], I wasn’t even thinking about what we wanted to do next; I was just like, what we’re doing feels really great and I’m glad we can do it and that’s about it. How do you feel about the fact that we’re doing more and we don’t really know where this is going?
TW: I was not at all prepared for selling out within the incredibly quick time frame that we did. Like you said, I also had not even thought about more than just what we were doing, or even that it was something that could be bigger than our initial run. So nothing could’ve prepared me for how massively it was received. And as soon as we sold out and there was a massive influx of people reaching out who hadn’t been able to get one, I think we both knew, without question, that we had to do more. Right now I have no idea where this is going, and what it will require, but I’m very excited to see how far we can take this—not just for the greater impact on women’s rights, but for my continual personal exploration as a female and what that means to me.
Seeing the girls who have posted on social media wearing their shirts and the pride they are expressing and their excitement feels really special.
NM: I think we both didn’t expect to continue to do anything but I feel like we’re open to the natural progression that’s happening. We don’t know what that means but we’re also trying to pay attention and participate when and where we can.
My mentor who I used to work for, Megan Baltimore, encouraged us to get another run out before election day and we were like, ok so that’s pretty much now. It’s really amazing that we can do this and we can double our donation to Planned Parenthood in a small amount of time. It’s a nice responsibility to have because it’s extremely fulfilling—and yes, I think we both have no idea where this is going, but that’s okay. We’ll see. [Laughs]
TW: Exactly. I have just so much appreciation for the people that have said yes and allowed us to continue to talk about this and the fact that we haven’t come up against any hard walls or people saying “no” shows how necessary something like this was.
And what’s crazy is how far it’s reaching—so many different corners of the world! Like my mom is in Europe right now, and someone came up to her and was like, I really appreciate what your daughter is doing. I was like, oh my god! Just the fact that it’s this community…it’s just great. And it feels really good to back something really important. I’m just happy, willing, and able to continue to give to something as important as this.
For more information, or to purchase a tee, visit the Ours Not Yours website here. Or snag one of the tees in person this Thursday, October 13th, from 7-10pm at 86 dobbin st. in Brooklyn, where Mantini will be snapping some cute polaroids.
Stay tuned to Milk for more causes worth getting behind.