Recently, we stumbled upon The Clams on social media, and we knew we’d be out of our minds not to get in touch. The Clams are an Australian water ballet team who promote period positivity, female empowerment, and body-positivity in the most bad ass of ways. They wear red bathing suits and swim with giant tampons. You couldn’t look away if you tried. We had to learn more, so we sat down with Francis van Beek, the women who started it all.
Prior to living in Melbourne van Beek lived in Oakland, New Zealand where she was part of a water ballet team called ‘The Wet Hot Beauties’ or “The Wet Hot Bitches” and always wanted to be a part of something like it again.
After living in Melbourne for a number of years I had made a big network of friends through a feminist book club and it became a running joke quite early on in the book club that we would try water ballet instead because we were rather terrible at reading the same book at the same time. We couldn’t synchronize that, so I don’t know what lead us to believe we could synchronize ourselves in a swimming pool, to be honest! We all loved the idea, and I think that there was a lot of the energy in the group to not just read books but to be a little more active in our Feministing, and this provided a channel for that. Although the idea to do it about periods didn’t emerge straight away, that came later!
She wanted to make a water ballet on a theme that others would be passionate about, and because of her humble beginning as a feminist book club, she knew that there would be a feminist angle to anything they did. After suggesting the idea of periods, getting excited about the many puns and the historical taboo of women swimming on their period, van Beek thought it just had to be done from that feminist angle.
The Clams became the ultimate way to destigmatize the period and have fun well doing it.
All of a sudden, the team consisted of 30 women and they were approaching a professional choreographer to help them make their vision come to life. Believe it or not, the choreographer was just as jazzed as The Clams and invited her choreography partner to join in on the project and put together what is now a 5-part, utterly hilarious water ballet about periods.
“How is the water ballet being received?” we asked, and we were pleased to hear that “It’s being received really well! It was quite scary leading up to the first show, we all just had no idea how people were going to react.” She told us, “They were laughing a LOT” and we are NOT surprised, even their Instagram posts have us laughing our asses off, but in a way that keeps us thinking for days to come. These fierce ladies are doing something radical, but in a digestible, accessible, out-there way that makes it such a treat to witness. They’re activists, they’re performers, but most of all, they are regular women with a cause. Pretty remarkable, if you ask us.
Not only are The Clams promoting period/body-positivity for others, but they are cultivating it within themselves through this transformative experience. Francis went on the tell us:
It’s been really empowering in multiple ways. One of the off-shoots that I was expecting was how body-positive the whole experience has been. We’ve got women of various shapes and sizes on our team, we’ve all chosen our own one-piece red bathers to wear, and just seeing everyone’s confidence to perform regardless of body is just so humbling. We’re all beautiful in different ways and it’s a celebration of that! It’s a silver lining that I didn’t expect, but it’s been one of the most wonderful things about the whole experience. I enjoy the fact that we look like a bit of a Motley Crew.
The Clams are a fabulous reminder that activism does not have to be negative, it doesn’t have to be fiery, and it does not have to be aggressive. Activism is demanding a voice and using it, through whatever platform you wish. Starting conversations is key, and The Clams are an embodiment of it.
I think that the most damaging thing is probably the way that society treats period as some sort of secret. Everything that’s a secret, weather you like it or not, has some sort of inherent shame attached to it. This shame is not helping anyone. We should not be ashamed of having our periods.
We could not have said it better ourselves.
Additionally, The Clams strongly advocate for untaxing sanitary products. If you aren’t aware, the government allows some products which are considered “essential” to go untaxed, and (tragically) period-related products have not made the cut. Francis tells us that the list of untaxed essential products in Australia includes things such as condoms, sun screen, calendars, and lobster. The Clams took to Instagram to shed light on this aggravating situation through the best of means: humor.
What’s next for The Clams?
Thankfully, they will most definitely be putting on more shows in the future, and though they may explore different themes, each will have a feminist mindset. In fact, they are gearing up for another show as we speak, so stay tuned on social media! All proceeds from their show in March went to an organization called Share the Dignity which donates sanitary products to people in need. Pretty awesome, right!?
We are so proud of what these incredible women are doing with the main goal to empower women behind all that they do. There is so much love, conversation, and empowerment being promoted by individuals are groups such as The Clams, and we are beyond inspired.
So, check them out, give them a follow, buy one of their kick-ass T-Shirts, and join the conversation about period positivity!
*All photos are by the amazing Bri Hammond.