Tasha Bishop has turned a life-affecting medical condition - Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome -into a cause for change and a platform to empower women all through the method of excellent underwear. The name of the 20-year-old's initiative? The Pants Project.
As well as being an English literature student at Oxford, Tasha is pioneering change when it comes to the way we view infertility (and the unrealistic beauty standards often associated with lingerie imagery) through The Pants Project. Looking to well-known brands to source great big knickers and dainty pants, Tasha and her collaborators then sell these on with all funds going to Fertility Network UK - Britain's leading infertility charity.
As The Pants Project continues to go from strength to strength, we name Tasha Bishop our second Girl On A Mission and discover more about her philanthropic, stigma-busting initiative. Take it away, Tasha:
When did you decide to start The Pants Project?
I started The Pants Project during a pretty tough time for me. I had just dropped out of music school and was wondering what to do with my life. I was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, which in short means I was born without a uterus. Women with MRKH don’t have periods, cannot carry children and need treatment via operation or dilation in order to have sex. It had taken me three years to come to terms with it, but at 19 I felt ready to make something good out of a bad situation. I had spent three years feeling ashamed of my condition and not knowing who to talk to or where to talk about it. So, I created a space in which all kinds of infertility were no longer stigmas or silent topics. I recognised how powerful a good pair of pants could be to one's self esteem and thus decided we would sell lingerie to empower women, whilst also raising funds for Fertility Network UK, Britain’s leading patient infertility charity.
Why does this cause feel so important to you?
For three years I felt incredibly lost, awkward and ashamed of the body I was born into, because I felt such a strong social pressure from society to be a specific type of woman. I felt that society had told me that because I couldn't perform the one biological requirement women were created for, that I wasn’t worthy of being a woman, that I didn't have a place in society and that I was useless in some way. Having been added by my hospital support group to a number of global MRKH Facebook groups, I saw everyday that thousands of women felt exactly as I did. My mother’s friends who had other forms of infertility were feeling the same sense of loss and uselessness, and yet I saw a world around me that was fighting so hard for women to be accepted as they were. I therefore wanted to create a project to combat that feeling of uselessness women with infertility feel, in order that they can realise their incredible worth despite their genetic make-up.
If you could sum up the ethos of the project in five words, what would they be?
All-powerful female underwear fighting infertility.
How do you think being a young woman campaigner impacts the outcomes of your success?
Being young and female is an incredibly powerful position to be in right now. As evidenced by the recent Women’s Marches across the world, young women are prepared to fight for what is right and people are finally listening. Perhaps I don’t have the contacts of someone older or the helping hand of being a white male, but I do have the incredible advantage of millions of women behind me and the mindset to make change a reality. I think this all has an amazing impact on the outcome of female-driven campaigns at the moment, every girl should be snapping up this opportunity to make a difference!
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced thus far?
Definitely getting a foot in the door of corporate businesses or, for us, high-end fashion designers. If you start something from nothing, people are reluctant to give you a hand because everyone wants to get something out of everything, even if it is for charity. But I’ve realised that with a little persistence, it’s incredible how far you can go. Also, keeping up with social media, it’s such a fast-paced world out there… but that’s what makes it so exciting!Girl On A Mission: Adwoa Aboah
Girl On A Mission: Adwoa Aboah
What do you think the significance of social-media platforms is for activism right now?
Social media is activism’s best friend. Our social-media feeds, especially Instagram, are so saturated by hollow corporate advertisements and fake representations of reality, it is such a breath of fresh air to see something worthwhile to get behind. People want to be part of things, and if that thing is important and making a difference in the grand scheme of things, people are surprisingly quick to jump on the bandwagon. We also, sadly, don’t have as much time these days, to sit and read about things like activism, so social media gives campaigning that huge advantage of a wide audience and demographic in a fast-paced, bite-sized way.
How does it feel when you see the work you’ve done directly impact people in a positive way?
That’s the best part for me. As our Instagram following has increased, I have daily messages in my inbox from couples and single women telling me how much our daily posts encourage them and get them through the tough days and that is incredibly special to me. That is what I needed in those three years of wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with my seemingly genderless, useless body (how wrong I was), so it means more to me than anything else that I’m able to give that to people in my position. It helps me to help others.
Who would you love to see support The Pants Project?
Everyone! I would love to see more infertility charities get involved, so that we can support as many people as possible and empower as many women as possible. My dream is to work with lingerie designers like Stella McCartney, who have done incredibly successful Breast Cancer lingerie campaigns, and instead create pants for infertility. I would also love to grow the organisation to the point of being able to support a number of charities, not just in the infertility vein. All women feel empowered by pants and everyone underestimates the powers of a good pair of pants on a bad day, so why not harness that? Everyone will always need undies, so I would love to be able to support this in a way that helps others. I have ideas to work with charities that protect the LGBTQ+ community, those suffering from HIV/AIDS, and a charity called Smalls For All which collects and distributes underwear to women and children in Africa. They help those living in orphanages, slums, camps and schools, for whom underwear is a luxury. Donating underwear may seem like a small thing, but it can make a life-changing difference, for example having pants can help teenage girls complete their education without having to miss school each month during their period.Britain's Girls Are "Less Happy And More Stressed" Than Peers
Britain's Girls Are "Less Happy And More Stressed" Than Peers
Lastly, you’ve 150 words to say whatever you want about the issue you support - go for it!
Despite having been told consistently that our population was growing at an alarming rate, it now seems as though the tables have turned - in Europe anyway. One in six couples in this country have difficulty conceiving a baby, and the number of couples seeking medical help to have a family has risen dramatically. Fertility problems are becoming far more apparent in the UK, hence the significant fall in birth rates. Advances in medical treatments mean it is technically possible for many more couples with fertility problems than ever before to conceive a baby. However, ironically, the current cash crisis in the NHS means that, in practice, many couples are denied any treatment at all. As far as knickers go however, things are on the up. Lingerie is now being used as a weapon for self-love; I believe in the importance to harness that power and save the world through the power of pants. May the power of pants be with you!
Are you a young activist or passionate about a project that you think Miss Eyes On Events should know about? Get in touch with us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Girl On A Mission.