Have you ever had a moment where you said enough!? Brooke Lopez wanted to be a dentist and now she is in Law School. Why? Well, life happens. Plans can change. When tragedy struck she didn’t just sit back. She said enough is enough! She got involved and took action. Now she is fighting for women and femmes in Texas.
Brooke Lopez is a force. Many call her a woman to watch. Why? Because she is taking action! We discuss everything from women in advocacy to menstrual equity. Something, I admit, I have not thought enough about.
In this episode Brooke shares:
What it was like running for office as a young Latina woman
The importance of advocacy and how to get involved (hint: it isn’t all political)
The significance of women being in elected office ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISLE
The value of Menstrual Equity
Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Aylin Segura and Menstrual Equity
Lone Star Parity Project Article featuring Susan Long
Orange is the New Black (book)
Lone Star Parity Project – Facebook
Lone Star Parity Project – Instagram
Lone Star Parity Project – Twitter
Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.
Susan: Hey, Pod Sisters. Today I want to introduce you to the amazing Brooke Lopez. Brooke’s passion stems from tragedy, and so the first few minutes of the interview might not be a great fit for younger audiences. It was this tragedy that prompted Brooke to begin reaching out to her local representatives to seek change as a way to serve her community. She learned early on that change happens through policy, so at the age of 18, Brooke gathered her passion for civic duty and ran for Wylie City Council Place 4. As the youngest candidate in the history of the town. Though she lost the race, she learned many invaluable lessons. Brooke has gone on to be an active member of Ignite, a bipartisan nonprofit that encourages young women to actively engage in the political process. She has also founded the Lone Star Parody Project, a nonpartisan online publication dedicated to sharing the stories of women and femmes involved in Texas politics with hopes of bringing gender parody across all levels of public office.
Full disclosure, she interviewed me recently and you can catch that interview on our website in the show notes or on our social media pages. We talk about everything from the importance of women being more involved in the political process to the importance of running no matter your side of the aisle. What does being involved look like? We covered that too. Then towards the end, we spent a fair amount of time talking about menstrual equity, something I realized I needed to consider more often. I really can’t wait to hear your feedback on this particular topic. I’m excited. I hope you’re excited. So without further ado, here’s Brooke.
Susan: Hey Brooke, I really, really appreciate you joining us this morning and I kind of already gave a little bit of the highlights from your back story in the intro, but why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the work you are in.
Brooke Lopez: Thanks, Susan. I’m really happy to be joining you this morning. Like many people who end up becoming involved in politics, it wasn’t really a choice so much as something thrown in my face that I couldn’t ignore anymore. I was 15 years old, I was a sophomore in high school, and my good friend was murdered by two other students. And as the trial went on, as our town was dealing with, it’s only second a notorious murder that had happened in our community, we had to figure out how to rebuild, but also recognize what had happened. I started becoming really passionate about different gun control measures, common sense prevention of gun violence since my friend had been murdered with a weapon that a young minor is able to get his hands on. So I really started to work on that. But quickly I realized that in my community I had grown up in sort of what I consider a bubble. I was sheltered from the fact that people who disagree with you might disagree with you to a very severe extent to where they discredit you, they want to completely go against how you feel, what you say, regardless of your story. And I had to really learn and understand what it’s like to come from different perspective on something that I felt so passionate on. I had to take a step back and remove my heart from the politics and continue to work on trying to make amends with everyone. So after that I became really interested in local politics. I wanted to really gain the perspective of my community and feel what they wanted to see on a local level since I had been working on the state level. So at age 18 I decided to file to run for city council in Wylie, Texas, which is northeast of Dallas. And I ran as the youngest and the only Latina to run at that time.
So I was able to really gain a perspective that was different than the community that I was coming from. Wylie is a conservative community and I identify with very democratic ideologies and policies, so that was going to be something that was kind of an uphill battle. And in addition, I was very young and a Latina, which is also different than the community in which I came. So I eventually lost my campaign, but from that I was able to gain a lot of insight to help other women who are just as interested in becoming involved in politics, whether they run or not, to really make a difference, especially here in Texas. So that’s kind of where my journey brought me to, even though to be completely honest, I originally wanted to be a dentist when I was a kid. So that is an example of how people can really jump into politics with any sort of passion.
Susan: Well, I love that and I appreciate you sharing how you got involved in politics. Share with us a little bit about what you were doing as far as the state level politics go and what you got involved with, the legislation and such.
Brooke Lopez: So when I was 15, the state politics that I originally focused on was gun control, and I came across that interest completely because of the experiences that I had gone through. Neither of my parents were very outwardly political. They were very hard and fast patriotic voters. They made sure to complete this civic duty, but we never really talked about the different policies behind it because that was something that—it wasn’t taboo in my household, it just wasn’t focused on. I think we were also very young and so my parents weren’t sure and they didn’t want to mold or create an image for us of what they felt we needed to believe in. So I was able to come to my own decisions on different state issues like gun control. I was originally working with my local Texas representative to bring a measure that would not allow juveniles who had committed a murder to be given a sentence under the juvenile code, they would be given a sentence under an adult standard of code, which may seem like a very mandated or strict policy, but right now if you are a juvenile and you’re charged with murder here in the state of Texas under the juvenile standards as opposed to the adult standard, you’re able to be released from prison as early as 18 years old and it’s not notated at any point on your record. So I didn’t want to mandate a sentence. I didn’t want to go against what I believe she’d be a rehabilitative justice system, but I really wanted to work on making sure that guns don’t end up in the hands of the wrong people. And when you’re able to seal your record, especially if you’ve committed a murder with a weapon, your record will be sealed, and no one will ever know that you have committed a murder.
Brooke Lopez: So wanted to make sure, yeah, that other juvenile offenders who had committed something as heinous as a murder and were charged with murder, but charged under the juvenile standard of punishment were still not able to get access to guns in order to prevent murders lLike this from happening again. And it seems really complicated, and it’s kind of difficult to talk to people about because most of the time I started talking about guns, immediately I’m labeled under gun control or I start talking about changing the record sealing policies and immediately people assume that it’s eliminating the rehabilitative portion of the justice system, but I wanted to bring the two together that way murderers weren’t able to enter our community again at 18 and have the same rights or access to guns, which would be a privilege in our community, you know, as people who hadn’t committed murder,
Susan: I didn’t realize the whole…This is really ignorant of me to say, but I never even thought about the fact that records—because I haven’t been in this situation in Texas and I’m not originally from here so it didn’t even occur to me with the sealed records situation and what that would entail. Oh my gosh! So where did that legislation ended up going?
Brooke Lopez: So this is a really incredible story and I always, anytime I talk about this, I want to make sure that whoever did in fact put the work in behind this has their fair credit and one day will reach out to me. But I started working on it in 2015 and at that time there was nothing in the penal code that mentioned if you committed a murder, there was an exception to sealing your record. Now, looking back on it about a year ago, I ended up looking back at that same penal code to continue my research and reaching out to legislators. And I don’t know how, but it is now a part of the amendment where if you commit capital murder, you can’t have your punishment under the juvenile standard, which would allow you to seal your records. It was incredible and I have no idea how it happened or where it happened. I’ve always tried to figure out what session and occurred or wonder which legislator. I have no idea, but it is so amazing that somehow this was able to change and I wasn’t the only one trying to do it. And we had no idea. We never connected with whoever did it. I’m just so honored and thankful to have been on that same journey with them. Just, you know, probably a completely across the board.
Susan: That’s a really cool story. I guess I think it’s really cool because you never connected and yet the two of you…Obviously, that goes to the point that if you’re thinking about something, there’s at least one other person out there thinking the same thing, which makes me feel like I’m not alone. And that always makes me feel at least a little bit better about any situation I’m in.
Brooke Lopez: There you go. Yeah. I was completely shocked and unfortunately, I hope that the situation that I had to go through didn’t happen exactly to, you know, in the same way that it happened to this person, whoever had worked on it or whatever legislator had to hear that story and I accept that when they were making this consideration, but it’s crazy to me to think that other people were also suffering from that same issue and at some point also decided that there needed to be the exact same change in the state of Texas. So yeah, it made me feel sad because I know that other people are having to deal with this but so happy that now we have a legislative solution that is put in place for people to hopefully recover some justice and a little bit of sense of peace with this change.
Susan: Yeah. So going back a little bit, you mentioned that you had been working and trying to do to work on state legislation and obviously, we’re talking a little bit about politics this morning and being advocates for yourselves and getting involved and now you’re working on the local level a little bit. Tell us or share with us your thoughts on women’s involvement in politics because I feel like oftentimes women want to see change, but by trying to create change they get involved in volunteerism and different organizations that they’re in the triage area if you will, of making change versus and they’re willing to get in there and get dirty and get in the mud and make the change on that level, and micro impacts your great. Talk to us about the importance of being involved in the actual political process and the advocacy piece of that.
Brooke Lopez: So, I always want to start off with numbers because I feel, and if there’s any other people who listened that feel like they really need some numbers to convince them that something’s actually happening, that’s the best way to start. Women hold across the United States 51 percent the population. We make up 51 percent of the people who consider themselves American. Out of the elected office on a national level, we hold 20 percent. And that rings true here in Texas too. In 1992, that was considered the year of the woman when Hillary Clinton was our first lady, when there was a spike and a dramatic increase in all of the states across all the levels of women wanting to run for office, and since then the percentage of women who have held office has remained 20 or lower in various states. New Hampshire, I think, actually has the strongest amount of parody or equality among women to men in office and they still aren’t even at 50, so that is the issue that we’re facing.
There’s not enough women in elected office, but to make that jump from not really being involved in politics or maybe, you know, you broke, but you’re not really outspoken about the things that you’re passionate about or the different policies that you support to wanting to run for office, that is a huge leap and it’s really hard for people to make it, especially women. I think the statistic is women on are asked seven times to run for office before they actually make the decision to run. So there’s a huge disparity between not only women who are choosing to run, they’re not winning at an increased rate with this year as an exception, and women who aren’t really involved in politics at all trying to make the leap into politics, it’s a little hard and it can feel weird and sometimes you don’t realize what all is actually affected by policy.
Sometimes politics is even seen as like a dirty word. People feel really uncomfortable when you start talking about politics. So what I always try to advocate to women who are on the fence about getting involved is that involvement can range from, like you mentioned, the micro level in a proactive manner as well as grand as working on the federal level also in a proactive manner. In politics, women tend to work more proactively in different policy perspective than men do and men tend to work more proactively. So men are getting to have a seat at the table in terms of decision making, but women are tending to clean up the mess more often have policies that either go haywire or situations where policies are not in effect that should be to have mitigated the entire issue from occurring. So women have a duty to share our experiences that are exclusive to us because we all have our own intersectional identities that display different experiences in different ways, and it’s important for us to share those messages. So on the micro level, women can get involved with something as small range as working with your school board or working with your neighborhood commission or HOA to be able to put something in effect that will effect something that is daily in their lives.
Another common misconception that women face when they’re deciding whether or not to enter into politics is that you can only advocate for what society has deemed women’s issues. Women have an incredible perspective on a lot of different topics that aren’t limited to, let’s say education and reproductive rights. Women have an incredible perspective on the world of stem economics issues effecting women like the gender pay gap that aren’t limited to social issues. These are things that we are able to make an impact on and have our intersectional identities represented actively that are not solely limited to what we always considered to be a woman’s place in terms of legal perspective.
So the best advice I can give for women who are interested in taking that first step; one, support other women in politics, that’s the easiest way to get involved, as well as help another woman who’s already made that leap into running for office, have the support of women behind them and two, to begin working with your representative, whether it’s the school level, so local level, the state level, your legislators or the federal level, your senators or the different agencies that we work under to be able to advocate for the policies that you want to see put in place. Those are the best first few steps that a woman who is interested in politics can make in order to make an impact when they’re just maybe not ready to run, but they really want to make a change.
Susan: I liked that you mentioned how as women we’re—I mean I even do it. I think we all do—we’re bad about pigeonholing ourselves into just women’s issues and politics. And I like how you make the point that obviously, I mean it sounds—it’s like a “Duh,” but obviously we can contribute to other conversations in the political arena as well. It’s not just women’s issues. I don’t know, just the way you said that, I was like, “Well yeah, of course,” but sometimes I even do that to myself, so thank you for bringing that up, bringing that to our attention. I appreciate it. Yeah, so we are located in Texas. Not all of my listeners are in Texas; probably a majority of them might be. What avenues are available to women who are interested in advocacy, who are interested in…You know, I think I have a lot of small business owners and that’s always really important to be involved, especially on the local level with small businesses and such. Talk to us a little bit about organizations that already exist that we could potentially plug into as women that are already supporting other women.
Brooke Lopez:Yeah, my number one pet peeve that people tend to do when they’re sharing advice, they’ll give you this great big picture advice and say, “Oh, we talked to other organizations that support women, but where are the names? I need to be connected.” So I will go ahead and give you exact names of organizations that I personally have worked with that women I have also worked with, including myself, have found great success getting involved in politics. So some of the first ones that are really prominent in Texas include Ignite and that’s more for college-aged women and high school women. It’s a nonprofit that tries to build political ambition and young women, but getting involved with it from the perspective of being a community leader, being someone who considers themselves an adult or someone who has passed their schooling years, that can really give opportunity for mentorship programs. There’s opportunity for different conferences or events or mixers where you can meet with other politically engaged women of all ages and start to talk about issues that are important.
There have been a lot of projects that have come out of Ignite, including the Dallas ISD Menstrual Equity program, the different menstrual equity programs on the college campuses nearby. I know those sounds the same, but then this all came out of Ignite. Some other organizations include the Texas Women’s Foundation, formerly the Dallas Women’s Foundation. They have been an incredible source of networking and overall support both monetarily and emotionally for different nonprofits in the area as well as women who are interested in getting involved in politics, they’re really, really supportive of nonpartisan women as well as women who represent bipartisan issues across the spectrum to be able to get involved in politics. It’s a great source for working with other community leaders in the state of Texas. And then finally, one that I would recommend would be Running Start. It’s a nonprofit that helps women of all ages, particularly women under 40, but they help women of all ages to become engaged in the political process, whether it’s running for office, connecting with fellow candidates or working with women on a nonpartisan platform to be able to complete different policies and projects. Yeah, those have been the best resources that I’ve been able to come in contact with here in Texas that have really helped build networks of women who were interested in similar or different policies, but be able to come together with a common perspective that women need to be more involved in civic leadership, civic engagement and overall just leadership positions across the table.
Susan: Well, thank you for sharing that. I am always tooting the Texas Women’s—formerly Dallas Women’s Foundation, now Texas Women’s Foundation horn because I am involved with that organization and I love every bit about that. That was, it sounds odd, but it was such a blessing that showed up in my life in 2016. I had never heard of it and I have lived in Dallas since 2007 and I was having lunch with a friend and I said, “Okay, I want to be involved, I want to be giving back, you know, to the community and whatever, but I don’t have the time to volunteer. I need to be able to come and go as I please.”
And one thing that I really like about the Texas Women’s Foundation is it’s a foundation that it’s a giving foundation so you can be as involved more not involved as you want to be, depending on like what your timing allows. You can volunteer through there or went through them with their organization, the organizations they support or you can just give money. So depending on what your stages in life, it’s, you know, it’s a great match no matter what stage you are in. So I have really appreciated being involved in that, coming from other organizations that require not only a monetary gift but you know, volunteering hours as well. So it’s nice to be able to move that spectrum a little bit. So, and I’m really glad you mentioned them. So share with us if there is anything in 2019 as women that we need to be focusing on that maybe we haven’t focused on as much in the past or do you see anything coming down the pipe that we need to be aware of right now?
Brooke Lopez: I think what we need to really take notice of and ride this beautiful, awesome wave. It’s going to be the wave of women candidates both from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party who were elected in this most recent midterm election. There are incredible numbers that show that this is one of the first years where women were running at an increased rate from what they were previously, and we’re actually winning at an increased rate. We have a lot of first across the country, but particularly here in Texas, we had our first Latino ever elected to Congress, which is incredible given the Latina/Latino population here in the state of Texas. So that was a huge feat that was able to be overcome. We’ve had a really beautiful mix of what I consider purple. There have been a mixture of Republican and Democratic candidates who are now in office, particularly women in and femmes that are now making changes from a democratic standpoint in terms of there’s now a democracy.
It’s going to be equal voice, equal power. And to me, I think that’s when the best policy is made so all perspectives are taken into consideration. I think we really need to keep an eye on the women who had not only one, but the women who are currently, like you mentioned, in a pipeline in order to win. We really have to keep boosting women. If we’re going to ever put Texas into a position of political progress, we really have to boost our game and use the power that we have right now. Currently, Texas is ranked 49th in terms of contacting elected officials and we’re ranked 44th in terms of voting, previous to the midterm elections. That information is not out yet, but we are one of the lowest in terms of voter turnout and we have to make sure that we not only turn out, but we’re supporting especially women candidates and candidates from other marginalized communities too. That’s gonna be the thing that we really need to keep an eye on for 2019.
Susan: Well, on that note, I want to interject something that I was talking about with some friends the other day. It came up that—I was on a committee for something and one of the best ways to get women involved with this particular thing that we’re trying to do, we did something really old school. We called people on the phone, you know, like actually talk to people on the phone, not a text, but talk to people on the phone and invited them to participate in something. And it worked like we more than tripled our numbers on this particular project as far as getting people involved because somebody called and invited them and it was one of those things. It was like, “Oh, they really want me at the party.” And it wasn’t a party, it was some benefit or something.
But I think sometimes we forget those of us who are really, really involved understand why it’s important sometimes translating that or there’s a fear of, “Oh, they’re going to think on political or they don’t want to talk to me about this because we’ve never talked about it before. I don’t know that that’s the case. I feel like as women we try to be more polite, tried to stay away from taboo subjects and I just wonder if we had more women doing like old school house meetings or something like that. Like the way you and I met, we met at an Ignite event in someone’s home where they had, they invited the Ignite folks to come in and talk with us and share a little bit about what they were doing. And I just wonder if there was, if we thought about, like if you’re a woman and you love hosting people in your home, that maybe that’s a way you get involved.That’s a micro impact and a way to get people to the polls and to get people involved in your local community. So I wonder if we start… I realized that’s kind of, that’s a micro impact, but we saw in this last election just what micro impacts did and how that got people involved and how that did get people out. So I wonder if we really, if a woman is trying to figure out a first step, like maybe that’s it. Maybe having a coffee at your house or something like that as simple as that is a way to move forward. What are you seeing out there? What are organizations like Ignite or other organizations that are trying to get women more involved? What’s working and what’s not?
Brooke Lopez: Currently, I work as the executive director of the Lone Star Parody Project, not on profit, nonpartisan publication that shares the stories of women and research involved in Texas politics. So we are reaching out to women across all the corners of Texas and there are more than four, where we are, where we are asking women who are elected officials, who are student activists, who are regular and consistent voters were asking them different questions about how they entered into their political power. So we are working with women to really figure out the qualitative data that help voters understand as well as elected officials what’s important to each community. So you mentioned the micro impact, and I think that is a critical piece to any conversation when we’re talking about politic.
Texas is the second largest state in terms of space and I want to say the third largest in terms of population. So we have a lot of people and we have a lot of space to cover when it comes to elections, especially those are statewide. When women run for office, we don’t have the localized research that we need. Sure, there are nonprofits, different training programs that help us understand the ins and outs of the actual campaign itself. But where are those resources that will help us understand how we can connect better with our voters and our registered voting population? Where is that research where we can figure out who is not registered to vote and how can we approach that? We have noticed the Lone Star Parody Project that there is a complete deficit and an aggregation of data that tells us what are different specific tactics that women can use in different parts of the state of Texas particularly in order to get involved.
As you mentioned, women sometimes or people as a whole in fact tend to respond better to different forms of outreach and contact. So the people from my millennial generation might do a little bit better with tech or social media. People from the brand new Gen Z generation definitely do a lot better with social media than they do texting and people who are from the Gen X and older do better with phone calls and in person flyers. So we don’t want our women who are running for office to essentially waste their time and outreach methods that maybe aren’t working for that type of person. Aside from age, we also have different gaps such as education, such as ethnicity, there are language barriers. There are different things that are creating a dissonance between having access to people who are not registered as well as people who are registered and actually getting into the polls, knowing what they’re voting on, whether it’s for that specific candidate or not. So this distinct disconnect between getting those people out to the poll comes from our outreach methods and micro level impacts are the greatest way to reach out to all types of people, especially within Texas.
So we always talk, especially with Lone Star Parody Project about the difference between someone who is going to be a voter in El Paso and someone who’s a voter in Dallas. For example, in Dallas, we have a very important fixation on our local education system, our school districts. We also are very critical on our different water transportation issues, which I know sounds weird. We have a critical importance on transportation around the city since we have so many people. In El Paso, the issues that are most important for those folks are going to be vastly different. They’re going to be immigration policies, they’re going to be policies about border security, whether it’s for or against, they’re going to be things that are much different from the population in Dallas that we’re from the same state. So it’d be the approach we need to start taking, it’s going to be localized and it needs to be specific to the party that you’re going to be outreaching to. You need to be cognizant of who are going to be your voters and who were your non voters, and how can you get everyone together on election day in there making the decisions heard.
Susan: That’s such a good point.and I never…I mean I’ve thought about that, but the thinking about what people need in El Paso and what people need in Dallas and what people need in Austin and what people need and McAllen, I can’t even imagine like coming up with sound byte type, because you need that right, to grow, to grow a following. I can’t even imagine like where… No wonder it’s so hard. Oh my gosh! Texas is so huge and it’s like you’re absolutely right. What they need down on the border of, you know, like on the border towns, McAllen is not what you need up in the Panhandle and is certainly not what you need in Dallas. Oh my goodness! That is such a good point. I can’t even imagine like trying to serve all those constituents. It seems like there might be a better way to do that, but then that evolved involves all kinds of amendments and such.
Just to make sure everybody is served well. Gosh, I’m so glad that’s not my job to figure out. I’m serious. That would be…I don’t know if I could do that. I want to go back just a second because you mentioned something a little bit ago, and this is something that never—and I read about it on your webpage—and it’s something that never even occurred to me when I was younger because it was just the way it was and I never thought it should be any different. Talk to us about this menstrual equity thing.
Brooke Lopez: Well, menstrual equity is the ability to have menstrual hygiene products provided to you in a same equitable fashion that you would toilet paper or that you would expect soap in a bathroom. Think about how upset you are, male or female, when you walk into a restroom and there is no toilet paper in the stall that you’ve just selected. You are frustrated because now you feel like you can’t function and you are now missing out on products that are essential to your hygiene. There are risks associated with not having products, such as toilet paper and continuing on with your day. And it’s something that our community has taken it in great strides to make sure that it is constantly available to anyone who uses the restroom here in the United States. Menstrual equity is the same concept. We want to make sure that menstrual hygiene products are provided accessibly for free.
There are some major barriers that people in the state of Texas as well as across the United States face in terms of accessing these menstrual hygiene products. The first one is in most public agencies, so government buildings, institutions that are public, both higher education and school districts across the country, they tend to not have products that are readily accessible in the restrooms where people need them. 86 percent of menstruaters, who base their menstrual cycle while they are in a place where they do not have products, are too embarrassed to ask somebody else for products, 86 percent of people. That means if there are 100 women in a room, 86 of them are not willing to ask somebody who’s right next to them for a product and most of the time tend to leave or will try to macgyver products which essentially making them make product which presents its own health issues in itself.
There are also different aspects of not having products that our society does not accept. So for example, pre-bleeding, going without products. It’s not something that our society accepts or is capable of handling at this time. So these products are an essential need that menstruaters do not have access to. And so the Menstrual Equity Movement is a movement to try and bring those products to restrooms for free. That way people who would say don’t have a quarter, who don’t have products with them unknowingly started their menstrual cycle or who just plain weren’t able to afford them at that time, are able to get access to this product in a fashion that is close to them. It’s going to be provided for free so they do not have to put any extra into having something and it will be provided in the same fashion that any other product would be provided.
That is essential for our health. So the Menstrual Equity Movement here in Texas has been taking place on a lot of college campuses, especially public institutions as well as different school districts have enacted menstrual equity policies. So for example, Dallas ISD, which is the second largest school district in the state of Texas, is currently installing the sensors in the most high trafficked bathroom across the school district. So that should be over 200 schools that’ll be getting free products for their students in order to prevent different health issues in order to prevent in accessibility for students and essentially, to prevent discrimination against women or offend menstruaters while they are attending school. So those are some of the cool policies that have been in place because of menstrual equity that are taking heat across the state of Texas.
Susan: Has this been introduced into the prison system?
Brooke Lopez: I’m so glad you asked that. So right now it hasn’t been introduced yet because they consider that to be a funding issue in the prison system, but there has been discussion about the nonhygienal practice of macgyvering products with tends to be much more common in prisons than they do in other situations where women don’t have access to it. And it’s not necessarily in prisons the fact that women can’t access them readily. It’s the fact that they’re not there as a whole. And to not have those products, that’s a huge health risk for all of the inmates who are menstruaters here in the state of Texas. So that is something that I think is a great opportunity for anyone listening to start working on because right now prisons are currently underserved and there’s no menstrual equity policy in place that would provide these products to women on a consistent basis and for free.
Susan: Yeah. That’s just one thing. Actually, this is funny, I never knew about this until I read the book, Orange is the New Black, back in the day when that first came out. She mentioned in her memoir, not—I mean the TV show is great, but in her memoir she mentioned that and I did not know that. And I was just shocked that that would be something that would not be, not just not provided, but not really even readily available. I think there’s like a—and it may depend on the state—I think they get so many a month, but there’s no way it would cover like a whole cycle. And I just was blown away by that. I was like, “How could you even…? Yuck.” I mean, not just like the personal perspective, but like from a health code type situation. When you’re talking about bodily fluid and blood, I mean hello, you can’t just have that. No. Ew. Gross.
Brooke Lopez:Yeah, and there are definitely a lot more obstacles outside of the obvious, you know, the health perspective, the contamination and bodily fluid perspective. There’s also the perspective that some schools or different institutions put in place that you can go to a nurse’s office to be able to get those products and that again, puts more data onto a table that says we are less likely as menstruaters to walk down a hallway to a nurse’s office to get that product. Now it’s an issue of accessibility, there’s also issues of whether or not there are enough products readily available even if you do pay for them. There’s another issue where, kind of like you mentioned, the regular amount of products that women are recommended or menstruaters are recommended to use, is far greater than what’s provided for every person in that institution, whether it’s an agency or the school or the store. To be able to have those things there is another barrier that you have to face as a menstruater and essentially, it takes away from whatever you’re doing. If you’re an employee and you work and there’s no product available for you, that’s more time away from the chair or more time away from your project that you are now going to have to sacrifice because of something that you can’t control if you’re a student that’s way more time out of the classroom and possibly leading the school because students, menstruaters who are under the age of 18 are more likely to lead if they don’t have the product than to ask a fellow person in the restroom or to go to the nurse’s office. That is essentially putting up barriers to anyone who menstruate in any capacity that are the non-visible barriers that we don’t see from the obvious of it’s a health risk and it overall not inconvenient to be a free bleeder.
Susan: Man, I just had a flashback to high school. I am not kidding. I remember doing that. I remember either not having something, you know with me at the time or oh my gosh, now I have to go home and change clothes because I was not thinking this would even happen today. Like we don’t have to get all personal, but I remember, oh man, I remember leaving school and it’s not like you’re going to go back to school and be like, “Why did you change clothes?” No, that’s not happening. That’s embarrassing as a 15, 16 year old. That’s embarrassing. Yeah. Oh wow! Flashbacks, flashbacks, flashbacks. Too funny. I want to be respectful of your time, but before we close I kind of want to talk about…So you’re in law school, you are doing the Lone Star Parody project, which we didn’t mention this earlier, but you actually interviewed me for, so I was really honored and thrilled to do that. You’re involved with Ignite, I believe. What else are you going to add to your plate?
Brooke Lopez:I don’t know.
Susan: When are you going to run? Because we need that to happen soon too.
Brooke Lopez: So I get asked that a lot and I actually, I’m not sure what run is in my feature, although I do know that I love to call Dallas home. So if you do see me on a ballot, hopefully it’ll be close to Dallas here in the Great Lone Star state. But right now, other than focusing on trying to get a law degree, just finished my first semester and also working with the Lone Star parody project, I just really tried to dedicate my time back to the communities we’re working with organizations like Ignite Communities Foundation of Texas, the Texas Women’s Foundation. I just want to keep giving back and trying to work on different policies wherever I can advocate for. I never had any idea that starting with a tragedy and a policy of gun control would lead me to where I am today where I run for office and now I have my hand in so many different pots trying to change so many different policies. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the most, but it’s good to know that I never limited and I’m always supported by the people just like you and other women who want to see other women succeed. It’s really inspiring and it keeps me going, so pretty much anywhere where I can keep helping make positive, progressive change in my community, you’ll see me there.
Susan: That is awesome. Well thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story and talking about some of the issues that we’re dealing with in Texas. I kind of feel like we talked a lot and yet I feel like there is so much more to cover so I’m sure we will have you bet, especially as election season approaches and we can maybe even talk about some of the issues that will especially be effecting women. I would love to have you back.
Brooke Lopez: Absolutely. Thank you, Susan.
Susan: All right, well thank you, and I know you have a few more exams left and I know you need to probably go study.
Brooke Lopez: Yeah, I do.
Susan: All right. We will talk again soon my friend. Good luck.
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