Planned Parenthood is vital to the health and well-being of women. For nearly 100 years, it has served as an invaluable source of education, medical care, and support for women, their families, and their communities. Offering so many of us what cannot be found elsewhere, PP has continuously sustained and enriched countless lives around the globe. For many women, including me, it isn't just a place to obtain an annual gynecological exam or contraceptives, it is also a primary-care provider, a safe space that allows for us to not only stay healthy, but thrive. Despite the obvious value of Planned Parenthood, its advocacy for women's health care and dedication to offering quality medical resources has relentlessly been jeopardized over the past year due to the blind passion of the conservative right and the misogynistic policies and rhetoric of male politicians. In a world where women's health isn't viewed as a priority, it is easy to feel frustrated, angry, and unsure of how to make to make a difference.
For close friends and creatives Natalia Mantini and Tallulah Willis, those feelings led to the inspiration for "Ours not yours." Their collaborative T-shirt and photography project boldly places women at its center and aims to take back our culture's conversation about women's health care and human rights. "We [wanted to] create something that we could sell so that we could raise money," Mantini explains. All the proceeds from the sale of their T-shirt will be donated to Planned Parenthood.
I got the chance to speak with Mantini and Willis a few hours after their project launched about why Planned Parenthood matters, what it was like collaborating with each other, and the changes that they'd like to see when it comes to women's health care.
Dianca Potts: How did this project get started?
Natalia Mantini: We'd been discussing the current state of what's going on with women's rights, Planned Parenthood, and the struggles that are really blatant now. We were talking about it pretty much every day, and it was feeling so unmanageable that I was like, How can we channel this into something positive that will benefit what we believe in, how can we make something positive out of it? It's really easy to just feel overwhelmed and scared and angry, so I was like, "Let's do something, even if it's just making a T-shirt and donating the money, because doing something small is better than doing nothing."
DP: How did you come up with the slogan "Ours not yours"?
Tallulah Willis: That came from a brainstorming session that we'd been having over a couple of days. So we were bouncing around a few ideas, and that one just felt really right. It's simple and clear but evokes what we're trying to say about taking back the discussion, because it's our bodies and that was the basis of the design. We played around with the idea of more imagery, but then we decided that just making the slogan the main focal point was a powerful thing.
DP: Natalia, in a recent interview with Dazed, you described Tallulah's drawings as "vulnerable," "relatable," and "very human," which are three aspects that perfectly describe the portraits for this project. Why did you and Tallulah decide to go with portraiture?
NM: I'm a photographer, and I'm really into portraits, so once we knew that we were going to do a T-shirt, I was like, "OK, we should definitely get other women involved [and have them] share their experience. I also felt that it was important to get each subject in their space. I went to everyone's home, and I wanted to get them just as natural and comfortable as possible, to make it candid. It was really amazing, because I spent at least an hour with each subject, and we just had honest and inspiring conversations.
I wanted to make sure that we had diverse subjects overall who were also inspiring, and it was pretty easy because we both have really amazing friends. We're really lucky to be surrounded by such incredible people and that they wanted to be a part of this project.
DP: Collaboration is a key element of feminism, and this project embodies that perfectly. What was it like working with each other and with the women whom you included in the portraits for this project?
TW: I've always felt that the best way to go through things is in support of each other. I have less experience doing projects like this, so I relied on Natalia's knowledge a lot, and she very graciously held me up.
NM: I've always loved her drawings and her work, so it just instantly made sense. It was very effortless.
DP: In your own words, why is Planned Parenthood vital to women's health and well-being?
TW: I think "vital" is the only way to describe [it]. It's not a negotiable or optional thing, it's just needed. Women's rights should never be put into jeopardy; nothing should take that away.
NW: When I was growing up, my first experience with reproductive care, education, and resources was Planned Parenthood. That's where you went. There weren't other options. Just knowing that space exists and that if you need something there's a place to go [is huge]. I feel like I took it for granted because I never knew that there would be a day when that would be [in jeopardy]. Because of that, because I had that safety and security and accessibility, I wanted to do something to support what I was freely given. I feel like I owe a lot to that.
DP: We're halfway through the presidential election. Once our new president is elected, what changes would you like to see when it comes to advocacy for women's health?
TW: For me, I think that it should just be locked in, it should not be up to debate, it shouldn't be a question, and it should never be put in a vulnerable place where it could be potentially taken off the table.
NM: If anything, awareness, resources, education, and acceptability should increase, not decrease. We need to progress as quickly as possible and support women's rights and families' rights to health care. We need to make educational resources accessible for young women, all young women, not just the ones from privileged backgrounds. Caring about humans, caring about women, and caring about families as compassionately as possible, it's just common sense.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Dianca London is an assistant at Lenny.