Photo: The Obama Foundation
Photo: The Obama Foundation

SocietyDecember 23, 2019

The day Michelle Obama asked to touch my ovaries

Photo: The Obama Foundation
Photo: The Obama Foundation

Fruit are ovaries, and when Wā Collective founder and executive menstruator Olie Body asked Michelle O to feel her cherries the former first lady dived right in.

Who would have thought I’d meet Michelle Obama in my old yoga pants, the ones I’ve sewn up at the crotch multiple times, the ones with some pink paint on the left knee? Who’d have thought that when I met Michelle Obama, she would ask, “Olie, can I touch your ovaries?” Yes, really. 

This year has been pretty darn crazy. And while I certainly couldn’t have forecast my meeting with the former First Lady, those who are part of my community know that wonderfully bizarre and joyous ‘Olie things’ tend to unfold around me. This year I’ve given a TEDx Talk, represented New Zealand at a women’s leadership event in Hawai’i, helped prevent 2.2 million tampons and pads from reaching landfill in Aotearoa through my social enterprise Wā Collective, and become a Edmund Hillary Fellow.

As part of my mission to realise Wā Collective’s vision of sustainably preventing period poverty through reusable menstrual products, I was invited to be an inaugural Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leader. And that’s the bit that leads me to my ovaries. 

Olie Body and her cherry earrings. (Photo: Supplied.)

I write this from 2000 ft in the sky on my way back from the Obama Foundation meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week. There were nine Kiwis among the 200 movers and shakers who hailed from across the world, from the Northern Mariana Islands to Mongolia. 

If that wasn’t already enough, on day three of five, I was invited to a private round table event for Michelle Obama’s Girls Opportunity Alliance. Eleven of us were picked for the work we do in supporting girls and young women, i.e. those with ovaries. 

With multiple stoic security guards surrounding us, Michelle Obama an arm’s reach away, a wall of press behind me, actress Lana Condor in front of me and President Obama’s sister Maya Soroto-Ng beside me, this was possibly one of the most formal events I’ve been called to speak at. As you can probably imagine, rather than butterflies, it was more like sheep galavanting around my stomach by this point. 

Pausing to remember Michelle’s own words, “you belong here”, I took to the stage, kicked off my shoes, sat cross-legged on my chair, and had a quick yarn with Barack Obama’s sister. 

Michelle Obama with attendees at the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Olie and her cherrings are at the back. (Photo: The Obama Foundation.)

As I made a concerted effort to try and slow my heart beat down, I explained the importance of the work we are doing in Aotearoa. How we can’t just be looking at women’s health issues in isolation. How we must make decisions for both people and the planet, otherwise there will be no decision left to make. How we must operate on multiple levels of the systems we are all part of if we wish to shift these on the level needed. Of how important heart, humour and compassion are to our Wā Collective mission. Of how, by living these values, in only a year and a half we’ve saved menstruators over $700,000 they’d be otherwise be spending on tampons and pads that were chucked into landfill, if they could afford to buy them in the first place. Not gonna lie, my off-the-cuff speech was smooth. 

I wrapped up with “and we do this because no girl should miss out just because she’s born with a mighty pair of ovaries!” 

Michelle Obama burst out laughing. She clapped furiously and said “Oh my god! Yes! That so needs to be on a t-shirt!!” Yes it does Mrs Obama, yes it does. 

I gestured to my bright red cherry earrings dangling from my lobes. “That’s why I wear these,” I said. “Fruit are ovaries and I’m damn well wearing them with pride.” At that remark, Michelle and her sister-in-law gave me a joyous, supportive hug.

After we wrapped up, Michelle Obama leaned towards me and asked, laughing, “Olie, can I touch your ovaries?”

“Michelle, please touch my ovaries,” I said with a grin. 

And oh, the First Lady, she doesn’t just touch my ovaries, she gets right in there and damn well cradles them.

What a bloody good day to be alive. 

If you are interested in supporting our kaupapa, you can our purchase a pair of our ‘cherrings’ here – so you too can rock your ovaries boldly on the outside, alongside me and Mrs Obama. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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