in the beginning
Hi, my name is Tasha Bishop, and I’m addicted to underwear. Funnily enough, The Pants Project started with a lie. At 13 years old, I was the last girl in my year to start her period. I so badly wanted to be part of the “I’m cool ‘cause I’ve started my period” club, that I ended up faking it – you know what they say, fake it till you… bleed… it? Nope. Anyway, I stole some red food colouring from my mum’s baking cupboard, poured it all over the gusset of my brightest white pants, and took them to school for period club show and tell. To be honest, those pants resembled some sort of massacre (I’m pretty sure no one has bled that much period blood in the entire existence of humanity), but my friends were easily fooled – bless their young hearts – and I was accepted as a fully fledged, monthly red member of the club. A girl gang to end all girl gangs, or so I thought.
Fast forward a few years, and I was 16 years old, waiting outside a plastering room in hospital for a broken hand. As I sat and pondered whether to opt for glow in the dark or fluorescent pink as my cast colour, a pregnant woman was wheeled past me on a bed. I looked at her and had a sudden moment of realisation that my fake period wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to have kids. I knew I had to come clean. The conversation rolled around my mind for a while until I suddenly blurted it out to my mum one day – and her reaction was better than I could have ever hoped for. She loved me, hugged me and sort of laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. Assuring me that my real period would eventually arrive (“You’re probably just a late bloomer and the more you think about it, the less likely it is to come” kinda thing). I was satisfied with this for a while and carried on my teenage existence quite happily.
A few months went by, and every single day my elusive period refused to appear, I got more and more anxious. Eventually I’d had enough and demanded that my mum took me to the doctor so we could find out what was wrong with me. The first appointment (in a long line of them) was a GP visit, who cheerily reminded me that “a watched kettle never boils”, but whom – after much persuasion – eventually booked me in for an ultrasound scan. An inconclusive ultrasound and two MRIs later, I went back to see my GP who then reassured me she’d “googled” my condition, and that I had Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome. Affecting 1 in 5,000 women, MRKH means I was born without a womb. In the space of 5 minutes, at 16 years old, I was told I would never have a period, I’d never give birth, and if I wanted to have sex I’d have to undergo invasive long term treatment. Oh, and as a parting gift, the doctor looked at my breasts and told me they were going to perform a hormone test to check I was 100% female – great, so I’m not quite a girl, probably not a boy and maybe not human… am I an X-Men mutant?
I finished my school days trying to ignore MRKH and the implications it would have on my life. Instead, I focused my time on passing exams and falling in love with the best boy ever. My best friend became my boyfriend, and after a year of panicking about the big reveal, I figured it was time to tell him about MRKH so that I could undergo treatment that would enable us to have sex. He took it just like my mum took the fake period fiasco – it was a drop in the ocean and he couldn’t have been more supportive if he tried. So, off I went to hospital for the treatment and on the very last day, my utterly incredible nurse planted the seed that eventually grew into The Pants Project. I was utterly broken by my treatment, depressed about my body and was far away from anything even close to what womanly feels like. Discussing this with my nurse, she advised I get myself a pair of pants that made me feel like the superwoman I was. A week later, I heeded her advice and popped off to buy my first pair of power pants. For the first time in my life, I looked at my body and saw a powerful, capable, sexy, strong woman. I had discovered the power of pants.
Having experienced a time when I felt as far from femininity and womanhood as possible, it was pants that saved me: a pair of underwear that made me feel invincible. I truly feel, with every fibre of my being, that women (and men!) deserve to feel beautiful, powerful, capable and strong every single day – with absolutely no qualifiers. Infertility, gender, sexual orientation, background, money, job, mental health or any other kind of issues are things that effect each of us differently, daily. For me, it’s about finding a small symbol of strength – a piece of everyday armour – that can keep us going through the darkest of times. For me, that was pants and in creating The Pants Project, I wanted to share that power with the world. My original idea was to sell pants a bit like merch t-shirts, but this adventure has stretched further and evolved more amazingly that I ever could have dreamed it might. The Pants Project was born out of experience and exists to create a community of support – just like a gusset. May the power of pants be with you.
"Lingerie is the maximum expression of a woman's femininity"
(Dolce & Gabbana)