When you were young, were you taught how to conceal your tampon or pad when you were on your way to the bathroom? Yeah, me, too. When I was in middle school, I mastered slipping my tampon, in a plastic wrapper covered in flowers no doubt, up my sleeve. The idea of being caught with a tampon or pad was enough to make you want to faint. The first time I learned the word “mortifying” was while reading editorials in the pages of Seventeen magazine about girls who got caught with tampons in school. But alas, by the time I was in high school, Always came out with a bejeweled tampon “box” that mimicked the look of a make-up case. Whew. Problem solved.
But was it?
What I, and all of my bleeding friends didn’t realize, was that something as simple as not wanting to be seen with a tampon fed right into menstrual stigma. I mean, who were we hiding them for? Certainly not ourselves. We were hiding them from *gasp* boys.
Framing menstruation as something that should be hidden to avoid embarrassing boys, men, other women, or even yourself is kind of oppressive. We are culturally trained to find the value of the female body through its sexuality. If we want to be sexy and desirable we can’t let on that once a month blood comes out of our vaginas, am I right?
So, because we associate the female body with sex, and associate menstrual blood with something that is “gross”, being seen carrying a menstrual care product makes you “gross” by association. And women don’t want to be labeled as gross.
But the truth is, menstruators menstruate. And sometimes we do it in public. That means there is a strong chance that we will have to change our menstrual products in public restrooms. This is nothing we should be ashamed of.
Taboos change slowly over time, but our period-positive movement is beginning to gain momentum. You can help usher in change by carrying your menstrual care products proudly and vowing not to conceal them for the sake of others. We here at Cycledork promise to do the same. Our hope is that, eventually, the sight of a tampon, pad, cup or sponge will be so commonplace that no one will care anymore. Wishing you all an empowered period.
[edited original image: Nadine Ajaka/The Atlantic]
Amy Sutherland is a period-positive advocate, educator and writer. She prefers tackling topics like reproductive health, fertility, sexuality, feminism, social justice issues and all those tricky subjects you avoid talking about at family gatherings. Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Health as well as a Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies. Read her full bio here.