Although I don’t think adolescence is easy for anyone, I definitely felt like an especially awkward child. Being one of the first girls in my class to get my period did not help. I was 10 years old, it was the 90s and spandex was all the rage. And I can personally tell you that maxi-pads and spandex pants do not go well together. From the very beginning my period felt like a burden. Even in my feminist household where my mother tried to educate me about my body from a young age, I always saw my period as one more thing to feel insecure about. And who’s to blame me when we look at the ways that our society portrays menstruation?
Let’s look at this tampon box. What key words do you see? Discreet? Quiet? What this box says to me is that it is imperative that nobody knows that I’m on my period. A quick logical jump would be that I shouldn’t talk about my period. Usually if we’re not supposed to talk about things it’s because they are bad or shameful. Why would we want to shame women for a natural bodily function? Especially one for which we have to thank the whole human race.
This ad comes from adbusting.tumblr.com. The words “Our periods are natural, not dirty” were written on the ad. The ad says, “Feel the clean without the shower” and is selling wipes for menstruating women. Why do menstruating women need wipes? How many of us have been told that our periods are not clean? You know what’s not clean? Your mouth. Your mouth is teeming with germs. Menstrual blood on the other hand is quite clean. For centuries society has told women that menstruation makes you “unclean” or “impure” in some way. However, this isn’t based on science, simply a long, long history of shaming women’s bodies.
I like to hope that our next generation of vagina-owning folks could learn to feel comfortable about their periods. You don’t have to love it, but you certainly shouldn’t feel that you need to hide it.
Whew! I haven’t even gotten to the part where I was going to rant about how wasteful tampons and pads are! There’s so many other alternative menstrual products out there that people just aren’t aware of. Check out some resources here and here to learn about the various products that are on the market.
Want to learn more? You’re in luck! This Wednesday (10/1) is our Red Party: A Menstruation Celebration! We will have crafts (2-4pm), a screening of “Red Moon: Menstruation, Culture, and the Politics of Gender” (4pm) and a raffle for alternative menstrual products as well as some education on the various products out there (5pm). We’ll have some red snacks as well, and I encourage you to wear your favorite red clothes! Stop by anytime!
Sarah Tucker Jenkins
Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center & LGBT Center