There are certain life experiences and challenges that women all endure, regardless of race, culture or class. Some of these struggles are social, such as sexual harassment and discrimination, while others are more…”natural.”
That time of the month is different for every woman.
Some get bloated, others don’t. Some crave pizza, others want ice cream or chocolate. Many ladies prefer to use sanitary napkins while others opt for tampons.
However, in some Muslim communities, it’s an unspoken rule that “proper” Muslim girls don’t use tampons because tampons are for “bad women.”
The summer after my first semester at Ole Miss, I did a study abroad program in Jordan with my Arabic Class. I was the only Muslim in the group.
One day, my roommate, Lana, asked me why Muslim women had an issue with tampons. I was able to discuss it in a very simple and calm manner, considering that I never gave this deep thought before. I had always used pads because that’s what my mother did. I didn’t think that an alternative was wrong; I just did what I was comfortable with.
I told her that it was more of a cultural issue than a religious one.
Islam, just like Judaism and Christianity, is against premarital sex and encourages both genders to save themselves for marriage. However, every Muslim woman knows that culturally, she is held to much higher standard than her male counterparts. The hymen is still believed to be the ultimate symbol of virginity in many Muslim societies, and any woman who doesn’t bleed on her wedding night is looked at with disdain or suspicion.
In certain cultures, the in-laws actually seek out the bloodied sheets as “proof” of the bride’s innocence. As a result, many unmarried sisters don’t dare see a gynecologist or stick anything up there, fearing that it will break their hymen.
Considering all of this, it is perfectly understandable why tampons would be a turn-off for most Muslim women. No one wants to be labeled as “loose” or “wild” – simply because she dared to use something that could break her hymen.
But, obviously, using a tampon doesn’t take your virginity; only sex can do that! Everyone has their preference, some prefer pads, others tampons, particularly our sisters who participate in sports, especially swimming and gymnastics.
One of the most annoying aspects of the cultural stigma surrounding tampons is just how forcefully some people enforce the stigma. One of my non-Muslim friends was questioned at a pharmacy in Amman, Jordan after attempting to buy tampons.
She was questioned about her marital status and whether her husband knew and approved of her using these “things.”
The most embarrassing part of this was the fact that employees who were grilling her like this were women as well.
Considering the region’s lack of sex education, it isn’t that surprising that many people believe cultural myths regarding the hymen and women’s sexuality. This is why I am all for extensive sex-ed in our Muslim communities, particularly for girls.
The stigma against using tampons is just one example of how taboo is it to have open discussions about women’s bodies and sexuality within the Islamic community.
It is going to take a lot of effort from the entire community to help tackle these centuries-old myths and notions.
Hopefully, there will come a day where a woman’s morals are judged by her character and not by her choice of sanitary relief.