Say it loud for those in the back: periods are not gross and it is not okay to shame women for having them.
I’ve recently seen a slew of commercials boasting “discreetly pocket-sized” and “newer, smaller!” tampons that can be hidden and more easily kept out of the public eye. Tampon manufacturers and their subsequent teams of advertising personnel push the idea that slimmer, shorter, and more discreet tampon packaging is a good thing because it draws less attention to a natural and normal bodily occurrence. As if it is unfathomable that a woman would have to pull out a tampon to address a bodily function that she will experience monthly for approximately 40 years.
As if a woman should be scared to let others know that her period has started or that her feminine product needs to be changed.
As if women’s bodies – which are already so heavily policed – should be available for public disgust and scrutiny just because the uterus lining is being shed.
What the fuck?
These commercials, and the feminine hygiene companies that create these products, shame women for getting their periods.
Kotex, for example, profits by convincing women that periods are socially unacceptable and need to be hidden. This false narrative needs to end. There is no shame in menstrual blood or the products women use during their periods. The commercials that boast “improved” tampons send the message that larger, more noticeable tampons are bad and shameful. The smaller tampons are an improvement simply because they draw less attention and allow the world to forget that yes, women bleed.
It seems that the crux of the issue is that other people – oftentimes cis men – are scared of periods and do not want to be reminded of them. In turn, women must carry the burden of the world’s insecurities and disgust.
From the time they start menstruating, women internalize the idea that periods should be kept a secret.
I remember being in middle school and high school and being nervous about keeping my pads and tampons in my purse, or backpack. I did not want anyone to know I was bleeding.
My greatest fear was walking to class and having a pad fall out of my pocket as I fumbled with my books.
These commercials are especially damaging to young women and girls who are entering puberty. These advertisements and marketing strategies set the tone for how girls will view and understand their periods throughout their lifetimes.
These ads say, “Periods are nasty and you need to hide them! Don’t let anyone know you are experiencing a natural process that many women deal with for at least a quarter of their lives! You are dirty if you let someone know you plan to change your tampon!”
This rhetoric perpetuates body shaming and low self-worth.
The issue of concealing the pad or tampon is also part of a bigger attack on women’s menstrual experiences. Women often have to hide extreme cramping, bloating, fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms. Despite these painful side effects, women are still expected to go to work, class, and function daily at a high level of performance.
We need to start having different conversations about periods and vaginas.
We need to normalize, and even celebrate the period.
I refuse to be embarrassed by my period.
I refuse to be degraded by some snarky man who equates a tampon to uncleanliness. I refuse to hide my period behind a sleek tampon stuffed down in the bottom of my purse or discreetly hidden in my coat pocket.
I refuse to let a commercial convince me to hide my body’s natural processes. My menstrual blood is not here for a person, a group, or a corporation to embarrass me.