After picking up a discreetly packaged zip-lock of De Jour Tampons from the SRC freebies bin, I was shocked to read that De Jour is the only female-owned tampon company in the country. This led me to consider why menstrual products are marketed as ‘feminine hygiene products,’ almost as if to say “your uterus is kind of dirty and I don’t want to talk about it, let’s watch the footy and crack open a tin instead.”
It’s no wonder that in this male-dominated industry, some degree of ‘ya nasty’ factor exists within the name of the very product they’re selling. The practice of period shaming is often perpetrated by non-menstruating folk, which pressures those who do to feel embarrassed about a completely normal and natural process.
If periods didn’t exist, neither would you, buddy. They’re not disgusting—periods can be uncomfortable, painful, unwelcome and annoying, but they’re not gross, they’re just normal.
First, let’s talk about how problematic this term ‘feminine hygiene products’ really is. Feminine? Aren’t we done with using gender-specific, isolating terms yet? I mean, come on: not everyone with a uterus is female, and what, if you don’t menstruate, are you exempt from femininity?
Next, let’s deal with the word ‘hygiene.’ I’m sorry* if you think my uterus is some sort of contaminated germ bin, but let’s not go pretending that without these products, anyone who menstruates is dirty. Insert humble reminder that it is indeed these very products in the form of tampons that are heavily associated with the deadly, bacterial Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Why haven’t we addressed this issue in a better way for menstruating folk? Oh wait, maybe it’s because the people in charge don’t menstruate and don’t care.
Consider those who can’t afford the cost of these products, consider your ancestors, who in the most metal way possible would’ve just surfed the crimson wave in a down-to-earth way instead of worrying about “leakage freakage” and avoiding white fabric that week.
As for the word ‘products,’ well… that can stay. I’m not that angry about this element of period stuff—I just prefer to term pads, tampons, moon cups and the like as ‘menstrual products,’ because it’s less isolating, projects less shame onto those who use them and it’s actually more accurate.
Even the word “menstrual” itself reminds us that men project their power into almost every crevice of society, uteri included.
The phrase “someone’s on their period!” with an eyebrow raised is one we’ve all copped, regardless of whether you have a uterus. It’s odd that so many men think women make irrational decisions when we’re on our periods, when in fact, our testosterone levels are higher at that time, making us much more hormonally similar than at other times — so if my period’s a problem for my decision making, then men are rendered shit decision makers ALL the time. Raise your eyebrows at that! In fact, estrogen levels actually increase in men as they grow older.
Maybe they’re trying to catch up.
*I’m not actually sorry, deal with my ute, m8.