Is it drugs or just a tampon?
We’ve all been there before: Your period starts, you peak into your cosmetic pouch before heading to the bathroom and that’s when you realize – whoops, no tampon. What happens next is a strange modern ritual acted out across offices, classrooms and other public spaces. The tampon exchange.
Women have perfected the art of the tampon swap. When going to a colleague or friend (that can be trusted to ask for one), the handoff is more discreet than sharing a pen or a piece of gum. Instead of chucking it across the room, we inch closer and closer together, exchanging furtive glances before secretly sliding the tampon into the palm of the other's hand. And what do we do next? Creep slowly to the bathroom, looking around and making sure no one can see what’s being held and guess what it’s about to be used for in the bathroom.
So, we can’t help but wonder: why do we treat tampons as secretive as illegal drugs?
It’s not a secret that many people with a uterus and at a reproductive age menstruate, even once a month. It’s the most natural thing in the world. But guess what, menstruation is still a taboo topic today. A Tampax Report conducted a survey among adults in the United States and found that many agreed menstruation should not be discussed with “mixed company” or even discussed with family at home.
Beyond being a private topic not meant to be shared, your period can be a cause for shaming. When asked to complete the sentence “A menstruating women is....,” 50% of college students listed negative words like “weak, frustrated, desperate, incapable” in one study… say what?!?!
How can we all drive change when it comes to period taboos and strange tampon exchanges? First of all, we can all contribute to change in our own, small ways. For example, we believe that ending period shaming can start with rolling up that hiding sleeve and treating tampons like a common good (think of a tissue) and not a shameful item. Jakob Leitenmeier, founder and CEO of TAMTAM Label, a brand using a tampon as the main design element, even goes one step further: “We should celebrate periods! The more we talk about it and make menstruation visible, the less heads turn when they hear the word ‘tampon’ or ‘menstruation’!.”
So next time another “illegal” tampon deal is executed at the workplace, party or restaurant, why not do it differently? Ask for it like you would for a tissue from your girlfriend and walk confidently across the room. Because tampons are not drugs, they’re tampons – period.
Check out some taboo-breaking period products available at the Femacy.
Sources: Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, Joan C. Chrisler, The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma, 2020