I just read this wonderful piece about seventh graders asking for tampons in their school and the powers that be who denied the request because of worries that the girls would “abuse the privilege”.
Because tampons are so useful for things other than menstruation. (Actually, I happen to know from an episode of Sex and the City that they can be used to staunch a nosebleed when cut in half lengthwise).
So the kids, instead of whinging and wailing
and crying about the unfairness of everything,
decided to bake cookies. Tampon cookies.
Which is lovely in its own self-evident way, but what got me even more than the cookies and the chutzpah is what someone in the article said about how things have changed, how once upon a time no one would have dared even SAY the word ‘tampon’. And when you think about that… I mean really think about it… it’s entirely mad. The silencing of what is so utterly normal.
Menstrual trivia: Not until 1985 did the word ‘period’ even appear in advertising, although, of course, many products were advertised (for ‘female conditions’ and ‘time of the month’ and other euphemisms. It was Courtney Cox who had the honours of finally outing the word in a TV ad for Tampax.
But for all the distance we’ve covered, we are STILL in this place where girls and women are made to feel a warped sense of taboo about their own bodies.
Two summers ago, in order to promote Gush, a book of essays, poetry, and stories about menstruation, I sat at a little table on the sidewalk in downtown Uxbridge, outside the Blue Heron Book Shop, and chatted with passersby about menstrual memories. What were their stories? Etc.
It actually went brilliantly, as in PEOPLE (women mostly, but some men too, god bless them) WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF.
They just need to know it’s okay.
All that’s required is to normalize it. By saying the words. By asking the questions. By sharing stories that make us laugh and cry and want to change the world in tiny ways that are freeing. All of which toward the goal of changing things in bigger ways, as in, oh I don’t know… research into women’s health issues? which remain sadly underfunded and/or overlooked.
Because we’re far from done with this subject.