Why the Term "Feminine Hygiene" Has Got to Go

Last year, Her Campus American launched a petition to provide more readily available, free menstrual products to students on campus. Initially, we labeled the products as “feminine hygiene” products: the same label seen written on large signs hung in grocery store aisles, spoken by the soccer players in tampon commercials, and spelled out on boxes of pads at the store. Early in the campaign, we decided to educate ourselves on this ubiquitous label used to describe menstrual hygiene products. Subsequently, we decided to change our wording to “menstrual hygiene” products. Here’s why:

Not Everyone That Has a Period Identifies as a Woman

The marketing of the association of period products to cisgender women has been a multigenerational phenomenon passed down as a traditional way of describing menstruation. However, it is important to note that the list of people who have periods includes: transgender men, non-binary people, agender people as well as cisgender women. All these people experience monthly blood flow, however, not all these people identify as female. Not all people who menstruate are female.

People Who Do Not Have Their Period Can Also Identify as Women 

Calling menstruation products "feminine hygiene" products implies that those who menstruate are cisgender women. It's a term exclusive of those who do not fit traditional feminine roles as well as those who do not identify as female. Moreover, women who are past menopause and no longer have monthly periods are no less feminine than the women that do have their period. Additionally, transgender women and women who have undergone a hysterectomy do not experience monthly bleeding yet they still may maintain their feminine identity.  

Linking Womanhood and “Menstruation” Perpetuates Sexist and Gender-Based Stereotypes

A pink box with flowers rimming the edges is an image often associated with period products. Calling the products “feminine” adds another layer to these gender-based stereotypes. The word “feminine” is connoted with daintiness and fragility. Combined with the gendered branding of menstrual hygiene products, periods have become a societal reinforcement of antiquated gender stereotypes in which people who menstruate are expected to be cisgender women, which isn't the case.

Periods Aren't Dirty And They Aren't Just for Women

In an article written in Bustle, Elizabeth Licorish describes the term “feminine hygiene” products as implying “there is something inherently dirty and shameful about menstruation, since we clearly can't talk about it candidly.” These types of euphemisms lend themselves to people feeling distanced from their body and perpetuate societal aversion to periods They make the topic of periods a source of discomfort for many. Alternatively, using the term “menstrual hygiene” makes it more rightfully inclusive of all those who menstruate. 

It is crucial  to be inclusive and use terms like "menstrual hygiene" over specific gender-associated phenomenon in order to dispel the socially constructed version of what menstruation and periods are supposed to be. People have periods. All types of different people, whether they do or do not identify as feminine. 

All photos belong to the author.