The Tampon Taboo

I remember the first period I had during middle school. I was making my way to the girl’s bathroom, a pad in hand, when my friend saw me and rushed up to block my path. “Put that away!” she said, gesturing towards the pad. I didn’t understand her point, so I asked what the problem was. She replied “This is new for you so you don’t know this. You don’t show those in public. Boys think they’re gross and will avoid you.” I shoved the pad into the sleeve of my sweatshirt, and crept to the bathroom unnoticed. I felt like I was hiding some huge secret. Something that makes me a woman became shameful in that moment, and I was hurt by that.

This incident still lingers in my mind years later, and it confuses me. Why are feminine hygiene products objects of taboo?

Feminine hygiene products are marketed primarily for their functionality and their packaging. However, since I started my period, I have noticed more and more that these products are disguised rather than packaged. I’ve seen commercials describing packaging for pads that makes no noise when opened, so as to disguise their function. Cases and covers for tampons and pads are bedazzled and patterned and scented to carry to bathrooms and conceal them. Though their aesthetic appearance may be more appealing, the premise under which they are marketed are representative of the societal taboo placed upon feminine hygiene products.

I have many a time received odd looks from male cashiers in department stores as I purchase a box of tampons and I place them into my shopping bag. I have watched male friends reflexively flinch away from clean, unopened feminine hygiene products either when a girl takes one out of her bag or they see them in a bathroom.

Why is this the case?

Why are objects that are essentials in the lives of most women—something associated with a process vital to the anatomy of a woman and her reproductive system—something that is shamed? Menstruation is natural to half of the world’s population. Unused feminine hygiene products are considered dirty and repulsive by some, prompting women to hide them from the offended. I understand that women want to keep their menstrual cycles private, I know that sometimes I feel the need to be discreet. However, the point is that we shouldn’t HAVE to be. Menstruation isn’t something to be ashamed of, neither is the use of feminine hygiene products.