This summer, I babysat a boy and a girl ages 10 and 12 respectively. One day, we stopped by my house on the way to the pool to pick up some pool supplies. The kids managed to wander into my messy room while I gathered towels and a bathing suit.
Upon sighting some tampons on my bedroom floor, the girl queried, “What are those? Big straws?”
Not knowing what type of sex education the girl had previously been taught, I was unsure how to respond. Despite being super comfortable about talking about sexual health, I squirmed and hesitantly told her it was a tampon.
On the other side of the room, her brother further questioned, “What’s a tampon? A type of Chinese food?”
Obviously, he had not seen the so called large straws. Because I didn’t respond immediately, he kept questioning, “Japanese food? Any type of food?”
I laughed and told him he was not even remotely close. Thankfully, tampons are not foreign foods. I eventually asked them if they had ever heard of a period. Both children looked puzzled.
Not wanting to replace the role of their parents or sex education teachers, I told them that they would eventually learn about these sorts of things and I switched the subject.
This incident reminded me of how most women make concerted efforts to conceal their feminine products. With the exception of the aforementioned incident, I, too, conform to the social norm of hiding my feminine products. However, when I really think about it, the importance placed on hiding these items is downright silly.
There is a whole market around making them look small and cute. Ahem, Tampax Pearl Compak. Most recently, “U by Kotex” has turned feminine products into fashion statements with their colorful, stylish packaging. Additionally, nifty little cases and purses are made especially for feminine products.
A considerable amount of thought goes into how to transport feminine products, especially in high school when the concept of having a menstrual cycle is awkward and embarrassing. I clearly remember the trick to accessing and carrying a tampon to the bathroom.
For the “lols”, I will remind you what the trick entails. Step one: Reach into your backpack as though you’re grabbing something like a pencil. Step two: Slip the tampon up your sleeve like a magician, given that you have long sleeves. Step three (optional): actually pull a pencil out to make it seem like that’s all you were doing and wait a moment before asking to use the restroom.
Likewise, buying pads and tampons at the store can be humiliating. Many young women dread carrying them to the check-out counter. Enter sarcasm. What if you see that hot boy from school? Then, he’ll find out you have periods. He will finally confirm that you are a woman. Gasp.
Because of absurd social norms, the simple, outward presence of feminine products is incriminating. Women act as though openly possessing and carrying feminine products is like doing illegal drugs in public.
For heaven’s sake, it is not like you’re carrying a bloody, used tampon. Think of it as carrying a towel to the beach. We don’t hide unused band-aids or gauze; therefore, tampons and pads should not be strategically concealed.
I am not advocating that women should suddenly start publicly announcing whether or not they’re carrying feminine products, but I don’t think we should sulk to the checkout counter at the grocery store with our tampons. It’s ridiculous that women worry so much about what the other gender thinks about us carrying a tampon to the bathroom.
In reality, I don’t think guys bat an eye or analyze a girl who is carrying feminine products. After all, we are women. Women have menstrual cycles. This should be no surprise to anyone—except maybe those children I babysat this summer.