Since we care a lot about things that matter to women in our world, we really loved this article. Man or woman, we can all remember feeling a little embarrassed talking about periods. It may not be as taboo in the U.S. as it is in other parts of the country, but I still believe we have a long way to go. Boys get nosebleeds all the time and people don’t tell them to hide it.
Are periods off limits because they remind people of sex? Is it because there are so many inaccurate myths? Is this a religious thing? In Judaism (“Jewish law (halacha) prohibits all physical contact (not only intercourse), and proscribes certain other behaviors, between a married couple while the wife has the status of niddah.“), Catholicism (“In a climate that increasingly looked on all aspects of sex and procreation as tainted with sin, theologians considered that an ‘unclean creature’ like a woman could not be entrusted with the care of God’s sacred realities.” ), in Islam (women are not supposed to go to the mosque, touch a Koran, etc, the rules about if you have your period or not are also a bit wacky).
In all these religions woman on their periods are viewed as dirty, but aren’t we passed that? I read this week about how woman in prison aren’t given tampons and pads are rationed, that sounds totally unnecessary when we know that craft mac and cheese and frosted flakes can be easily purchased. Is this a way of punishing women? Frankly, it all seems like a way of disconnecting girls and women from society, and I hope it ends.
Every month in Nepal, the girls are separated from their families, forbidden from looking at the sun, touching fruit and flowers and even staying in their own homes. In Nepal girls during their periods are considered to be ‘impure’ or ‘contaminated’.
The tradition is called Chhaupadi, popular in western-nepalese hindu communities, it is common for girls to remain excluded from interaction with the family for up to 6-10 days, childbirth can also result in a 10 day exclusion.
Thankfully, there are people working on this problem. Abigail Jones got to the bottom of the new movement in her Newsweek cover story, “The Fight to End Period Shaming.” Here’s what people had to say about the piece:
Here are excerpts from the main piece:
In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments:
“Man, you lookin’ good!”
“Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”
Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not. Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function. In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.
Even if you do have access to tampons, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require companies to list the ingredients—yet the average woman has a tampon inside her vagina for more than 100,000 hours over her lifetime. Tampons may contain “residue from chemical herbicides,” says Sharra Vostral, a historian at Purdue University who wrote Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology. “We do not really understand the health consequences, because we are not testing for them in relation to tampons.”
If all this sounds unfair, try getting your period in the developing world. Taboos, poverty, inadequate sanitary facilities, meager health education and an enduring culture of silence create an environment in which girls and women are denied what should be a basic right: clean, affordable menstrual materials and safe, private spaces to care for themselves. At least 500 million girls and women globally lack adequate facilities for managing their periods, according to a 2015 report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school after they start menstruating , according to research by Nielsen and Plan India, and of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in the country, just 12 percent use sanitary napkins.
Menstruation wasn’t always so taboo. In ancient and matrilineal cultures, it was a mark of honor and power, a sacred time for women to rest and revive their bodies. Today, no one is going to the spa or taking a few days off of work to celebrate her period. Menstruation has been cloaked in shame for centuries, but that silence was broken for a brief moment in 1970 when Dr. Edgar Berman, a member of the Democratic Party’s Committee on National Priorities, suggested that women could not hold office because of their “raging hormonal imbalances.” His comments were directed at U.S. Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii, who had implored her party to focus on women’s issues. Berman asked people to imagine a “menopausal woman president who had to make the decision of the Bay of Pigs,” or the president of a bank “making a loan under these raging hormonal influences.” Mink ridiculed his “disgusting performance,” forced his resignation—and, for a very brief time, women’s periods had the floor. Then 46 years went by without any change.
In January, President Barack Obama may have become the first president to discuss menstruation when 27-year-old YouTube sensation Ingrid Nilsen asked him why tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. Obama was stunned. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” he said. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
U.S. consumers spent $3.1 billion on tampons, pads and sanitary panty liners last year, according to Euromonitor, and the global sanitary protection products market reached $30 billion. Y et in the last century, there have only been three significant innovations in the field: disposable sanitary pads, first marketed in the late 19th century and updated with adhesive in 1969; commercial tampons in the 1930s; and menstrual cups, which became popular in the 1980s. “If this isn’t a reflection of how women’s bodies are viewed, I don’t know what is!” says Nilsen. “How could something this important not change over 40 to 50 years?”
While CMC was no longer used in tampons, an explosive 1995 Village Voice article revealed a new threat: Dioxin, a carcinogen that’s “toxic to the immune system” and linked to birth defects, had been found in some commercial tampons. The article slammed the FDA for sitting on memos revealing this link and for not testing tampons…The FDA does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in tampons and pads, which means we know more about where our clothes are made than we do about what women put inside their vaginas. The average woman uses about 12,000 tampons in her lifetime, and that’s a conservative estimate, says Philip Tierno, a professor of microbiology at New York University School of Medicine who was among the first to link TSS with the synthetic materials in tampons. “The FDA says dioxin is a trace, but it adds up when you’re talking about decades of use.” Viscose rayon, which is made from sawdust, is still used in tampons. As Tierno puts it, “it turns out to be one of the best of the bad ingredients.”
I encourage you to read the full story for a list of products that maybe better for you than the usual commercial tampons. Look for organic cotton! Check out the rest of the story here.