Whilst having a good old chin wag at the blogger spring meet, us girls got to talking about what we carry on a daily basis in our hand bags and what size of bag is the most desirable. This got me thinking about what is actually in my bag and why it is so rare that sanitary products make an appearance on blogs, YouTube videos or even in conversations.
Roll on a few months later and whilst catching up on my YouTube subscription I noticed a few bloggers, such as Zoe London, Helen Anderson and Lily Melrose had all made ‘What’s actually in my bag‘ videos – this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to address the seemingly short supply of sanitary products in blogger bags, so I made my very own video.
I am very much of the mindset that periods happen to every girl so it is not a big deal to talk about them, which has been a pretty controversial with some of my friends. The first time I realised that I was weirdly open about my menstrual cycle was whilst I was at university; I had some people around for dinner, one of the girls took me aside and asked if they could borrow a tampon, I of course told her to help herself. She looked slightly confused and asked where I kept them.
Now I was confused, they were in the bathroom – where else would I put them? Apparently this was not the correct social etiquette for tampon usage and according to my friend I should keep them hidden in my room as not to cause embarrassment. She relayed this information as if she was doing me a favour. I was really taken aback by her reaction, I didn’t display them like a prized ornament but just shoved them beside the loo roll, because they have a similar function.
Then there was the time at the pub I openly asked if anyone had a tampon? There were boys and girls at the table, the lads made jokes and the girls look horrified. Later in the evening when I went down to the toilet I was subtly handled one. Apparently this was another one of those things I was not meant to say out loud.
Even more recently I was out with some of my girl friends and my boyfriend phoned me whilst he was in the shop and asked if I need anything I responded with “yeah, some tampons, yep just the normal yellow ones that are in the bathroom”. As I hung up I noticed that they were open mouthed, “Did you just ask Pablo to get tampons?!?”. We have been going out for over 8 years so I have had my period over 100 times during our relationship, I didn’t really think it would come as a surprise to him that I use tampons.
This post is more than just an endless list of my apparent social faux pas but is intended as a beginning point to start chipping away at much wider issue. If you give a quick Google of talking about sanitary products there are a million articles about how to talk to your daughter about periods.
I believe that if we were more open, and stopped treating periods as a dirty secret, girls would feel less terrified when they get their first and parents less awkward about explaining this natural part of growing up.
Despite the fact my mum and I were close I still remember the mixture of shame and fear that I felt when I got mine for the first time, there was an odd feeling that I had done something wrong and I was afraid to ask questions. This pre-programmed idea that periods were something that were dirty and not up for discussion was also the reason I used horrid sanitary towels for years, I simply did not know there was another option.
Unfortunately my reaction does not seem to be a result as of my social awkwardness but is also reiterated in Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, where she finds out about periods in a leaflet at school and felt like she could only ask one question before the topic was closed. I don’t think that we have to go into graphic details about our menstrual cycle and I am not going to go all Germaine Greer and insist that you taste your period, however I also don’t think the scientific explanation given to girls in school or the leaflets handed out are quite cutting it either.
It is not only in my everyday life that periods seem to be a taboo topic but also in the media, even though it was now a couple of years ago, the clip from Girls, where Jessa reaches down between her legs and brings her hand out smeared with blood still frequently makes “TV’s most shocking moments” lists, which I am still bemused by. Is the shock factor because she shows the guy she was about to have sex with and the audience where period’s come from and what they look like? Or was there a deeper issue like she was elated at not being pregnant? Does the negativity and shame associated with periods stem from a prehistoric view that woman are placed on this earth to be mothers and that each month we do not procreate, we are failing humanity?
Whatever the reason for the closed approach to a females menstrual cycle I feel that, however awkward, this is a conversation that needs to happen because if girls don’t talk about periods and boys are kept out of the seemingly secret female-only discussions, how do we expect change to be made on issues such as Tampon Tax, free sanitary products not being made available to homeless women and also the lack of sanitary products given as aid?
Periods are not a big deal but many of the issues surrounding them are, so lets stop being so closed about something so natural.