I recently purchased a “jumbo-sized” box of tampons at the grocery store, simply because they were temporarily out of the regular-sized boxes. I felt somewhat awkward about this purchase, hoping the cashier would not think that I had some vast, unstoppable flow that was gushing out of me like a fire hydrant. I am aware that caring about such things is antithetical to a feminist philosophy, but it is hard not to subscribe to what tampon companies tell us; for instance, that our periods are somehow our fault and we should be ashamed of the measures we are forced to take against them.
As I was making my purchase, I happened to notice the claim on the front of the box, right beneath the giant JUMBO label: “over 4 months’ supply!”
I did a double-take. There were 54 tampons in the box. Divided by four months, that comes out to 13.5 tampons per month. Shall we count the ways in which this is absurd?
First of all, nobody uses half a tampon, but considering these people design vagina-plugs for a living, I don’t really expect them to be math experts. But there is a more pressing issue here, which is that either these people have absolutely no grasp on reality, or I really do need to see a doctor about my unstoppable menstrual flow. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TAMPONS, YO.
Real talk: We all gots that heavy-flow day, the day where the slightest sneeze is apt to send a typhoon gushing down your leg. On my heaviest day, which is usually the second day of my period, I change my tampon every one and a half hours. Yes, I have it down to a science. I’ve been the owner of a uterus for some time now, and I know how it works.
Let’s round up to once every two hours. That means that during my waking hours, I am using 8 tampons. Just on one fucking day – and my period is five days long. Even on days when the bleeding isn’t as heavy, I don’t like to leave a tampon in for more than four hours. It makes me feel like someone had a picnic in my vagina about six months ago – it’s just not fresh, and it smells a little bit like tuna salad. I like to keep things tidy down there, so even on the lighter days, I use at least four tampons. In fact, the FDA recommends changing one’s tampon every four to six hours. Even if you are only changing your tampon every six hours on a five day period, you are using more than 13.5 tampons per period.
Do I have a problem? Am I some sort of blood-spewing mammalian freak? Mary forgive me, but I really don’t think that I am. Why do they lie like this? What the sweet hell is wrong with Procter & Gamble? Other than the fact that they, and several other prominent women’s health product companies, are operated by those of the male persuasion?
Let’s face it – tampon companies are professional liars. They make it sound like we should all be frolicking on beaches in our white bikinis, comfortably corked by our little wads of cotton. They make it out like cuteness is the most important component of tampon design. And they pretend like a box of glorified Q-tips with strings hanging out of them should be worth $11.99 to me. (Sure, I could buy the cardboard ones, if I wanted to disembowel myself upon removal.) They can’t even call it a period – it’s always “mother nature,” or “your little friend, ” or “Aunt Flo.” God forbid my virgin ears should be exposed to the word “menstruation.”
Tampon companies have women wrapped around their greasy little fingers. Unless we want to resort to the squishy, warm, diaper-swamp feeling of pads (no offense to anyone who is restricted to pad use by their anatomy – I know how you feel, and I pray with you), we are doomed to the continued purchase of these outrageously overpriced cotton commodities. These companies are already raiding our wallets. The least they can do is refrain from insulting our intelligence or telling us how many of their product we are allowed to use in a month before we need to be carted away for scientific study. Woman on their period already feel marginalized and unsexy, due mostly to the way companies treat us. The last thing we need is to be told how our bodies are supposed to work in the eyes of some faceless tampon conglomerate. If you need to use twelve tampons in a day – hey girl, it’s not your fault you have a wide-set vagina and a heavy flow. If you only need three – that’s cool too, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. If you’d rather use pads, do it up. If you fancy stuffing a bunch of moss up there and smelling delightfully of greenery all day, you’re in good company. It’s your period. Own it.