I realize this may sound terribly cliche coming from someone on their period, but something is pissing me off, and I swear it’s more than PMS.
I have been noticing it more and more. It follows me to work and it’s even sprung up in my own bathroom directed at me by a box of tampons.
The thing I’m talking about is PERIOD SHAME. (cue lightning, scary music, etc)
You know, the driving force behind the use of blue liquid as a stand-in for menstrual blood in pad commercials. The thing that enforces separate girls’ and boys’ health classes in elementary school. The thing that keeps male-bodied people in the dark (and hell, a lot of female-bodied folks, too!) about what the hell is a period anyway? You know, the thing that makes us say things like feminine paper and sanitary napkin, and call it a period, because even naming it is too shameful. And, the thing that keeps my co-workers handing me tampons like we are spies exchanging top-secret documents.
The Tampon Slip
My discovery of this little maneuver is a result of my chronic forgetfulness. Without fail, at least once a period I find myself at work sans tampons and asking a co-worker to supply me to the end of my shift.
Okay, you should know now that I work in a diner where I am required to wear an apron. Well, more like a pouch. Anyway, yes, I wear a pouch at work.
On two separate occasions, with two separate co-workers-turned-tampon-dealers, I have found myself privy to the oh-so-discreetly-executed Tampon Slip.
I could be standing at the computer, punching in a customer’s order, holding a tray of drinks, or standing around doing absolutely nothing (I do this a lot) when I feel the teensiest movement in my pouch pocket. My co-worker-turned-tampon-dealer has slipped a tampon into my pouch so subtly that even I barely notice.
And there you have it, The Tampon Slip.
Why is The Tampon Slip necessary? Why does it need to be carried out with such attention to discretion? Couldn’t they just hand me a tampon like they would hand me any other regular item?
Okay sure, maybe I’m very busy, or maybe my spider hands are full of plates, drinks and credit cards. Maybe. But most often, I am willing to bet that The Tampon Slip is meant to save me from PERIOD SHAME.
If my co-worker-turned-tampon-dealer handed me a tampon like a regular item, anyone could see and know that I have my period (SHAME!) or that they carry tampons and therefore could also have their period (SHAME!) and probably a whole slew of other shameful assumptions based on absorbency, brand, etc.
The truth is, my co-worker-turned-tampon-dealer can’t hand me a tampon like any regular item because a tampon isn’t a regular item. A tampon is a signifier of menstruation aka uterus-ovaries-vagina aka woman-ness or trans*-ness aka inferiority.
Us period-havers are supposed to keep quiet about menstruating to keep the non-period-havers feeling safe, superior and unburdened with any awareness or knowledge of our bodies and how they function.
If my co-worker-turned-tampon-dealer handed me a tampon like a regular item, it would disrupt the illusion we all play into that periods don’t happen. The non-period-havers would feel unsafe and scared because they would suddenly have to deal with the fact that periods exist. They would maybe even have to grope in their brains for some of the knowledge gleaned from those sex-segregated health classes back in elementary school.
Us period-havers would feel ashamed and embarrassed that we failed to uphold our part of the illusion, and everyone around us would know that we, too, have bodies that function as bodies will, and are probably dirty and morally corrupt.
Even the company I hand over my greasy-diner-dollars to every month (that I will call Tam-pox), insists that my period is “unclean” and I need to be “discreet” about its existence.
Right on the box, Tam-pox proudly shouts (practically) that its tampons have “amazingly cleanprotection” – with the word “clean” emphasized.
Inside the instructions and usage information, Tam-pox even kindly provides tips for discreet disposal.
“After you have inserted the tampon, place the used applicator back into the discreet wrapper. Grasp the bottom of the wrapper (the end with the applicator inside) and fold upwards toward the top of the wrapper that has the used applicator inside. Although this process is optional, it will give you optimal disposal discretion.”
If I could even decipher what that meant, I might find that I already do it. But to have it included as an optional-yet-encouraged step in using a tampon is ridiculous. I CAN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS!
I guess what I don’t understand is how Tam-pox, one of biggest names in menstrual products, can be so period-negative? (And why, when I google “period positive” are the first results about pregnancy tests?) Is it too much to ask for a little period-positivity when I need it most?
Perhaps is about time I had some adventures in alternative menstrual products. Tam-pox, you and your period-negativity are banned from my bathroom, once and for all.