Let’s Talk About Periods — but Like Really

Rethinking access, stigma, and inclusion.

Illustrated by Marcy Gooberman

Illustrated by Marcy Gooberman

We teamed up with Aunt Flow, one of our favorite brands in the period space (for their inclusion, use of organic cotton, and commitment to social good) for some #realtalk about periods.

Access

Have you ever been caught without a tampon or pad? Have you ever had to whisper quietly under the stall for a fellow menstruator to help you out? Have you ever been frustrated with the clunky dispensers in public restrooms, or had to shove toilet paper “up there” when they were empty or you didn’t have the ancient artifact called a “quarter” on you? It sucks. Let’s fix it. In these scenarios, you were likely able to run to the grocery store, or least know you would be able to get your hands on one when you got home later that night.

Perhaps you have considered the fact that many of the 16 million menstruators living in poverty in the United States often don’t have access to things like shelter or food, but have you ever thought about the fact that they also don’t have access to menstrual products? Probably not. (See shame and silence.) 

Menstrual products are not covered by food stamps or WIC, and in the majority of states are taxed as a luxury item. Often, people are forced to use dirty socks or plastic bags to stop the flow, leaving them open to infection and humiliation. 

The solution? Talk about it! Let’s move forward in the movement for menstrual equality.

Food for thought: Why aren’t menstrual products considered as essential as toilet paper in public bathrooms?

Period slang and stigma:

Every word you use matters. This is especially true when talking about a taboo topic like menstruation. Most of the time we find ourselves using anything but the actual words “period” or “menstruation” to talk about a period. A study found there are over 5000 slang words for a period. Seems pretty silly when we have perfectly good, descriptive words to describe a normal and healthy bodily process.

Language and euphemisms are one of the greatest tools used to silence and shame us. That shame inhibits half the population from feeling comfortable in their own bodies. It can affect school and work attendance and participation. It holds people back from talking about it — and when we don’t talk about it, we don’t know that people are living without access to these basic products; we don’t know that there has been minimal research on various aspects of menstruation, and that there has been little period innovation since the pad and tampon were invented. 

Fun fact: Tampons were invented by a man. We’re guessing he probably didn’t know the best way to handle them.

Let’s even look past names like “Aunt Flow” and “shark week.” What is the actual name for tampons and pads and other products we see used in the industry, the actual name we see on packaging and hanging above that forbidden aisle in the grocery store? Feminine hygiene products. Sounds pretty evasive to us. Women use a lot of products to remain hygienic. It’s pretty unclear. (See problems with this outlined above.) Hygiene implies dirty. Dirty things cause shame. Menstruation can be messy, but it’s not dirty. Further than that? It’s not inclusive. Those that identify as “feminine” and females aren’t the only people who menstruate.

Wait, you mean not only women get periods?

Yes. Trans men and those that do not identify within the binary gender structure may also menstruate. Menstruation can trigger feelings of dysphoria in these humans. The least we can do is change our language to ensure they are recognized and welcome in the world of menstruation.

Is this all a bit confusing? tabú breaks it down in their bodies and gender basics. Check out Aunt Flow’s interview with menstruators that identify across the gender spectrum, and more on why we’re ditching the term “feminine hygiene.”

#shameless

It’s time to quit shoving your tampon up your sleeve on the way to the bathroom. If someone can’t handle the sight of a wrapped tampon, they have some changing to do, not you.

** We recognize our name is actually one of the most popular euphemisms. This was a conscious decision. We’re a menstrual product company, but more importantly, we’re a movement to end the taboo around menstruation. One of the most successful ways we’ve found to do this is through humor. We live for period puns. Men and women alike respond well when we ask, “Have you ever heard of Aunt Flow?” and they slowly become open to talking about the real thing. It’s an appropriation of sorts, to take away the silencing power of a euphemism. **

tabú treat:

WOAH! Aunt Flow is giving you FREE Ovary Badges when you order a 32 pack of Aunt Flow’s 100% organic cotton, non-applicator tampons. For every tampon purchased, one is donated to a menstruator in need in the USA. Use code TABU at checkout.

Aunt Flow is working to ensure everyone has access to menstrual products. They sell their 100% organic cotton, non-applicator tampons to both consumers and businesses. You can find their tampons offered for free in over 100 business bathrooms across the USA. Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons? For every tampon you purchase, Aunt Flow donates one to people without access to menstrual products in the US. Aunt Flow was started by 19 year old, college dropout Claire Coder. People helping people. Period.