Yesterday, a piece called "Are Tampons Anti-Feminist?" ran on The Daily Beast's designated ladypage, and the pink aisle of the internet collapsed upon itself and formed a pulsating estrogen singularity from which not even light can escape. We have vagina'd ourselves into a corner, ladies.
"Tampons are anti-feminist" is a real thing that some feminists are saying, because apparently not wanting to menstruate all over a sweaty strip of diaper flimsily adhered to the crotch of a second-string pair of panties for a quarter of our adult lives is akin to being apologetic about being female. Hiding the blood away until it can be neatly disposed of, you see, means you feel shame. The smoking gun that proves tampons are made to tap into your worst uterine fears? Mention of noticeability in advertisements. From TDB:
Noticeability is the watchword in menstrual-hygiene advertising. Ads exaggerate the invisibility of tampons by showing women in extremely tight white clothes, says Johnston-Robledo, which implies that the less you see the product, the less you see the period and the hotter you are. “I think that is sort of a contemporary phenomenon that has a lot to do with the sexualization of girls,” she explains.“You can still retain this sexy image and menstruate at the same time.”
OK, maybe I'm a self-actualized simpleton, but if I read a tampon ad that bragged about how you can't even notice it's there, I'd assume that the ad meant that the wearer of the tampon wasn't spending all day astride a maxi pad constantly aware of the fact that they were bleeding from their uterus and the blood was being held right up against their vulva all soaky and heavy and alien and warm. I wouldn't assume that the point of tampon ads was to emphasize that the particular brand of tampon being offered would make your crotch area appear unbesotted to the horny public. I have never once had I Know What Boys Like spontaneously spring into my head as I purchased a multi pack of OB tampons at my local Duane Reade. But apparently I was wrong and my decade and a half stint of shoving wads of cotton up my chunnel was actually me caving to the whims of the patriarchy rather than just trying to be as comfortable as possible during a really annoying time of the month. I might as well be bleaching my butthole.
But wait! There's more.
“Part of the stigma is the need to hide [the menstrual blood] right away and not feel it against your body,” Johnston-Robledo says, and adds that she thinks women who are more comfortable with their bodies “would be more likely to use products where you really have to look at and interact with your fluid as opposed to clogging your body with a tampon and just tossing it into the toilet.”
"Clogging," eh? This reminds me of my favorite tampon-related anecdote: I used to live in sin with a guy whose first language was not English. Most people couldn't tell, since he didn't speak with an accent, but every once in awhile he'd drop a dead-giveaway Malapropism. This one time as he was headed out the door for a solo grocery run, he asked if I needed him to pick up anything. "No," I said. "Are you suuuuure?" he asked, knowingly. "Don't you need those plug things? Those blood plugs?" When I realized he meant "tampons," I laughed until I cried. I still laugh about it, years later. IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE THAT'S NOT HOW TAMPONS WORK.
Furthermore (and I realize that this is getting ranty here), the last thing I want to do is interact with my bodily fluids once they've exited my body. I don't make wall murals with my poop, I don't keep my pee in jars, I don't save my scabs. I feel like that's a standard human way to behave. And not wanting to get blood everywhere isn't a function of being ashamed of being a woman; it just means that I don't want to clean up fucking blood from my bath mat and pants and sheets. Jesus Bleeding Christ.
Social pressure to keep bodily functions private in most non-performance art settings isn't gendered. You don't menstruate all over your friends' white upholstered dining room chairs for the same reason you don't fart during a meeting with your boss. The same principle that would lead one to frown on a man parading around in public displaying his surprise midday No Reason Boner, or to grimace if a blind date announced during the movie that he was going to go take a massive shit.
So while I understand that the history of menstruation is fraught with shaming and red tents postmenstrual cleansing rituals and Carrie shower scenes, how women choose to deal with their own periods is so not an expression of their feminism or an indictment of their lack thereof. Not everything is a feminist issue. This is not a feminist issue.
In fact, I can do much more things when I'm menstruating with a tampon all up in me than I can when I'm not menstruating and not wearing a tampon. Like I can win a swimming race, perform an uneven bars routine, and do yoga in white stretch pants. I can't do these things when I'm not wearing a tampon. It's like they're magical power pills we ladies absorb vaginally.