In response to research that suggests more girls are hitting puberty as young as seven or eight, Kotex has created a new line called U by Kotex Tween that's aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds.
The pads are 18% shorter and narrower than regular Kotex pads, come in glittery boxes, and feature star and heart designs (just like your period itself!). As the New York Times notes, "the products would look at home on the set of Hannah Montana."
The accompanying site Kotex.com/tween guides parents through having "the talk" with their daughters. (Spoiler alert: It ends with recommendations on which Kotex products you should buy.) What's actually noteworthy about the site is a video in which moms talk about their concerns with a gynecologist. Of course, the clip has a soothing, positive tone, but it's clearly aimed at moms who are freaking out about the idea that their daughter could get her period before she starts learning long division.
Even if you've heard the facts about girls starting puberty earlier, it's still jarring to see pads for little girls. Susan Kim, co-author of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, says:
"What punched me in the gut is that the age of menarche had dropped so precipitously ... My first reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, a period kit for an 8-year-old — eek!'"
Nevertheless, the products are necessary nowadays, and Kim says she's pleased with the company's approach.
Kotex is also rolling out a "limited-edition designer series," of printed pads for adult women. While we don't feel our pads need to be more "poptimistic," maybe the designs make sense for products aimed at girls still in elementary school. Unlike the clinical-looking pads from our youth, the U by Kotex Tween box certainly looks fun and inviting (that's a bait and switch, girls). But it probably doesn't make much of a difference whether a girl's first pads have stars and hearts on them or not — it only takes a day to realize that you're just going to bleed all over that preciousness and throw the pad away after a few hours.