I was browsing some other blogs yesterday when I came across a post by the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. The writer was talking about an incident (though it hardly merits being called an incident) in a public toilet which illustrated the embarrassment surrounding changing a pad while out and about.
The post also linked to the US BeingGirl site run by Proctor & Gamble, and their page on using tampons (particularly in public settings like high schools). They feature some wonderful little bits of advice that show just how much periods are something to be ashamed of, something that no-one must ever find out, such as these:
Practice using tampons at home. See how quiet you can be when making a quick change.
Be discreet when you’re bringing a tampon into the girls room with you, but have fun with it, too. Anyone can bring a purse to the restroom (a classic hiding spot), but try tucking it in your waistband, bra, sock, or cell phone case. No one needs to suspect a thing.
Experiment with different brands and types of protection. It’s true, some wrappers seem kinda crinkly, but others are made to be extra quiet and easy to open.
So on one hand, young girls are being told “congrats, you’re a real woman now” (which is so annoying and wrong in itself: a period does not a woman make). And on the other hand, they’re being told that they have to go to extreme lengths to hide the fact that they’re having their period, by smuggling tampons into toilets and holding their breath while unwrapping lest someone hear that “tell-tale crinkle.”
It’s a ridiculous double standard, and I can’t see these sorts of tips leading anywhere productive. So many women have their periods on any given day, and expecting them to be so secretive about something that happens so naturally is just ridiculous. We shouldn’t be teaching girls that it’s shameful to need to change a tampon, or a pad, or a menstrual cup for that matter! It’s just another way of making women and young girls feel more ashamed and resentful of their bodies.
Next time I unwrap a pad in a public stall, I will relish the sound it makes. I think it will be quite liberating.