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Menstrual Shame – U by Kotex

February 19, 2012

“Why are we so embarrassed by our periods?” Good question, Kotex. It’s a long and complicated answer though, an answer your company and others like it have taken part in creating for as long as you’ve existed, so although I appreciate your attempt at solving this age-old dilemma by packaging your tampons in funkier colors that are supposed to “break the cycle” and offer “great protection” with “no shame,” I can’t help but feel like you’ve fallen a little short.

Here’s the deal, Kotex. I can’t help, but feel a little annoyed that you’re actually using shame, a shame that you’ve helped reinforce and continue to reinforce, to re-package and sell your products.

You’ve all heard of peacocking, right? The pick-up technique developed by who-the-fuck-knows in which a male will wear something flashy to stand out in a crowd and attract desirable mates; using their flashy attire (just like the peacock and his tail) to distract and attract.

I’ve always felt that peacocking was used not only to stand-out, but to distract desirable mates from noticing other flaws. As in, look at this flashy hat I’m wearing and don’t pay attention to the fact that I’m actually a douche. Sort of like the bull fighter and his red flag: “Here bully-bull-bull, look at the red flag I’m waving in your face, and pay no attention to the sharp pointy object in my other hand.”

Well, I think Kotex is using a similar technique: “Look at all these funky fonts and flashy colors, and forget that it’s the same product with the same shitty ideals. You don’t need to feel shame and hide your menstrual products anymore. We’ll do it for you, with cool new packaging.”

Bah, it pisses me off.

I’ve never overtly felt ashamed of menstruating, or at least I never wanted to buy into that mentality, but like most of us, I was never given the opportunity to just not think about it.

Back in high school, before I discovered the joy of mechanical pencils or portable sharpeners, I had to get up from my desk and walk to the front of the class if I wanted a sharp point to write with. I would take out my pencil, go about my business and forget about it. I was barely conscious of the pencil in my hand, let alone self-conscious about it. Stay with me here, I’ve got a point coming soon. But when I took a tampon out of my backpack and asked to go to the bathroom, even if I made the decision to not be ashamed and carry that tampon like it was no big deal, I was aware of it. I was aware that I was making a choice to show to the world I wasn’t ashamed of menstruating.

So, even tough I’m not ashamed of menstruating, there’s also this kind of awareness of that fact, of that choice, that doesn’t always go away. Unlike pencils, which don’t have many stigmas attached to them, menstrual products still carry meaning and with that comes awareness. Self-conscious or otherwise.

I can’t wait for the day, when it becomes a non-issue, when menstrual products are as banal as pencils and no one has to think about how their actions towards menstrual products will be perceived and interpreted as reinforcing shame or working against it.

Don’t forget to enter the Adventures In Menstruating contest to win you very own copy!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 5:39 am

    I think your comment about not having to choose is the essence of the new wave of feminism. While we are fighting back incredibly regressive patriarchy, segments of society have moved forward pretty far, and I think the queer movement has contributed to that. It’s like living in the 21st century and the 12th century all at the same time and can be pretty jarring. But that not having to choose/announce is the horizon, the true equality we’ve come far enough to glimpse. Brightly colored tampon wrappers have nothing to do with it. (Hey, Kotex, since you’re so concerned, stop bleaching your tampon cotton, mkay? Oh nevermind, I’ll pay 8.00 at Whole Foods for the hippie equivalent of your products.)

  2. February 20, 2012 6:39 pm

    I agree, I think we are starting to see a glimpse of what you’re talking about and it feels great. If only the market place would start picking up on that. Thank god, there are alternatives out there, because the last thing I want to do stick a bleached ball of cotton up my vagina.

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