Taking the Taboo out of Tampons

By Emma Misiaszek

The conversation around periods has always been a quiet one. “Does anyone have a tampon?” has been whispered between bathroom stalls for decades. Embarrassment and shame have underlined the culture around menstruation for far too long. In the past few years, more and more people have spoken out against the stigma associated with having periods. Calls for more comprehensive sexual health education and open discussions about periods have been made in an effort to eliminate the taboo as well.

New York State has been a frontrunner in period positive legislation. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law requiring public school districts to provide free feminine hygiene products in restrooms in 2018. The same year, legislation requiring local and state correctional facilities to provide tampons and other feminine hygiene products to inmates for free was passed.

New York is also one of the first states to eliminate the “pink tax,” the tax charged on feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons in 2019. The newest legislation is a law requiring feminine hygiene companies to print listed ingredients on all of their products’ packaging. 

A handful of emerging feminine hygiene companies have taken on the task of bringing menstruation into public discourse. Brands like Thinx, with their period-proof underwear and Lola, which delivers sexual health products to your door.

Thinx has become a hot topic of late due to their “MENstruation” commercial depicting a world in which women and men both get periods with the catch line: “If we all had them, maybe we’d be more comfortable with them.”

Lola, which focuses on creating 100% organic tampons and pads, is partnered with I Support the Girls, a non-profit to which they have donated over 2 million period products for women in need

The fight to eliminate the stigma around periods has also made its way to New Paltz. Salix Intimates, a local store that sells sustainable lingerie & lifestyle items, is owned by Melissa Orsini, an advocate for open discussions about menstruation.

“It’s definitely something that I want to help break the mold of by having helpful, meaningful conversations with people about periods. We tend to not talk about it as much as we want to,” Orsini said.

In her store, she sells Thinx underwear, GladRags’ reusable organic cotton pads and pantyliners and Lunette, a reusable menstrual cup.

“I really believe that period care should be accessible,” Orsini said. “It’s something I try to have honest conversations with people about.”

Non-profit organizations focused on menstrual care have been popping up in the last few years, such as Period. The Menstrual Movement. There are over 20 registered Period. chapters in New York, even locally at Bard College and Vassar College. Their mission is to end period poverty and period stigma through sexual health education, donating menstrual care products to women and girls in need and promoting period advocacy through rallies, petitions and PSAs. The organization also established October 19 “Period Day,” as a day for period having people to come together and fight the stigma.

The only way the shame and embarrassment surrounding our periods can be eliminated is by openly talking about them. Share which products work best for you, how you deal with cramps, how your period affects your everyday life – even share your worst period stories!

The menstrual cycle and having your period are completely natural and human processes, and no person should be ashamed of their body or how it functions. Let’s take the taboo out of tampons and advocate for thoughtful discussions about periods, especially with people who don’t have them. Know that many others are feeling the same way you do and can greatly benefit from you speaking out and sharing your period experiences. 


A version of this originally appeared in “Healing” The Teller December 2019 Issue #9

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