PSA: Your Body is Not Gross

Jess De Wahl's Vagestic Mandala Embroidery Workshop

On 13th March, Emerald Street sent out an email entitled “Your tampon can do WHAT?!” and, of course, I opened it right away. I’m not proud of myself for giving in to click bait, but I’m a big fan of the Emerald Street team. Via their daily emails, I’ve discovered so many fantastic restaurants, events, artists, websites and products, so I knew that this would most likely be very interesting tampon news indeed.

In the opening sentence they use the phrase ‘the world’s first reusable tampon applicator’, and go on to describe Dame who are ‘trying to reduce the plastic waste that comes from tampon use’. As someone who stopped using applicator tampons a long time ago, it still baffles me that the perfectly serviceable cardboard applicators were replaced with plastic ones, so anything that tries to cut down on the amount of plastic used should be a good thing. However, this sentence stopped me in my tracks:

The brand teamed up with medical engineers to develop a nifty reusable tampon applicator that’s as hygienic as it is comfortable.

Erm… I already have a reusable tampon applicator that’s as hygienic as it is comfortable. It’s called MY INDEX FINGER! Once it’s done its job, you wipe it with a tissue, then wash it at the sink before you leave the bathroom. Simple yet effective. What about that means that a team of people decided to reinvent it? Could it be the ‘euw’ factor? As I was writing this post, I checked the brand’s Kickstarter page and discovered that, not only have they passed their funding goal, they have 1,952 backers. That’s pretty impressive but, to be honest, all I could see was nearly two-thousand people who think that sticking your finger inside your own body is gross.

OK, so I’ll admit there are probably other reasons why non-applicator tampons might not be someone’s first choice – for instance, some tampon users may prefer an applicator because they have limited manual dexterity or because inserting one without an applicator can be tricky. However, I can’t help but wonder if the vast majority of those backers simply don’t want to get their hands dirty. I sincerely hope not because, if your aim is genuinely to be more sustainable and reduce waste, there are already loads of other options available.

Jess De Wahl's Vagestic Mandala Embroidery WorkshopRe-usable menstrual cups are now much more widely available and talked about than they once were. Absorbent period underwear is far more than a niche product. For those who just can’t stand the mess (or who, like me, cannot seem to insert a cup without the damn thing leaking) non-applicator tampons are available in all but the smallest convenience stores, and you can even get organic cotton versions. I mean, come on, if you’re a person who has periods, you may spend up to 40 years of your life clearing up blood on a monthly basis, so you can’t possibly still think it’s disgusting. Or is it because that’s what you’ve been conditioned to think?

While we’re on the subject of society, mainstream media, and product manufacturers telling us our period-having-bodies are gross… why are scented sanitary towels even a thing? And why are they a thing that is now so commonplace that you actively have to search for ones that are not scented, rather than the other way around? Changing a sanitary pad might not be the most sweet smelling experience but, seriously, NO ONE ELSE CAN SMELL IT. Also, once you stick a clean one to your underwear, you can’t smell it either! WTF people?! Not only do vulvas and vaginas not need artificial fragrance, it’s actually pretty bad for them.

Thankfully, the aforementioned Emerald Street email also mentioned Thinx period pants, organic (unscented!) sanitary brand Freda, tampon and menstrual cup alternative Flex, plus a surprisingly interesting tampon and liner combo for those who like to keep their fingers clean. The more options we have, the more we can avoid period-related litter and nasty body shaming scented products, helping both the planet and your own vagina.

The image used in this post is of Jess De Wahl’s fantastic ‘Vagestic Mandala’ embroidery. You can make your own at the workshop she’s running on 29th April, in conjunction with The Vagina Museum.

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