Drink more hot water” is the last piece of advice that women want to hear during menstruation. When I’m on my period, several things weigh on my mind. First, I worry about having cramps. Also, I want to hide my period. Over the years, I switched from sanitary pads and tampons to menstrual cups. Menstrual products are getting smaller and more “invisible,” but none of them dispel my fear of leaks. I’m constantly scared of leaving blood stains on my pants, the bed and chairs. Drinking more hot water is certainly no solution for anxious women when it’s that time of the month.
I wish to see menstrual products with leak detectors which will remind me exactly when I need to go to the restroom. The only reason why smart period products remain an uncharted territory is that we are still fettered by period shaming.
Period shaming starts with silence. I didn’t know what menstruation was until I got my first period. My dad deliberately stepped aside to let my mom give me the “menstruation talk.” Compared to my mom’s experience when she first got her period, dur- ing which she was alone and convinced that she was going to die, mine was less panicky but equally perplexing.
For a long time, like many other girls, I bashfully referred to menstruation as “nei ge” (that) or “li jia” (days off), wore baggy, dark pants on my period and always hid my pads at school. I didn’t discuss my period with anyone except my mom. My dad loves me very much, but he once comment- ed that it was “annoying” for women to have periods. Looking back, that’s period shaming under the disguise of empathy.
Today, it’s still hard to talk about menstruation in China. Few people know that May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day. According to menstrualhygieneday.org, 350 events took place in 54 countries in 2017 to raise awareness of challenges women worldwide face due to menstruation and highlight solutions that address these challenges. I think China will also benefit from more discussions on good menstrual hygiene management.
Last year, a marketing executive at a domestic tampon company told me the social stigma of menstruation stunted their growth. He said insufficient sexual education in China and the conservative sexual values of some parents are to blame for the company’s marketing challenges.
I agreed with him. I refused to use tampons for years, but when I eventually stepped out of my comfort zone, I decided not to limit myself to one feminine hygiene product anymore. Sanitary pads, menstrual cups, period panties and tampons all have pros and cons. Now I make decisions based on my menstrual flow and the accessibility of sanitation facilities, and I look forward to more user-friendly and environmentally-friendly period products to choose from.
China’s “toilet revolution” has come a long way. If more hand soap and private basins are provided in public restrooms, more girls and women will be willing to use tampons and menstrual cups.
Besides, quite a few male idols have endorsed feminine hygiene products. Why not take on one more task – educating boys and men to care for their menstruating female counterparts and say no to period shaming?