Dear 100 Hour Board,
So I went to the store to buy tampons and I got embarrassed because the cashier was a guy. Thinking about it now seems silly because a women's menstrual cycle is something normal but I can't really articulate my feelings of why I would feel that way when I checked out. I am interested to know if any women on the board has felt this way or what the men on the board think about periods in general.
-My Name Here
Back in ye olde days of my youth, I used to just take tampons and liners from my mom and she would just stock up for the both of us. I wouldn't even have to talk to her about it or anything. I only was a bit bashful about it for the first year or two, and then once all of my friends were on the same track, it became really normalized because we would commiserate and such... so I didn't see any need to be embarrassed about any part of my menstrual cycle. That being said, sometimes I'm just generally anxious and not in the mood to interact with people, so if I need products at that time I just go through the self-checkout line if I need to.
I actually disagree with Goldie Rose a bit. Pebble doesn't have any sisters or particularly close women in his life beyond his mom, but he is super chill, understanding, and kind about my periods. He can always tell when it's coming, doesn't act weird if I talk about it, and makes extra effort to be patient with and sweet to me if I'm being hormonal or have really bad cramps. I don't think its a natural guy thing to be weirded out by periods. It's socialized into them (AND EVEN GIRLS!) to be uncomfortable because of the way people are educated about it and are taught to talk about it. I mean, they do not teach you hardly ANYTHING in school, and I'm sure that ambiguity and confusion greatly contributes to people being uncomfortable about menstrual cycles. In any case, I think it's a bit immature to be embarrassed by bodily functions. The human body is a beautiful, incredible machine, and we shouldn't resent or be grossed out by our own (or other's) bodies for doing their jobs correctly - no matter who you are.
I definitely used to feel that way. One roommate changed all that for me though - she had a "Menstruating Human" shirt and wore it during her period. She told me how guys would comment on it and tell her how awesome it was. That helped me realize how silly I was being for feeling so self-conscious about something half the human race experiences once a month. Since then I've definitely become more confident about talking about my period/buying pads and tampons.
I agree with Guesthouse about how it's socialized into us to treat menstruation as a taboo topic. In many cultures menstruating women are viewed as unclean, and even in some cultures today women have to leave their community for the duration of their period. Part of me wonders if this is due to how women are viewed in those societies, or how blood is viewed. Seeing as blood coming from any other part of the body other than the vagina isn't punishable by spending days alone, I think it's the former. There's been some interesting and entertaining ideas on how society would view menstruation if men had periods (just google "if men had periods"). I think my favorite is by Gloria Steinem, who writes,
Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.
To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields- "For Those Light Bachelor Days."
Who knows, maybe I'll make a "Menstruating Human" shirt and try to normalize the female body in society?
-guppy of doom
I used to be way more self conscious about buying tampons, but now as a 25 year old I couldn't care less. But that's also because I use the self checkout wherever I go. I was more embarrassed when I was younger and had just started my period. I inherited my embarrassment because my Mom only wanted to go to a female cashier when she was buying tampons or pads. I promise not to do that with my future children so they don't feel ashamed or embarrassed about a natural body function.
When it comes to guys and periods, I think it depends if they have sisters or not. The guys who have sisters don't really care about periods as much since they grew up with it. If their sisters are vocal about it, they have to deal with the PMSing and all that jazz. If guys had all brothers or the sisters were more private, then they are more likely weirded out of it being part of a normal conversation. (I'm so TMI with Carl, but he has an older sister and he's always been open of me talking about periods since the very beginning.)
Every woman who buys tampons from male cashiers helps to wear out the menstruation taboo. Because of this question, my new goal is to buy tampons only from male cashiers. You are inspirational!
I pretty much always use the self checkout because I don’t like waiting in lines, but I don’t care what the cashier knows about my menstrual cycle. Literally half the population experiences periods, and the other half directly benefits from them (like, they exist, which means their mothers must have had a somewhat healthy reproductive system for at least some period of time), so what's the big deal?
I used to be very awkward about it, though. Even though I have two other sisters, periods were never talked about in my house and I had a lot of internalized shame about them. I would walk to the grocery store to buy my own pads when I was 13-14 rather than have to go through the shame of asking my mom to buy me more. Because this was in the days before self checkout lines were common, I had to get over the embarrassment of having random male cashiers check out my pads pretty quickly, because for some reason that was preferable to asking my mom to buy me more. I also used to be sort of embarrassed about buying pads instead of tampons, because I had it in my head that "real women" use tampons, but my periods are almost always too light for tampons to even be comfortable to use (pulling out a dry tampon is the worst), so I've since realized that people should just do whatever works for them.
If anyone ever gives you grief about buying pads/tampons/menstrual cups, just tell them that you could not use them at all, and instead bleed through your pants and onto their chairs/couches. They'll probably be fine with your tampons after that.
Yep, definitely felt that way before. But then I went to a session of the 2018 BYU Women's Studies "Bodies of Women" conference called "Pride or Shame? Menstruation and Women’s Embodied Self" by Joan Chrisler (based on her research here and here), and I decided I didn't care anymore. It takes a bit—like I still feel uncomfy when I linger forever in the aisle trying to choose which tampons to get—but I've definitely come a long way!
P.S. Sheebs, I am officially adopting the same goal as you.
I don't feel as though I'm self-conscious about having a period, but I don't like to advertise it either. Somehow I worry that someone's going to see me with a tampon/pad and think "I know what's going on in her reproductive system" and that would make me really uncomfortable. I'm sure part of that stems from a stigma, as my family was not open about these things, and I inherited a belief in keeping things private. Probably another part of it is my desire to not draw undue attention to myself, especially parts of myself like the uterus.
I definitely grew up feeling weird about my period even though I had three sisters. We just never talked about it, like at all. I have a distinct memory of one of my brothers refusing to carry in a bag from the store that had tampons and pads in it. Obviously that's not great, but he grew out of it.
Honestly, things changed once I was the only kid left at home. When your dad is 1) outnumbered and 2) doesn't really care, it was easier for my mom and I to discuss. And then my sister started using a menstrual cup and recommending it to everyone, and so I started using one as well. Let me tell you, few things have made me have to confront my period like starting to use a menstrual cup. Nowadays I'm much more comfortable discussing periods and will recommend/explain menstrual cups to literally anyone who is interested. (You can keep them in so long! They hold so much! My period no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night in sheer terror!)
Anyway, this is all to say that I rarely have to buy pads anymore, but when I do, I no longer feel weird about it.