Part 5: Radical Feminist Hygiene: Resist the Patriarchy, Save Mother Earth!

Our menstrual culture is rooted in shaming of women as dirty and unclean. This is what the feminine hygiene industry plays off of to sell us products, presenting menstruation to us as a problem that needs to be dealt with discreetly. Since the topic of menstruation is so taboo, most information that is available to young women about menstruation is offered by the feminine hygiene industry, whose main objective is to market their products. In order to keep a market for their products they must perpetuate myths that menstruation is embarrassing and should be kept a dirty little secret. So they come up with marketing messages like, “Discreet. Small. Extends and protects. Only you’ll know its a tampon,” or “Small enough to keep out of sight.” These phrases bank on shame and the fear of people knowing we are having our period and reinforce the culture belief that menstruation is a shameful condition. God forbid someone knows you’re on your rag! But its treated like its the unpardonable sin, that you may contaminate those around you if they know you’re bleeding. Even the words “feminine hygiene” invoke the feeling that there is something unclean about the way our bodies function and that we require a product to make us hygienic again.


Other advertisements insist that a tampon will give you the freedom to go on living life as normal. We’ve all seen commercials with the sad girl sitting in her room unable to take part in day to day activities, like a pariah. But then she finds out about tampons and soon enough she is riding horses, playing sports and twirling barefoot on the beach! The message in these commercials reinforce social stigma about menstruation and are dangerous because they tell young women that our periods are an irregularity and in order to continue living “normally” a product needs to be used to hide our bleeding. This could not be further from the truth! Menstruation is normal and natural and the tampons those commercials are peddling can have adverse effects on women’s bodies.


The problems with the fem “hygiene” industry don’t stop at the perpetuation of harmful attitudes about the period. The products they are peddling are also bad for women’s bodies and bad for Mother Earth. Menstrual products such as the tampon are a health risk for women masquerading as cleanliness. Tampons can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome or TSS. TSS is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, in fact in 1980, 38 women died from TSS caused by tampon use! The symptoms of TSS are a sudden high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sunburn-like rash, dizziness, muscle aches and fainting or near fainting when standing up. TSS is caused by the staphyloccus bacteria which can grow on synthetic fibres. ALL mainstream tampon manufacturers have at least one type of synthetic fibre in their products! Manufacturers of tampons continue to use highly absorbent fibres such as viscose and rayon even though they know they are linked to TSS!


Tampons often contain dioxins because of the bleaching process they undergo. Tampons are bleached white in order to appear sterile, but the dioxins that remain make them anything but clean. Dioxins are toxic chemicals that have been linked to decreased sperm count in men (yes this affects the men too!) and decreased fertility in women, as well as endometriosis. Dioxin is carcinogenic! But the Fem “hygiene” industry insists that the amount of dioxins in tampons are so miniscule that they do not pose any threat to women’s health. But what about compounded exposure to dioxins month after month? Also, dermal contact in the vagina might differ from regular dermal contact as vaginal tissue is highly absorbent. Tampons have also been known to alter the natural bacteria and micro-organisms in the vagina. And vaginal dryness and ulcerations may occur when a tampon is too absorbent for your flow. All of your lovely, perfectly natural and needed secretions are being sopped up by TSS inducing tampons. This does not sounds like a great “hygiene” option to me.


If the dangers of tampon use are not enough, mainstream menstrual products are also bad for the earth. Tampons and pads create excessive waste and the plastics in pads and tampon applicators sit in landfills.  It is absolutely true that we need to attend to our periods and that includes having menstrual products, but we need products that are healthy for our bodies and the earth. So we want to discuss some alternative options, reusable ones without toxic chemicals, that are great for you and Mother Earth.


Reusable tampon: The Reusable Tampon is used like a regular disposable tampon, but washed and reused. As the rayon in commercial disposable tampons is one of the factors in TSS, cotton tampons (disposable or reusable) are a safer option.





Interlabia pad: An Interlabial Pad is basically a tampon worn externally in the labia, rather than internally. These cannot be worn while swimming, but can offer a step between an internal product or a pad for those who don’t want to use an internal product.





Sea Sponge: This is a naturally occurring sea sponge that is used in the vagina to absorb the flow, much like a tampon. They are moistened for use, allowing them to be comfortably inserted. They are washed and reused, and can be boiled in a pot of water or submerged in sterilising solution if desired. Not a great option though, if you are vegan.



Menstrual cup: There are now several brands of Menstrual Cup available around the world. A Menstrual Cup is a soft bell shaped item which is used inside the vagina to collect the flow. They are removed to be emptied, rinsed out and replaced. They can be boiled in a pot of water to be sterilised before and after each period. The one cup can last many years, can be used while swimming or sleeping and does not have the same TSS risks as tampons do. They also have a much greater capacity than tampons and can safely be kept in place for 12 hours.




Cloth pads: These are essentially a washable fabric version of a disposable menstrual pad. Mostly made by small businesses, these come in a huge variety of types. Using fabrics such as bamboo or cotton, they can be very absorbent and some even include a waterproof layer to give the same security as a disposable pad. Colourful fabrics can add to the positive aspect of using these, as can soft fabrics such as velour. Cloth Pads can be reused for many years. After they have been worn, they can be rinsed clean or left to soak and washed in a washing machine with the rest of the laundry. Some women like to use the water on their gardens to make use of the nutrients the blood gives. You can also make your own.

One Comment on “Part 5: Radical Feminist Hygiene: Resist the Patriarchy, Save Mother Earth!”

  • Hey all, I’m Shane, I identify as cis-ish and I am bi. When I was 11 I attended a private school in my home town. One day, the principal called an assembly for the sole purpose of shaming two female students (they were the only ones among an otherwise all-male student body) for flushing maxi pads or whatever. Not sure if it was the public humiliation of my only female classmates or the creepiness of the fact that the principal demanded that those two girls call him ‘dad’ that made me want to run away, but I did one day, and I left school and walked home. As a consequence my parents grounded me for three years and I stayed at home in my room with access to an IBM 486 and an FM radio until high school came around. Kind of goofy how squeamish certain guys can get when blood comes from a place they sexualize… (???)

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