By now you’ve probably heard of the tiny tampon queen, aka the Camp Gyno that went viral last week with the “best tampon ad in the history of the world.” The ad promotes Hello Flo, a monthly subscription service that provides a starter kit for girls getting their period for the first time.
However, Hello Flo is just one of many contenders in what seems to be the latest tampon trend. While each one is slightly different from the next, these monthly subscriptions include variations of your choice of tampons, pads, panty-liners, some pain meds, a small gift, and a (usually chocolaty) treat. When I first heard of these care packages, my immediate thoughts were: 1) This is genius 2) How did I not think of this? 3) Where do I sign up?
But the more I read about them, I learned that not everyone in the feminist world was as thrilled. Some are worried that this discreet option for purchasing period supplies is simply “participating in the culture of shame that surrounds menstruation.” New York magazine went as far as to call these services “the height of the infantilization of female sexuality.” In my constant struggle to always try to make feminist choices, I was really annoyed by this analysis. There goes my future of monthly period presents.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that I completely disagree with this take on tampon care packages. While there is no denying that menstruation has been historically linked to shame, these services are not only selling discretion, they are selling convenience. And when you are experiencing what is at best annoying and at worst mind-numbingly painful, convenience is a beautiful thing.
I for one am far too busy feeling like this...
...during my period to care at all that some unsuspecting dad buying toothpaste or some teenage boy working the register may find the presence of my functioning uterus uncomfortable. I walk to and from the bathroom (in public or not), tampon in hand, when I have my period. In short, I don’t care about letting people know that I have my period.
So if I want to sign up for a monthly service that will provide me with my own personalized period-pain prevention kit exactly when I need it with a few additional treats to boot, that is my uterus-owning right. As Jezebel so brilliantly posted a few weeks ago in response to a piece asking if tampons were anti-feminist, “How women choose to deal with their own periods is so not an expression of their feminism or an indictment of their lack thereof. Not everything is a feminist issue. This is not a feminist issue.”
The only period-related issue I dare say is of feminist concern is the recent discussion of one Russian lawmaker’s proposal that women be allowed two weeks “period leave” per year. While I completely see the concern that this would be “used to bolster arguments that women aren’t as a capable as men,” we have no choice in how hard we are hit by our period each month. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with this proposal, but for those of us who suffer from debilitating cramps, it would be nice to not be made to feel like a complete idiot for having to leave work every month to go be physically ill in peace. But I digress.
For those who are uncomfortable buying tampons, shouldn’t they be allowed an outlet to more easily access something they need, rather than being told to suck it up and deal with it? Women should be more comfortable with their periods, and men should be more aware of what they are and what they entail, but I don’t think offering a service to make your period easier to deal with is the same as saying that periods should be a strictly “secretive girly ritual.”
What every one of these of monthly period subscription plans offers is a means to make your period a slightly less crappy experience. Bonjour Jolie, for example, was started by a mother-daughter duo that got the idea from the mother’s tradition of giving her daughter a gift each month for her period in order to help her associate her period with something good instead of something "unpleasant or bad."
The founders of the Period Store “dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar retail-shop-meets-museum … stocked with chocolates and heating pads, globally sourced menstrual products, puppies, and a soundproof scream room.” Unable to make the store a reality, they opted for the online subscription service offering a range of international products and have plans to partner with international organizations to bring products to women who don’t have access. I love the idea of a period boutique, but until there is one on every corner available for me to pop into at any moment, like some magical period Starbucks, the monthly subscription will just have to do.
If you’re interested in finding the right monthly period subscription for you, here is a list of the others I came across: Le Parcel, My Cotton Bunny, Juniper Box, 28 Day Hug (they offer just the treats, not the period products), and Your Box Club (for strictly organic products).