At a time when women are more empowered than ever, it seems odd to tiptoe around conversations about periods and basic female biology. However, New York state’s recent repeal of a tax on feminine hygiene products shows that menstruation is finally a reality we can speak openly about.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women-New York City, said “Sanitary napkins and tampons are simply not a luxury item; they’re an everyday need. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Now what we need to do is look at access to these products.”
New York’s decision could save women up to $10 million a year, and viewing tampons as an integral part of a woman’s life has opened a market for women to choose how they experience their period. New options have made the dichotomous pad versus tampon debate obsolete. Now menstrual cups, period panties, and even marijuana tampons have entered the ring.
Patented in 1932, menstrual cups have just recently been making a buzz in the period world. They last 2-3 times longer than tampons, are hypoallergenic, and relieve some women of cramps because of their fit.
Period panties let wearers free-bleed without the fear of stains or the discomfort of other products. Ranging from lacey to superhero style, this underwear has a leak-proof outer fabric and multiple layers to catch liquid and bacteria so everything stays dry.
Painkilling marijuana tampons could be the cure to the dreaded monthly cramps that most women of reproductive age suffer. Cannabis is a known pain-reliever, and the unconventional suppository developed by Foria can be used in conjunction with a tampon for fast-acting cramp relief.
Naama Bloom, founder of the tampon subscription service and period-positive community HelloFlo, suggests that the period game has been changing for years. She points to pad and tampon commercials as evidence of how society has moved away from euphemisms about menstruation.
“I think there is more acknowledgement that what is really happening is that we are bleeding as opposed to having blue liquid come out of us,” Bloom said.
HelloFlo tracks its customers’ periods and sends a box of tampons each month, eliminating those last minute runs to the supermarket. The boxes also come with a slew of backup panty liners for heavy flows and sweets to ease period pains and cravings.
“We were early and bold in the conversation,” Bloom said. “The conversation was already starting to move this direction and I think we pushed it further than it would have necessarily gone at that pace.”
The new period products popping up may be a good indicator that menstruation is no longer a taboo subject, but Bloom says education is the final push that’s still missing.
“We're talking about it more, which is great, but we're still lacking in education for young girls and boys about what's happening in their bodies,” Bloom said.
Bloom’s company, purchased by SheKnows earlier this year, attempts to remedy this lack of education with their period starter kit for girls. The kit is packed full of pads, treats, and other goodies, including a guide for parents and girls, paving the way to open conversation about menstruation.
Several websites offer reading materials that range from matter-of-fact period answers to tween fiction that normalizes and makes girls feel positive about their changing bodies. Prepped with a starter kit and education, a new generation of girls and women are being equipped to wear their red badge of courage with pride.