Should men carry feminine hygiene products?

The new chivalry

Graphic+by+Kristiana+Federe%2FThe+Pioneer
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Should men carry feminine hygiene products?

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Elizabeth Avalos,
Staff Writer

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Almost every woman can share at least one traumatic story that starred Aunt Flo. After all, she is the most inconsiderate aunt of all aunts. Some months she arrives early and unannounced, while other months she arrives late with a thirst for vengeance. Or shall I say, leak of vengeance?

About a month ago, a young man by the name of Chance Ward took to Facebook to share a personal story about an experience during his visit to the gym.

“So I’m in the gym today (getting my life to Truffle Butter on this elliptical ofc) when the girl next to me asks her friend if she has an extra tampon,” Ward’s Facebook post starts off. “Realizing that I overheard, she looked up and literally apologized to me, clearly embarrassed af.”

As he realized how embarrassed the girl felt, Ward told her not to worry. Then he did the unimaginable. He reached into his fanny pack and offered her one of the tampons he carries in case any of his female friends ever needed one.

“By the look on her face you would have thought I did a magic trick and pulled 36 titty-tasseled bunny rabbits out that damn bag,” he stated in his post. “This is so sad. Why don’t y’all love y’all friends that menstruate?” His post received more than 47,000 likes, about 7,000 “loves,” nearly 9,800 shares and 71 comments, most of which are positive.

But Ward is not the first guy to ask men to carry sanitary products for their menstruating friends. Last year, 15-year-old Jose Garcia from Miami started the #realmensupportwomen hashtag after he posted a picture of himself holding pads and urging all guys to carry sanitary products to help women. His hashtag quickly began to trend and he received an outpour of praise from girls and women who thanked him for his thoughtfulness.

Although the thought to ask a guy for a pad or tampon never occurred to me before, I caught myself nodding my head in agreement as I read the messages of these two young men.

Keeping in mind how many girls and women menstruate, why shouldn’t men develop the chivalrous habit of stashing a few tampons or pads in the glove compartments of their cars or under their bathroom sinks for their lady friends?

No matter how well a woman tracks Mother Nature’s monthly visits, no single smartphone app can guarantee that Aunt Flo will be punctual. While some women experience regular periods, others who are irregular are often left guessing when their periods are going to make their appearance. This means that girls and women are often caught off guard and unprepared for her undesired visit, which on average, lasts three to five days.

Still, expecting all men to carry or stash pads and tampons for their female friends feels like a far reach when we take into account the taboo that surrounds menstruation that still dominates society.

Why periods are still taboo today, and where period-shaming stems from are the two main questions at hand. Lack of discussion about menstruation from an early age could be what is translating into the lack of comfortable discussion about menstruation even as adults.

In early February, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that only 22 states and Washington D.C. require public schools to teach sex-education. However, there is no mandated curriculum, which means it varies from school to school with no clear indication of how thoroughly menstruation is taught to both boys and girls, or if it is included in sex-ed curriculums at all.

Efforts to destigmatize periods have been especially heavy within the past year and Cosmopolitan magazine even dubbed 2015 “The Year The Period Went Public,” after conversations about periods reached never before seen levels, especially online.

But this does not directly mean that men have stopped shying away from the topic of menstruation, or even that period-shaming has come to an end. Not even among women themselves.

Many girls and women, myself included, still hide their pads or tampons up their sleeves on their way to the restroom and attempt to open them as quietly as possible, especially in shared public restrooms, as if the girl in the stall next to them does not know Aunt Flo on a personal level too. However, this type of period shaming is not entirely attributed to personal insecurities on behalf of girls and women. We have society to thank for this.

In March of 2015, feminist artist Rupi Kaur posted an image on Instagram that was part of her “Period” photo series for a university project. Kaur’s post featured a woman laying in bed facing the wall with period blood leaked onto her grey sweat pants and bed sheets. Controversy was immediate after Instagram deleted the photo, not once but twice, for “violating the site’s community standards,” according to Instagram.

“When the photo was removed a second time it became more than a school project, it became a fight,” Kaur told HuffPost UK Lifestyle last July. Kaur did not take the removals of her image lightly and questioned why Instagram would, “remove an image that doesn’t actually violate anything, but at same time host images that are so sexually violent?” Kaur used PornHub’s Instagram account as an example of this hypocrisy.

Situations such as Kaur’s are what condition girls and women to believe that periods are gross and should be kept private. In reality, periods are completely normal, natural, healthy and often carry good news. Especially for those women who accidentally skipped their birth control pill a few times or failed to take the necessary precautions to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

Walking through the pad and tampon aisle and standing in line with a large box of pads or tampons is an uncomfortable experience for many girls, even though periods are a natural human function of the female body. Something about everyone in the store watching you buy pads or tampons feels like too much about you is being exposed. Especially when it has to do with your period, the very thing that we girls and women have always been taught to keep secret.

For this reason, encouraging men to support their female friends feels like the next appropriate step to take. If men develop the new chivalrous habit of stashing sanitary products for their friends, perhaps that walk through the tampon aisle will become less embarrassing, and a male cashier will not make a girl want to snatch her receipt and immediately run away.