My activist project this semester started with a very long discussion with a friend of mine. She and I were discussing sanitary pads and tampons, as well as the dangers they pose. I had mentioned how I had to stop using tampons because of the absorbency. Personally, I have a heavy flow, but I would always suffer from dryness while catering to my period. My friend then said that tampons are similar to douching, in that they suck up the bad AND good bacteria that you need to keep your vagina healthy. My friend turned to me and said, “I wish we could do something about it”, and it was then the idea to “do something about it” arose.
From there, I did my research on ingredients in these hygiene products. It started out by me going up and down the tampon/pad section of my local Target, and trying to find an ingredients list. Mostly all i got was:
This wasn’t good at all! What the hell is rayon?What are the fiber finishes? Why did nothing on this list look okay for my body?
Well, through research, I found out that none of it really was. From reading that the cotton is bleached with chemicals, rayon being a carcinogen, and the fibers being bleached, and ultimately made to make you bleed more, I was horrified. Why is this the first product we push children into using when there are other methods that aren’t quite as dangerous? Next, my research led me to TSS. Toxic Shock Syndrome has the potential to kill someone. Mostly we hear about it when we are told to not leave a tampon in for so long. But I mean, who hasn’t forgot that they were wearing a tampon? And really, how can something we are told is “perfectly safe” and “healthy” lead to a disease like this. Although, no one knows the causes of TSS, tampons play a big role.
Because I was so scared of tampons and pads, and because I knew that there had to be a way to help people learn that these products aren’t the only things out there, I created a zine that displayed my research. In my zine, I talk about how pads and tampons are bad for the environment, can cause cancer, and what you can do change that. I mention using the Diva Cup, or any menstrual cup. One can be obtained online or at your local CVS. They may seem pricey, but really, I would rather spend a little more and know my body is safe, than keep having to throw away even more money just to keep buying more and have it harm my body. My Diva Cup is my best friend, really.
I also outlined that there are such things as reusable pads! Ones that you wash after every use, are totally good for the environment, and can have cute patterns. These pads use good cotton or wool to absorb, and are easy to clean.
My goal at the beginning was to make a video and share it on youtube. However, with time being so short and my semester being jam packed, I decided that my new goal was to get just one person to reconsider using tampons and pads. I passed out close to 50 of these zines, (sadly, it was never published.) and my friend is making the switch! She said that, “I did not know what all was in there… how is this FDA approved?” Spoiler: It doesn’t have to be. Because it is considered a medical device, the ingredients do not need to be FDA approved. But yet, they are not considered a medical necessity when people cannot afford to buy them….
So, kids: don’t listen to them when they say pads and tampons are the only way. Remember their dangers, and know they’re a risk, and there are plenty of other devices you can try. Doing this project made me feel like I could do something, even if it was small. I felt like a better person doing something about an issue I cared about rather than just waiting for someone else to do it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll pass around more zines!