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A Ferocious Urban Panther
21 January 2008 @ 12:42 pm
Good morning. I just joined here, at the suggestion of my friend zoarazul, to bring you this discussion we had in my LJ this morning - flocked post, I'm afraid, so I can't point you at it, but I'm going to reproduce the two posts here. I'll also bring back updates if/when I hear back from

-=-=- Post the first:

Anyone seen the Tampax commercials about their donation of supplies to help African girls continue their education? I'm torn on how I feel about it.

On the one hand, of course, it's wonderful: I'm completely in favour of young women being as educated as they want to be. And if this little thing makes that possible, then hurrah!

But...but...but...I'm also frustrated by the extension of that particular Western version of body-shame that says women must *only* use chlorine-bleached cotton fibres, with all kinds of useless plastic packaging, to mop up menstrual blood. It's how Tampax makes their money, of course: the cheap, environmentally-damaging bleaching processes to make sure the cotton is so pure pure white, because, y'know, you can't put *brown* cotton next to or into your vulva to be soaked with blood and goo. Gosh no.

Not to mention the other chemical residues left by various bleaching and softening processes...I just worry that we're introducing our own archaeo-Victorian version of body-shame, not eliminating the ones the girls already suffer from. Like we're saying, "Hey, silly Africans, *that's* not how to mistreat your women for having the temerity to be fertile - you should be mistreating them the way *we* do!"

I wonder if anyone's running a programme to ship Diva cups to Africa to help girls continue their education. If they're not, maybe we should start one? :)

-=-=- Post the second:

W00t! So at your encouragement, I just sent this e-mail to If you feel like adding your voice to it, please do.

Good morning. While I'm amenorrheic myself, and have been for years (so have never been able to try your product), I have a number of friends who use it regularly.

I wonder if you've seen the late commercial campaign by Tampax, which purports to be helping young women in some unnamed part of Africa to be maintaining their education, because apparently when the girls have their periods, they can't go to school.

I was musing in my blog this morning about whether this was a net good, as I wonder whether replacing their native version of body-shame with the version propagated by Tampax was much of a benefit: "Yes, you should be able to go to school, so here's some over-processed plastic-wrapped chlorine-bleached cotton to put into your vagina, that'll make it all better, and you can go on being ashamed of your body in a new and tidier way!"

So my friends and I began to muse about whether it might be a better plan to see whether your company could do a similar, but much more body-friendly, environmentally-conscious campaign. As I said, I have a number of friends who use your product constantly, and swear by it, and I recommend it without hesitation to anyone who asks.

I'm not sure how one would go about such a thing, or even what areas of Africa are being helped (the commercials are, as usual with Western interest in Africa, quite generic - oh, look, dark people and mud huts, must be Africa, as though there were no cities on the entire continent!). But my friends encouraged me to put the idea before you, and it seemed a good enough thought that I decided to take the time to write. I would bet that the kinds of women who are your customers would be pleased to contribute in some manner. I'd be glad to discuss the idea with someone, in phone or in person, as convenient.

Thank you for your time,

Cait (et c., address info appended)
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
SaraTheSlayer: Donesara_msilf on January 21st, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
I think the problem that is cited a lot is that many places do not have spare water for washing cups.
A Ferocious Urban Pantherpoeticalpanther on January 21st, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
Someone mentioned this on my blog this morning too, which is definitely a concern, but surely it's one to be investigated, at least? :)
(no subject) - sara_msilf on January 22nd, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - poeticalpanther on January 22nd, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Just mefrkyjenn on January 21st, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Tampax has that commercial too? Only one I've seen is Always.. "have a happy period" (gah.. I hate that slogan)

Good luck on the Diva cup thing. =)
A Ferocious Urban Pantherpoeticalpanther on January 21st, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, that campaign is running for Tampax right now in Canada. I imagine it's all part of the same campaign by the big manufacturers: "Hey, look, untapped market! Let's generate some demand!"
(no subject) - frkyjenn on January 21st, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - poeticalpanther on January 21st, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - frkyjenn on January 21st, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - swiggett on January 21st, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - value_meal_2 on January 21st, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - autumn_sylver on January 22nd, 2008 01:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
Inkshopezmerelda77 on January 21st, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
I am not sure of the current accuracy of this or if it translated to other places, but I do know that when my mother lived in a remote village in west Africa in the 70's she said that the women were sent away from their village to go to a Menstrual Hut and celebrate/spend time with their fellow women that were also menstruating.

Maybe that is where the idea "they must miss school" came from.

I am also recalling that my mother said something about the women in the hut just "bleeding into the earth" but I am really fuzzy on those details.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - scien on January 21st, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elettaria on January 21st, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizwinlove on January 22nd, 2008 01:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elettaria on January 23rd, 2008 12:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
Juicey-hot Mommazephra_undead on January 21st, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah the commercial upset me too, I mean not TERRIBLY, but being a cup user I didn't think that poor people should be given something that's not such a temporary solution. How long will the tampax/always campaign last? A people doesn't need to get 'hooked' on something that they can't afford to keep buying. As far as water being the problem... I didn't think about that. But I've gone camping where there was no running water with the cup before and one time just made sure my hands were sanitized, dumped, replaced. And the second time did the same thing but was able to also wipe the outside of the cup with a baby-wipe.
That's not a solution to the hygeine part... but... yeah. Just wanted to tell you I felt the same when I saw the ad.
lunakatrinalunakatrina on January 21st, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
My thoughts exactly: what happens when the Tampax/Always people leave? Pads and tampons don't last forever, they can only give out a limited supply, so that's good for what? one-two months tops? Africa's a pretty big continent, there are lots of girls there who don't even know what school is. I think this is a good goal, in theory, but it's not practical. They can't supply pads to everyone (even if they only mean young, school-age girls), every month--they can't, they just can't.

I feel like this is an extremely well thought out ad campaign and then charity...

Also: Always, I will NOT have a happy period!
(no subject) - lunakatrina on January 21st, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - autumn_sylver on January 22nd, 2008 01:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lunakatrina on January 22nd, 2008 03:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
Brit: Simpsons Marge Sewingdesigningdreams on January 21st, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I had the same thought when I first saw the commercial, and now the more times I see it, the more angry it makes me.

I think that divacups, or even reusable cloth pads would be a wonderful solution, and much more cost effective for a nation that has so much poverty. I was thinking, perhaps, that I would start some kind of cloth pad drive where all of the lj cloth pad makers could donate as many cloth pads as they wanted, and I would arrange to send them somewhere. The problem is that I would have to research where/how, and find out if this would actually work...

The idea is great, it's just the practicality that needs to be worked out, I think.
ever so slightly obsessedscien on January 21st, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
This topic gets discussed here quite a lot! You (and other readers) may be interested in this post:

Also... I know this is a community for menstrual cups, and I adore them and would certainly never go back, but it's not fair to say that tampon use = hating your body. To take a couple of bits out of your post to nitpick:

'because apparently when the girls have their periods, they can't go to school'
Just to confirm: this is most certainly and documentedly true. Girls missing a few days out of each month because they have no menstrual protection at all and are embarrassed to bleed on the chairs drop out of school with depressing regularity. Not to mention that they often have to walk very long distances to get to the nearest school, and this can be a problem if you're bleeding and cramping.

'I was musing in my blog this morning about whether this was a net good, as I wonder whether replacing their native version of body-shame with the version propagated by Tampax was much of a benefit: " ... you can go on being ashamed of your body in a new and tidier way!"''
That would be quite offensive to a tampon user, you know. I know many women who use tampons and who are extremely sex and body positive - it's a matter of inclination and education, not just what products you find most convenient. Tampons do not inevitably lead to body shame. You're right to pick up on these messages but I don't think it's tampons themselves that caused it so much as the whole society.

Anyway. Without education, it is very difficult for these women to get far in life at all. It is a problem for the individual and it is a huge problem for the society as a whole.

Tampons are certainly ethically problematic. However, when the alternative is no menstrual protection at all, I cannot see how it could be conceived of as disempowering. Thinking like that is a privilege that we have here in a world when these basic needs are already taken care of.

I too think cups would be a fantastic idea in many ways. However as other people have mentioned there are some problems - do they have enough spare water, and a utensil to sterilise them in? Would they be likely to share cups, and would this be a health risk? Given the taboos, how happy will they be with young virgin girls using them? (to some extent this also applies to tampons, of course). Would they be able to change them at school, do they have clean water to rinse them out in? Do they have the required privacy, and education levels? Note how much reading and talking many people here need before they are able to use their cup successfully. Will that be available? What will a young girl do when she panics because she can't get it out?

Just to reiterate, I do think the idea is worth exploring, but it's going to take more than the donation of a few cups, it's a problem that is built in to the entire society.
sheherazadde on January 21st, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
However as other people have mentioned there are some problems - do they have enough spare water, and a utensil to sterilise them in? Would they be likely to share cups, and would this be a health risk? Given the taboos, how happy will they be with young virgin girls using them? (to some extent this also applies to tampons, of course). Would they be able to change them at school, do they have clean water to rinse them out in? Do they have the required privacy, and education levels? Note how much reading and talking many people here need before they are able to use their cup successfully. Will that be available? What will a young girl do when she panics because she can't get it out?

You're so right, and I think a lot of these concerns also apply to using tampons. I think the best option to send would be reuseable cloth pads. I'm going to poke around the Net a bit and try to find UK charities concerned with menstrual hygiene and donating supplies.
(no subject) - scien on January 21st, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Regina Phalangemootilda23 on January 21st, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)

This is the website for the project by tampax and always (they are the same company). From the looks of it they are only providing the girls with pads not tampons. That part of the program is called the pad program. They are also building schools and educating girls about their bodies. From reading it also seems that water IS a problem and the company is also helping build a water pipeline so these girls can receive fresh water. This is something I think companies like always/tampax can do because they have so much money. As far as I know the makers of Diva cup and their counter parts are not as widely known and therefore don’t have the resources to provide this enormous support to whole communities.

I am not writing this to start an argument or anything of the kind. I have only been using the Diva cup for 3 days and I love it. I am, however, a 32 yr old woman living in a developed nation and have been educated about menstrual health since I began my period at age 11. I think ideally that providing Diva cups for the menstruating girls is one of the best ideas but not entirely practical. I understand your concerns about the health of the girls and the health of the environment but I think that for me them being provided the opportunity for education outweighs all of the other concerns. That is a just my humble opinion (and I am a teacher).
Happy Rowanfairgoldberry on January 21st, 2008 07:27 pm (UTC)
I agree with this comment.

To me, though I'd rather see these women using cups or more advanced cloth options than are probably available to them (modern multi-layered cloth pads of extra-absorbent fabrics and PUL liners are a far cry from the usual 'spare cloth' or 'nothing' option available in developing countries), anything that gets them to school is a plus.

Yes, disposables suck for landfill and environment repercussions. But in a country where there are no regulations governing the dumping of industrial or agricultural waste into the water supply, or no regulations on factory emissions for a clean air standard, or no worker health provisions, the problem presented by paper disposables is going to be minimal, especially compared to the social change of young women not losing educational ground each month due to menstruation.

And when these young women are better educated and aware of the fact that the bodily attributes of womanhood don't have to inherently set you up for disadvantage, maybe one of them will grow up to change the culture or crusade for better environmental protections, to improve conditions in her country and make things better for all her people.

As much as I don't really like Tampax or Always for the way they've framed menstruation in this country, I can't fault their decision to say, "Something we do is a solution to someone else's problem. Let's do a little of it for free."
anonymousvirginanonymousvirgin on January 21st, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
this is a positive thing. handing out pads or tampons to girls/women who don't have protection otherwise can **only** be a positive thing. are pads and tampons the best? no. are they better than girls being confined to the home or stuffing newpapers in their vaginas (a common practice) during their periods? hellz yes.

this is a case of looking at the third world problem through first world perspective: we have options. these women don't. i’ll be the first in line to tell you that cups are healthier, cleaner, more viable tools for menstruation than any mainstream product. But that’s because i live in a society where i have options. in many developing countries girls are missing substantial amounts of schooling because they're menstruating, and many do drop out because of it. they don’t have options. this, combined with cultural beliefs that education for women is unnecessary (or, at best, a luxury), plus coupled with cultural taboos that portray menstruation as shameful or dirty, means that the issue of girls missing school because of menstruation is not likely to be addressed without outside assistance. tampax/kotex are not doing something evil, they're doing what they can to reach out to women who don't have other options.

are these programs part of this a marketing stunt? absolutely. do tampax/kotex hope this will create new markets for their products in the future? quite probably. do they expect that women in developed countries will be more likely to buy their products because of their program? undoubtedly. but immediately, will their actions make an impact for the people that this program effects? absolutely. education is one of the single most important factors in determining how far one can go in life, and what the quality of that life will be, especially for women as uneducated women will have no other option but to marry and become dependent on (and subordinate to) their spouses. so it is a good thing, even if tampax/kotex’s motives aren’t, um, pristine.

and while i don't expect that tampax & kotex will continue this indefinitely, the impact down the road may be such that women who will have had the chance to finish their schooling will recognize what a great impact their education has made, and will -- because they are educated, and because they were introduced to a program that specifically addresses the ramifications of unprotected menstruation -- work towards finding sustainable, culturally appropriate, affordable solutions for their own communities, through advocacy and entrepreneurship. So before we descry these companies as great evils, take a good look at the circumstances around their actions. Would it be great if similar programs for cups and cloth pads existed? yes, of course. but cloth pad and cup makers don’t have the economic purchase that mainstream product makers do. and tampax and kotex could do a hell of a lot worse than this: this really can change women’s lives for the better.
lunakatrinalunakatrina on January 22nd, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
Very, very true
Obsidianpurple_obsidian on January 21st, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
not much to add because others have said what I would have.... except a few things

the HIV virus apparently only lasts 4 hours out of the body, so as long as they shared cups leaving more than 4 hours between, then AIDS shouldn't be a concern. Hepatitis and a bunch of other things though, are...

If you consider the cost of a box of tampons to a tampon manufacturer, vs the cost of a menstrual cup to their manufacturer - you're going to find the tampon makers more willing to donate their products simply because they are cheaper and the companies themselves are richer so can afford the expense (in the name of publicity of course). Considering the cost of making cloth pads, those are probably less likely to be donated in large numbers.

I think the main problem with cups is that they aren't as easy to use as a tampon.... and as someone has pointed out, they don't have access to help on the subject like we do. I imagine the tampons they send are the applicator kind - which is a lot different to inserting a cup.
Regina Phalangemootilda23 on January 22nd, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
Looked at they website for the project and they are only giving the girls pads.
tegelly on January 22nd, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
Hmm. Perhaps we are thinking about this from one side only . . . even school is a 'western' thing for some of these areas in Africa, so why do they have to have schooling in the standard westernized way?

If culturally they go to a hut or some area outside of their immediate community to bleed, why can't the schools provide work for them to do while they are bleeding, heck, even a female teacher could go to them.

If it is so hard for them to get to the schools in the first place, (distance, cost), perhaps we need to re-think the schooling system to suit their culture instead of up-ending their lives to try to fit in school. In Australia we have remote communities/families who do distance education via the internet or 2-way radio. I might not be thinking this through correctly, but there appear to be many more options than just expecting the girls, (& boys for that matter), to get to the school. There is more than just their periods keeping them from school. Family responsibilities prevent many of these kids from being able to get to a school on a regular basis.

The complexity of the issue is mind-boggling. I want to see all communities have access to clean drinking water, medical care, schooling (in relevant subjects including hygiene), adequate food etc, but it must be so difficult for those on the 'front lines' to know where to begin to help the community & the individual.

Giving pads to girls may help some, but what about disposal & the potential health issues that may arise from wearing pads for too long, (to stretch out their presumably limited supply). How would they then get the medical care they needed to cope with a bad YI, or BV etc?

Sorry for the length - random thoughts about the subject are bursting into my brain space! Many of you have brought up really great, thought-provoking ideas. Thanks for the brain stimulation!

Dina Clare: dinasorlintilla on January 22nd, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)
Well put. I often wonder why we try and shoehorn people into the organized school box that was designed to produce more factory workers... :P
tangosalsa on January 24th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)
Pads vs. condoms
I just read through all the comments and my conclusion regarding the Tampax campaign is: if they want to give disposables to africa, by golly, give them condoms! They are so expensive and unavailable there...I saw a documentary in an anthropology class that showed how women are the main victims of AIDS on so many levels.