When will tampon users stop shaming pad users?
For far too long, people who use menstrual pads have been doubly stigmatized: first for their periods, and second, for their feminine hygiene product of choice.
“Why do you want to wear an adult diaper?” tampon loyalists will ask. They are confident that their hygiene product is the superior one. They believe those who choose pads are weak, anachronistic, regressive. Pad users, in their minds, are blind to social norms and addicted to the pleasures of the napkin, a disposable mattress for the vagina.
Times have changed. It is 2018: time for menstrual pad users to reclaim their rightful role at the apex of the feminine hygiene product hierarchy and stand up for what they believe in. (Unless it’s the first day of their period, in which case, please take a chair.)
I wore my first menstrual pad at the age of 11. Even though I didn’t have my period at the time, I wanted to impress the other girls and show that I, too, was one of the cool ones, capable of getting knocked up by one of the popular loud boys. I’d always offer the sexy super maxi pads I stole from my mom’s bathroom to the popular girls in the locker room after they complained about this beautiful, mysterious ailment they called “cramps.”
What was this cramp? Could I have it, too? There was a long period of time in my life where I all wanted to do was bleed out of my front hole, and catch it with a napkin.
Over time, though, I came to grow ashamed of my sanitary napkins as tampon users ascended and “pad-shaming” became more powerful. Pad users, I learned, belonged to an abject underclass: a derelict group of pseudo-humans who enjoyed sitting in “mushy blood diapers” every 28 days. We were accused of being “too afraid” to use tampons (hello, toxic shock syndrome!), hurting the environment (definitely true), and being old virgins (totally accurate, but that had nothing to do with the tampons).
And my experience was shared by others. A fellow Mashable employee who genuinely asked to be called “Padable” shared this experience with me:
“I haven’t been shamed a lot for using pads, but I also don’t bring it up a lot because I always felt it was weird. In high school people didn’t talk about periods much, but when they did it was always about tampons. Asking for tampons, complaining about tampons, saying they were better than pads because pads are like “diapers.
But I could never use tampons . . . Tampons were always uncomfortable. I ended up finding out on my first visit to the gynecologist that my vaginal opening is pretty small, which explained to me why tampons never felt right.
It’s not right that tampons are culturally the ‘best’ and often ‘only’ period option.”
Sure, #NotAllTamponUsers discriminate. Most don’t. Many users of the product are proudly tolerant or indifferent to the feminine hygiene choices of others. A small minority reject the binary and use both tampons and maxi-pad, or even diva cups and period underwear, alternating based on the flow of their period or how sexy they’re feeling that day. (Tampons admittedly have a minor advantage there.)
But a small, angry, and vocal minority of tampon users outshout everyone else. They sometimes minimize the dangers of toxic shock syndrome and refuse to acknowledge that the pantyliner they have in their underwear to catch “excess flow” is actually just a glorified menstrual pad. They call menstrual pads wasteful even though used tampon applicators are more popular than grains of sand on a Brooklyn beach.
Women aged 12-54 bought, on average, 111 maxi pads in 2014 but just 66 tampons.
Tampons, in their minds, are sleek, sophisticated feminine hygiene products made for modern women who have lots of sex. Menstrual pads, by contrast, are made for frumpy celibates who are too attached to their moms, hate the environment, and wear Costco branded underwear they bought on sale on Labor Day.
Yet for all the clamor, pad users are actually in the silent statistical majority. In 2015, Euromonitor, a market research firm, discovered that women aged 12-54 bought, on average, 111 maxi pads in 2014 but just 66 tampons.
That’s almost double the amount of maxi pads bought in comparison to tampons. Double!
The data (probably) doesn’t lie. Most Americans who have their periods use pads, not tampons, or diva cups, or Thinx underwear, a heroic new underwear that lets you bleed into your pants.
Yet walk into your hip start-up’s office bathroom or your school nurse’s bathroom and (if you’re lucky) you’ll find a free bucket of tampons. Ask your best friend if she has a free pad and watch her otherwise very kind jaw drop to the floor. Tell the person you’re dating that you use pads and watch their hopefully attractive face twist in revulsion.
It’s unclear how tampons came to enjoy such prestige, even if that power doesn’t translate into numbers. Perhaps it’s because menstrual pads, unlike tampons, bring the user into closer contact with their own menstrual fluids — one of the most despised fluids on the planet. Or maybe it’s because tampons are sleek and sexy, built like supermodels, and pads are broad-shouldered, aka, “body positive.”
There are so many reasons I, and millions like me, choose the pad. They’re soft, they’re flexible, and they’re even more adept than paper towels at cleaning up dog piss on the floor. Wear a pad and you can be (relatively) assured that you won’t ruin a whole set of underwear.
Does pulling out a tampon make you feel like you’re dragging out a placenta? Then try a pad.
Too cheap to buy a Tempur-pedic pillow? Give a package of sanitary napkins a try!
None of this is to say that menstrual pads are inherently more worthy than tampons or even, necessarily a better choice. While diva cups produce minimal amounts of waste, the average woman trashes up to 250 – 300 lbs of “pads, applications, and tampons” over the course of their lifetime. Pad and tampons might seem like two different species, but both are equally bad when it comes to their affect on mother nature.
Tampon users and pad users can get along. Together, we can build a world where people aren’t defined by what hygiene product they have between their legs. Instead of segregating ourselves into pad and tampons camps, or even other hygiene products like diva cups and Thinx, we can build a common cultural conversation around the issues that really matter: Ruined underwear, painful cramps, or accidentally bleeding all over your office chair while you’re at work.
“I am PROUD of my pads!” Padable told me.
To Padable, tampon and pad-users everywhere: we’re proud of you too.