Meet The Period Vloggers Leading a Menstrual Revolution

Why videos like How To Insert A Tampon aren't just helping young girls - but are leading the backlash against fake marketing menstruation talk


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

For as long as people have been buying things, it seems advertisers have tried to market products to women without attempting to talk to, meet or even observe any actual women. Rather than ask us what we’d like, it’s much easier to tell us what we want. Here, have this pen! It’s pink, for girls! Howsabout this shampoo, eh? It’s made of science! This low-calorie cracker will make you thin! And if the straw-like taste bothers you, you can be naughty and put some cheese on it!

READ MORE: Our Definitive Guide On Having Sex During Your Period

However, no matter what we do want, what we don’t want and what we’re told to want, there’s a product that millions of women find, ahem, quite literally essential. Sanitary protection. And the options available are as special, magical and unique as our vaginas and vulvas themselves. You can use a specially designed applicator to launch the cylinder of cotton wool into your vagina, and pretend you’re sending a tiny, absorbent Yuri Gagarin towards your ute.

You can choose a pad that’s thicker and more securely anchored than a bunkbed mattress, or you can opt for the standard, no-frills version and try flying without wings. If you love all things retro, you can even track down an old school belt and pad combo – check out this SNL sketch for inspiration. And if you have the tenacity and dexterity of a balloon modelling artiste, then there’s always the Mooncup.

The company that owns and manufacturers most sanitary brands is mainly run by men – just 25 per cent of board staff are women

OK, so there aren’t that many options. And the ones that exist are sold to us by people whose go-to definition of period might as well be ‘the American word for full stop’. According to The Daily Dot, the company that owns and manufacturers most sanitary brands is mainly run by men – just 25 per cent of board staff are women. Is this why some of us grew up believing that when we got our periods, they would be blue? Perhaps it explains why someone thought ‘Urgh, tampons, how gross! Let’s wrap them up so that they can be mistaken for sweets!’ And I would pass out with shock if I were to discover that a woman had come up with the phrase ‘Have a happy period!’ unless the expression were a bitter, tired jape fuelled by a heady combination of Feminax, Co-codamol and Gordon’s Gin.

READ MORE: A Few Minefields You Had To Deal With When You First Got Your Period

So thank the menstruation gods for the solution to this period paraphernalia problem: the new generation of vloggers who are uploading YouTube videos dedicated to periods, complete with real fake blood and absorbency reports. Southernraised28 shows us her period kit – a brilliantly organised shoe box jammed with coordinated towels and tampons. It’s sheer aesthetic joy; the perfectly coordinated pastels belong on Pinterest. In her video How To Insert A Tampon she shares every detail that the ads and instruction details miss, from how to angle the tampon to when to tug it gently to make sure it’s in.

Meanwhile AdolescenceForGirls tells us to pack for our periods in the same way that you might pack a make-up bag. These young women are joyfully matter of fact about a process advertisers have been trying to mystify since the beginning of television.

Squeamish Kate, a feminist blogger and writer and editor for the site Squeamish Bikinithinks it’s very encouraging that there’s a generation of young women who are so open about menstruation.

‘The thought of having [the vlogs] available to me as a teenager would have probably improved the experience greatly,’ she tells The Debrief. ‘I’d have liked some information on whether or not you should put up with the discomfort of a misdirected tampon (you shouldn’t).’

Kate adds that although these vlogs are by women, for women, it’s very important to ensure that men stay part of the conversation. ‘If the goal is to get rid of any embarrassment then we can’t afford to exclude anyone from the process, or shroud it in any mystery beyond the point where a menstruating person goes through the bathroom door to deal with their Mooncup/tampon/pad.’

READ MORE: Let’s All Get Over Being Ashamed Of Our Periods, Shall We

Personally, what I find thrilling about the vloggers’ work is that it has global implications. These videos could have a major impact in developing countries where women are discouraged from exploring and understanding their own bodies. In India, 70 per cent of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Action Aid’s She Can campaign drew attention to the fact that women across the world who are forced to leave their homes without warning are often stuck without tampons, towels, painkillers or even hot water.

If Western advertisers are making us think that periods are so embarrassing that we shouldn’t even talk about what colour they are, women in developing countries are never going to access the products and information that they are entitled to. But if enough brave young women can vlog, blog and share facts and stories, we could see a global revolution in how periods are discussed, and by extension, how women are treated.

As Kate puts it: ‘The mystery over periods has helped the myth of hysteria and the wandering womb to be perpetuate. Women are still presented as irrational and unfair, apparently due to their biology.’ Women need to be leading the conversation about menstruation, but periods are everyone’s business.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult Special Sex Edition: Why Do I Get Hornier When I’m On My Period

It’s National Orgasm Day: Here’s What I Wish I Could Tell My 21-Year-Old Self About Orgasms

How To Deal With A Flaky Friend Without Ruining It Forever

Follow Daisy on Twitter @NotRollerGirl

Picture: Felipe Barbosa

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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