“We bleed blue” is a common sentiment espoused by Tar Heel fans. If you check this blog with any regularity, you know that I bleed bluer than a chainsaw massacre at Smurf Village. Other than that (and the occasional reference to nobility), “blue blood” just makes me think of those silly feminine hygiene commercials that use the thin blue liquid to compare absorbencies. As thoughts in my head tend to jump from one to the next rather quickly, I started to think about my disdain for the feminine hygiene industry.
The so-called feminine hygiene industry is so freaking insulting to me. The whole business is predicated on society’s belief that women are nasty, dirty beings who need to be secreted away and disinfected. So much could be said about this. People write their theses on the subject. Books sit in libraries and on Barnes & Noble shelves on the issue. There’s a documented history of how the industry contributes to the warping of the female mind, particularly the impressionable minds of young girls. I can’t and will not go into all of that here. Instead, I’ll just focus on a couple of points relating to one’s period: Cleanliness (part I) and Secrecy (part II).
It’s a simple fact of life: every 28 days, a post-pubescent female will shed her uterine lining if she has not become pregnant and that’s just as natural as breathing. Since the beginning of time, attitudes have shifted regarding menstruation, a lot of them culturally based. For example, in early Native and South American cultures, women retreated to “moon huts” together where they say on mossy grass to soak up their blood and recycle it back into the earth. While they were there, they meditated and made major community decisions. It was believed that menstruating women had healing powers. In ancient Rome, however, menstruating women were considered dangerous. According to the Naturalis Historia, menstruating women would make wine sour, seeds sterile and fruit trees wilt. Oh word? Seems like the latter school of thought endured and shaped Western culture.
I don’t remember how old I was when I began my period. I know it was in middle school. I didn’t get a long talk, no “You’re a woman now,” speech. I relied a lot on my friends, our collective knowledge and that bullshit they teach you in health class. In high school, there were those gym classes when we were separated from the boys and we spent our time watching videos about our bodies. The information taught to me in school yielded very little, but surely it taught me to cover and hide what was happening to my changing body. What I learned from my peers was that I was going to be a disgusting mess for around five days a month. What’s a girl to do? She gotta douche.
My mother douched. I don’t recall my grandma having the store bought ones, but there was that curious red douche bag that was kept in the bathroom. I know yall know what I mean. I must have douched a number of times starting back in the eighth grade! For what?! Well, my girls were doing it. Boys our age knew more about quantum physics than a woman’s body. Nevertheless, we listened to what they had to say about it all. Boys, probably spouting some shit they heard on a Summer’s Eve commercial would clown you if you intimated that you did not douche. I have a clear memory of screwing the applicator tip to that bottle and sloshing cold, “fresh scent” liquid into my vagina while squatting over the toilet. If that’s TMI for you, well then you’re totes in the wrong place because part of my goal here is to not conceal the perfectly normal workings of the female body. Everything around us was telling us we should be douching. Example, my crew and I LOVED Martin Lawrence. We never missed a show and we had the You So Crazy stand up on cassette. We’d get together and listen to it. I can still recite portions of that routine word for word. When we get together, we still tell each other the jokes. There’s a portion of You So Crazy when Martin is talking about a woman’s vaginal odor. Like, even Marty Mar was telling us to do it!
Anyway, we had no idea at the time that we were probably doing more harm than good. I know personally that I was douching without having an odor problem. I just didn’t want to be perceived as having one. I haven’t douched in years. At first I just found it stupid and frankly, embarrasing to purchase douches at the local Rite Aid (more on that later). Later on, in high school, I learned that , unless a doctor tells you to, you never need to douche. That is unless you like allergic reactions, irritation, and vaginal infections. I’m not trying to turn this into a health lesson, but I just wish they told young people straight up: vaginal odor is almost always caused by some type of infection. Better see about getting a prescription instead of pressure-washing your cervix. And when it’s not an infection, regular showers and clean underwear should tackle your problems.
I just hate how they have all of these products that they can only sell if we believe that we are inherently dirty and in need of freshening. Douches, sprays, powders, wipes. Scented tampons – the most insulting of ‘em all, since the scent is only there for your insecurities and nothing else. News flash: when a tampon is inserted, you cannot smell it. If you can smell it (good or bad), you’re doing it wrong. Add to that, the false impression that a vagina should smell like a field of wildflowers. Who started that? Now people are out there expecting to smell like peonies and when they don’t, they’re made to feel negatively about themselves. Those feminine hygiene people hate me because I don’t fall for that bull. In the interest of disclosure, I occasionally buy Summer’s Eve’s feminine wash, but only because it’s a mild soap that cleanses without irritation. And of course, there are pads/tampons which I’ll tackle more in Part II of this entry. Just think about how you feel about yourself “down there.” Do you feel like your vagina is just a nasty burden? Is your period a curse? If so, ask yourself WHY you feel that way also how and when those thoughts entered your mind. Why do you feel like your natural bodily process is spoiling the wine instead of meditating on your healing powers?
Stay tuned for Part II.
Sources: Nemours Foundation – Teens Health; gURL.com