I recently learned about a company called “Hello Flo.” Hello Flo sends monthly packages of sanitary products to women 3-7 days before her period.
Women can choose from a variety of packages comprised of three-seven days’ worth of sanitary products to accommodate for a low to heavy flow. Hello Flo provides just enough protection for that month, along with some additional treats to help a woman through the experience.
There are some obvious problems with this company. It tells you when to expect your period, which is impossible for a number of reasons. For starters, there is no “normal” amount of time that happens between periods. Despite the “28 day cycle” over-simplified number often cited, some women average a 21 day menstrual cycle, and some women average a 34-day cycle. Both are perfectly normal.
No matter how regular your periods appear, a variety of factors – such as stress, malnutrition, infertility, excessive weight gain or loss and excessive exercising and medication – can throw your cycle out of sync. It’s perfectly normal for a period to come early, be late, last longer or shorter than anticipated or be heavier or lighter than the cycles before it. A company founded on predicting your period before you do simply cannot factor in these inconsistencies.
But the most problematic part of a service such as this is far less obvious. Services like Hello Flo are founded upon providing discreet and secret period relief. Many women love having discretion in something as intimate as their biology, and I am by no means attempting to call those women out. But the more women are taught to be ashamed of perfectly inescapable natural biological processes, the wider the gap between biological sexes becomes.
We’ve come a long way from the times when a woman on her period was exiled from society for seven days (though certainly not everywhere in the world is currently past this behavior). But menstruation still carries with it a culture of fear in men and shame in women.
Every interaction where we talk about sanitary napkins with our fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, roommates and friends creates better understanding leading us one step closer to social equality across sexes. Better understanding what women experience during menstruation helps prevent instances like feminine hygiene products being confiscated by Senate security or bosses not allowing female employees to take an adequate number of bathroom breaks as necessary.
There is no reason, whatsoever, that women should feel embarrassed or ashamed to buy tampons. Neither should men, for that matter. Menstruation is a natural biological process and a normal part of the circle of life.
Buying your tampons in public helps society normalize a process that is already normal, but treated as if strange and shameful. The less we hide the act, the easier it is to break the culture of shame and fear surrounding it.
So start owning up to the grosser things in life, ladies. It’s in the best interest of everyone.
Anna Mitchell wasn’t always comfortable talking about menstruation, but is grateful that she has overcome that discomfort. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org