Should we be worried about what is sold to us?
Recently, I have learned, analysed and engaged with issues surrounding race, gender, capitalism, science and technology. These are issues that affect our lives in various ways that we do not recognize. Specifically, technology; is something that shapes and changes society at every turn and with any invention. It is part of what determines how we relate to and with one another.
We hear so much talk and action about women empowerment, feminism, care for the human body and acceptance of ourselves on the news today. Personal hygiene is one of the ways we can care for our bodies and one of the major benefits of hygiene is having better health. A woman is someone who goes through various cycles in her life. These cycles include, but are not limited to; puberty, menstruation, childbirth, and even old age. When it comes to a woman’s body, there is a lot that we need to pay attention to, especially when it comes to cleanliness throughout the various cycles. It is important that a woman strives to stay clean throughout so that she is healthier.
I am a young woman and I know the importance and need for cleanliness in a woman’s life. Majority of the women in the world today, menstruate and this is one of the many cycles we go through in our lives. It is important to ensure that this cycle does not affect our day to day activities. Hence, we clean up ourselves, ensure we are not soiled during it and endeavour to keep it in check. Some women take measures (IUD’s) that would prevent them from menstruating at all. Nonetheless, there are many companies out there that create products that help women keep this cycle (menstruation) in check. Companies such as; Always, Kortex, P&G, Tampax and Playtex. Many of these companies sell products (Sanitary towels and Tampons) that cater to women’s cycle and promise to keep it in check.
However, many of these companies use advertisement and assertive tones to detract user’s attention from some health issues attached to the use of their products. Specifically, I am referring to the use of tampons. A tampon is a feminine hygiene product designed to absorb the menstrual flow by insertion into the vagina during menstruation. Once inserted correctly a tampon is held in place by the vagina and expands as it soaks up menstrual blood. Most tampons are made of rayon or a blend of rayon and cotton. Tampons are available in several absorbency ratings. About 70 – 80 percent of women around the world make use of tampons. Yet, there are several things they do not know about the production materials involved in creating a tampon. There is minimalist to zero information about what goes into the production process. In some cases, when there are notes on a tampon box, it often refers to absorbency levels, brand name and aesthetics. Hence, users are limited to believing that the product will keep their cycle in check but are not aware of the impact of the production materials on their health. In consideration of this, we will view what some users have to say about tampons, some issues relating to its use and the experiences of some past users of tampons and how it affected their health or life.
First, let us talk about rayon. Rayon is a manufactured fibre made from regenerated cellulose fibre. It can imitate the feel and texture of natural fibres. However, if the chemicals are not handled properly, users can be harmed by the carbon disulfide used to manufacture rayon. Hence, this material can be bad for you. In 2017, the Catalyst published an article by Sharra regarding Toxic Shock Syndrome, Tampon Absorbency, and Feminist Science. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It is often associated with tampon absorbency levels. The article talks about thousands of women who got sick and hundreds of women who died from TSS due to high absorbency rate of the tampon (Sharra, p.2, 2017). Let us be a bit more visual here. A lady inserts wool-like material that is attached to a rope into her vagina and then she leaves it in for more than a couple of hours because it says on the box “superabsorbent”. The wool then absorbs the most it can and the rest is, well… Ordinarily, women are advised to change their sanitary towels every 3 – 4 hours for pure hygiene sake. So why does a tampon that is inserted into the body advice otherwise?
According to an article on The Atlantic, Ashley argues that “some women—particularly young women who had never given birth—found Rely (P&G brand) tampons to be painful to remove “because they would absorb so much that they would stick to the vaginal walls.”. Ashley goes on to suggest that, “after rely, consumers began to realize just how little they knew about what was actually in tampons. Several groups, like the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (the publishers of Our Bodies, Ourselves) and Women’s Health International pushed for manufacturers to reveal full lists of tampons’ ingredients and none of these groups was successful”. The catalyst points out that “the Centers for Disease Control recommended that women limit their use of superabsorbent tampons since the risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome increased with greater levels of absorption. However, women had no way of following this advice because products did not have consistent absorbency labels”. Hence, brands are putting out their product to profit off them and are outrightly disregarding its effects on consumers.
Here are some Reddit comments on peoples views and perceptions on Tampons:
“I don’t prefer pads, but I’m very paranoid. You hear one story about your drunk friend forgetting to remove her tampon before shoving a new one in, only to have to go to the hospital a week later, and you just know it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you”.
“I’ve also noticed I have way way worse cramps when I use tampons”.
“I know how to use tampons, but they’re still pretty uncomfortable, especially when taking them out (but then again, I don’t really like having things inside of me). Also, I’m never able to tell when to change them unless they leak”.
Asides from the Reddit comments, there are other stories about people who have had issues using tampons. There is a stro=y about a woman who found a sharp object on the wool of her tampon. Click here to find out more.
Do not get me wrong, not all women hate tampons. Like I said earlier, there are about 70 percent of women who make use of tampons all over the world. Some of them love it, some are quite comfortable with it and others prefer it to sanitary towels (pads). However, the issues I bring to light and want you to focus on are that, if companies are going to persuade us through their ads and convince us that tampons are the way to go so that they can make a profit? Why can’t they tell us what we are consuming in detail? Feminists have tried to cater to this issue as we have seen in some of the referenced articles and still no results. However, they are still trying and putting in the work to ensure our safety. I personally do not use tampons, but it is upsetting how risky some of the products we consume are. It is even more upsetting to think that due to the ignorance of some, others are dead or laying ill. Often, technology and science restrict the information that is important to us, either for experimental purposes or for profit making. We as consumers and in fact women should pay more attention to the details when it comes to things we consume and put into our bodies.
Kindly follow the link to find the reflection statement for this project.