Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Woman stopped at airport security in Egypt has to explain what a tampon is


It’s easy to take tampons for granted. We mock the old “Whoah” Bodyform ad, moan about the mysterious blue liquid used instead of blood red in ads and rail against tampon tax and the misuse of funds raised from it. We have plenty of brands to choose from for our various flows and insertion preferences, while Sanitary Owl, Pink Parcel and HelloFlo are among the subscription services delivering them to our doors every month. Yet, many women have no idea tampons even exist, as a BBC journalist has reminded us.

Claire Read was recently stopped in Egypt’s Cairo Airport by a female security guard for having a tampon in her pocket. "What's that … how do you use it?" asked the woman, who had no idea of this most basic sanitary hygiene option available to her.

Read more: Lucy Mangan: VAT on tampons should not be axed

Given that tampons have been around in their modern form since the 1930s, it’s quite stunning to realise that an adult woman working in a buzzing capital city has been successfully shielded from a product so many consider indispensable. It was such an alien concept to her that she put all of Read’s through the airport scanner by themselves.

Why? Read explains in her BBC News article that in Egypt, menstruation is known as “ma'ib”, which roughly translates to "shameful". Tampons are not offered as an option to girls and women because of the chance they will “break” the hymen of those who have not had sex – a problem for those who believe the myth that penetration determines virginity, in a country where it is highly prized.

Read more: We need to talk about those blood-stained knickers in The Handmaid’s Tale

Read recounted the experience of a friend who was asked by a pharmacist whether she was married before being shown tampons and said that a newspaper recently featured three mothers fearfully discussing the dangers of tampons.

When Read’s tampons cleared security, the worker asked if she could buy them in Egypt and gladly kept the instruction manual the journalist offered her.

“I wish I had given her some of the tampons,” she writes. “But I'm minded now always to keep a tampon in my pocket at airport security to bring more women into the fold.”

Images: iStock


jk rowling.jpg

Everyone needs to read JK Rowling’s Twitter warning about Theresa May


Sexist and irrelevant? BBC reporter sorry for Theresa May tears remark


Everything you need to know about the Democratic Unionist Party


What is perspecticide and could it be happening in your relationship?

This form of coercive control is incredibly damaging

by Megan Murray
16 Oct 2017

5 of the best indulgent baking books

Take a moment for yourself and make yourself some sweet baked goodness

16 Oct 2017

Here’s why your NHS doctor may ask you about your sexuality

The new directive will start in 2019

by Susan Devaney
16 Oct 2017

UK police investigate 5 sexual assault claims against Harvey Weinstein

Including one brought by Hollyoaks actress Lysette Anthony

by Moya Crockett
16 Oct 2017

#WomenBoycottTwitter: Here’s why women are refusing to tweet today

How will women going silent help their cause?

by Kayleigh Dray
13 Oct 2017

Lucy Mangan on why it's OK to feel vulnerable in these dark times

It’s reasonable to feel shaken by horrific news stories – we just mustn’t let them change us permanently

by Lucy Mangan
12 Oct 2017

Here’s what to do if your work space is driving you to distraction

Do you function better amid the chatter of colleagues?

12 Oct 2017

7 female characters from 90s horror films to channel this Halloween

Here's all the inspiration you need for all Hallow's Eve

by Susan Devaney
12 Oct 2017