Do you remember the first time you went to buy tampons? For many adolescent girls, it can be something of a daunting experience: scuttling furtively around the aisles of your local pharmacy, your face hot and brick-red, hoping against hope that you don’t run into any of the boys from school. Why? Well, because periods are embarrassing – obviously.
From the use of euphemistic terms (“Aunt Flo”) to the blue "blood" used in advertising campaigns, a pervasive stigma still surrounds menstruation – despite the fact that it’s 2016 and women have been having periods for, you know, ever. (Just witness the furore that exploded when Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui casually announced that she’d been on her period while competing in the Rio Olympics.)
With that in mind, you’d hope that shops would want to make buying sanitary products as smooth a process as possible.
But sadly, it’s often not the case – as one 13-year-old girl discovered over the weekend.
US blogger Belinda Hankins shared a brilliantly sardonic text exchange between herself and her daughter Bella over the weekend, revealing her daughter’s frustrated attempts to buy some tampons – and skewering the ridiculousness of period stigma in the process.
“THIS was the highlight of my parenting week,” Hankins wrote in a post on Facebook. “Sending my 13-year-old daughter into the store for (whispers) ‘feminine hygiene products,’ and having the following text exchange. I died, she gave me life, I died again.”
Let’s take a closer look:
At first, Bella simply can’t believe that tampons could be so bloody difficult to locate, something she articulates with admirable teenage despair. “THEYRE NOT HERRREEEEEE”, she texts her mum. “EVERYTHING IS HERE EXCEPT FOR WHAT I NEED.”
After dropping in a classic embarrassing-mum reference to “condoms and sex lube”, Hankins goes into practical mode. “There is no way they don’t carry those essential items,” she replies. “You stay in there until you find them”.
Eventually, Bella discovers the holy grail. “OH WAIT. They’re here tucked away in a corner unlabelled.”
And this is when things get really good.
In a crushing display of innocence lost, Bella asks incredulously: “They labelled the tiny shelf of joint braces but not the massive aisle of stuff for your vagina??????????”
“Yes,” replies Hankins. “Because there is NEVER a sign for that section. Vaginas are SECRET.”
Bella: “VAGINAS ARE MYTHS, WHISPERED QUIETLY IN SECRET AMONG ONLY THE BRAVEST OF MEN, COURAGEOUS ENOUGH TO EVEN MENTION THE NAME.”
Is it OK to want to be best friends with a 13-year-old? Because we want to be best friends with this girl.
But after the jokes comes the realisation that actually, this situation is pretty messed up.
“BUT SERIOUSLY, WHY ARE MEN SO AFRAID OF WOMEN AND THEIR VAGINAS,” asks the 13-year-old feminist.
“DO THEY THINK IF THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR EXISTENCE WE WILL SHOOT OUR LASER ESTROGEN BEAMS OUT OF OUR EYES AT THEM AND DISINTEGRATE THEM WITH EASE?”
And then, in the final clincher, Bella makes a map labelled THE VAGINA ZONE.
Hankins’ post has since gone viral, with over 54,000 shares and 39,000 likes at the time of writing. And for good reason: if girls like Bella are the future of feminism, we think we’re in good hands.