Ditching Feminine Hygiene Products

Aunt Flow is a buy-one, give-one subscription box for 100% cotton tampons and pads. Our mission is to ensure that everyone has access to menstrual products.

Aunt Flow is choosing to ditch the description “feminine hygiene products” in favor of “menstrual products.”

“Feminine hygiene products”

What the hell does this even mean? This ambiguous phrase gives no indication as to what the products are actually used for. Females have a lot of places that ‘need’ to be cleaned; armpits, faces, boobs, feet, etc. This product description could apply to literally any portion of a female’s body. “Toilet paper” is a very obvious descriptor. Paper you use on the toilet. What about “toothbrush?” A brush you use on your teeth. No other “hygiene” item is veiled in mystery, nor does it actually use the word hygiene. At the very least, our switch to “menstrual products” can be viewed as an attempt to better convey what we’re selling.

But, we’ll be straight with you, it goes deeper than that. We know the descriptor, “feminine hygiene products” is just a pretty euphemism for something no one is supposed to talk about. As a society, we’ve always been afraid to talk about periods. When disposable “sanitary pads” first hit the market, there was a box people could put their money in so they didn’t have to interact with a cashier when buying pads. YIKES. Aunt Flow is destroying the taboo that comes along with menstruation. We are encouraging menstruators to move past any shame, embarrassment, or awkwardness that can be felt when talking about periods. People have the right to feel comfortable in their bodies any time of the month. We’re naming our product for what is it - a menstrual product.

Let’s break it down a bit further.

“Feminine”

What comes to your mind when you hear this word? Sure, there’s the empowered answers of strong, fierce, and talented. But what REALLY came to mind first? The first real, raw connotations? We bet it was more like delicate, pretty, sensitive, gentle, demure, or perhaps modest, thin, or submissive. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with those qualities. The problem with a traditionally prescribed femininity has always been that a female MUST fit into these categories. All menstruators, whether they be cis women, trans men, or gender nonconforming humans, battle with the repercussions of a “feminine ideal” and it’s limitations. Cramps suck enough, the least Aunt Flow can do is to change a word to help menstruators feel less alone.

“Hygiene”

The word hygiene sends a big, blatant message that menstruation = dirty. Menstruation is a cleansing process and completely hygienic. Can it be a bit messy? Sure. Dirty? No. The idea that a period is gross and something to be feared is harming people across the globe. People in Nepal are often sent to isolation huts during their periods. In the US, young menstruators can face humiliation talking to their parents about a period. People are shoving tampons up their sleeves on their way to the bathroom at work to avoid revealing they’re on their period - fearing others will view them as “unstable.” Worst of all? The fear means we’re not talking about it. That’s why the majority of people don’t even know that thousands of people in the US are living without these basic items. They aren't aware menstrual products are not covered by WIC or food stamps. It’s time to break the taboo. It’s time to find a sustainable solution. We do that by breaking the fear. So we’re throwing out a word that contributes to it.

It's about inclusivity.

Aunt Flow believes people should have access to the necessary tampons and pads no matter their economic status. As we’ve grown and listened to those around us, we realized we needed to expand our idea of inclusivity to include gender. Those who identify as cis women are not the only people that menstruate. Trans men and those individuals who do not identify as either binary gender also menstruate. To stay true to our mission - to ensure EVERYONE has access to menstrual products - we could not exclude this population.

“Aren’t you making a big fuss over nothing?”

NOPE! To pay attention to only economic status, or only gender, is to ignore how people actually exist. Ditching “feminine hygiene” is a small step towards eliminating the menstruation taboo, creating a sustainable solution, and including everyone in the period process!

Time to flow forward.

December 20, 2016

Claire

Written by:

Claire Coder is the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. Now 19, the young entrepreneur spends her very limited free time dancing spastically, geeking out over podcasts, and dreaming of being on The Ellen Show. Claire loves chatting about religion, higher education, and left-handers, so shoot her an email on the contact page.