I no longer feel any shame while cruising down an aisle to pick up my monthly stash of pantyliners, tampons and washes (I don’t use soap but I find that a bottle of Nature Fresh intimate cleanser works for me).
But it's only recently that I have stopped feeling mortified whenever I have leaked onto my bedding. For years I would wake up every couple of hours to make sure that didn’t happen.
I remember seeing photos and reading about Kiran Gandhi running the London marathon in 2015 while she bled freely. Earlier this year in the US, Steph Gongora posted a video during her period when her flow was strong and she experienced a leak while filming a yoga practice. I applauded their courage to de-stigmatise menstruation. And there are many ways that ‘menstruators’ are shamed.
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In South Africa Zizipho Ntobongwana (a young entrepreneur who has launched a new organic sanitaryware range) talks about menstruators because not only women get their periods – so do people who identify as non-binary and trans men and it’s important to be more inclusive.
Talking about new ways of describing things, I think it’s time we came up with an alternate description than sanitary ware or feminine hygiene products, which reinforces the idea that periods are supposedly dirty.
It's problematic that menstrual blood is considered dirty and women are excluded from cultural and religious spaces or traditions during their flow. So in order to start changing those mindsets, Zizipho is asking women to share, online, stories about their first period or most embarrassing one.
Using the hashtag @ownthemoment, she hopes to break barriers and for everyone to feel more comfortable talking about the topic.
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She’s not just concerned about the social impact of menstruation, but also wants to drive a conversation around environmental and body consciousness. Her tampons, pads and pantyliners are all made of 100% organic cotton and are biodegradable. They are sourced and made in Europe though. How much thought have you put into what you use every month and where this waste goes?
These are just some of the questions some of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford products every month can ask.
Zizipho also wants to change the way we experience menstruation. You can buy her products (prices range from R55 – R74 and a tote bag that costs R190) online and they’re available in Cape Town and will be in Joburg shortly and there’s no delivery charge. She hopes that one day our government will remove taxes and demand companies put ingredient labels on these products.
READ MORE: Everything (and we mean everything) you need to know about menstrual cups
Another recently launched company also wants to change the way we approach our periods and life in general. They’ve started Feel Good & Co, which aims to give South Africans products that not just make them feel, but also encourages them to do good too.
They’ve chosen Modibodi, which is a range of underwear that says that it’s leak- and sweatproof (can absorb levels of up to two tampons) and replaces tampons, pads and pantyliners. It also caters for women of all shapes, sizes and ages.
Feel Good & Co promises to donate a pack of pads for every five pairs of underwear you buy from Modibodi to an organisation called Jabula Dames. They collect and give out sanitary pads to those in need.
I am a woman, therefore, I bleed. . It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible, & it's beautiful. . And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. . I bury things at the bottom of the trash. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile. . Tampons? Shhh. We don't say those words out loud. Hide them. In the back pocket of your purse, in the corner of the bathroom drawer, at the very bottom of your shopping cart (please let me get a female cashier). . Events or engagements get missed. I'll tell myself it’s the PMS, sure, but it has more to with the risk of being "caught," at what...I'm not quite sure. . And I’m lucky. . Over 100 million young women around the globe miss school or work for lack of adequate menstrual supplies, & fear of what might happen if the world witnesses A NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION. . WHY? . Because hundreds of years of culture have made us embarrassed to bleed. Have left us feeling dirty and ashamed. . STOP PRETENDING. Stop using silly pet names like Aunt Flo because you're too afraid to say "I'm bleeding" or "vagina." Stop wasting so much effort hiding the very thing that gives this species continuity. . START talking about it. Educate your daughters. Make them understand that it can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but NEVER something to be ashamed about. Educate your sons so they don't recoil from the word tampon. So when a girl bleeds through her khaki shorts in third period (pun intended), they don't perpetuate the cycle of shame and intolerance. . This #StartSomethingSunday , I want to highlight @corawomen . . Cora Women is a 100% Organic tampon company. . But that’s not all. They are also breaking barriers. Making it ok to talk about periods, even on social media. Providing personalized, delivered tampon/pad orders right to your door. AND for every box purchased, donating a box of sustainable pads to girls who can't afford menstruation products. . Fuck yeah. That's the kind of stuff I can galvanize behind, NO money OR product needed. Just a mission I support on a topic we should ALL be talking about. . THIS IS JUST A LEAK, NOT FREE BLEEDING ???