The True History of Periods

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Periods: We can rarely watch a full TV show without seeing a colorful commercial selling tampons, pads, or panty liners at least once.  Surprisingly, although tampons went on the market around 1930, the word “period” was never uttered on a television commercial until 1985 in an ad for Tampax.

A brief history of periods

In fact, the cultural “ick” factor regarding periods dates back to Biblical times, when women were considered cursed or unclean while menstruating. Although we’d like to think in 2017 we’re much more open about our bodies, some people still get flustered and uncomfortable at the mere mention of the word “period.” This could be due to the fact the history of period products and advertisement is fairly young.

It is believed that ancient Egyptian women used softened papyrus as tampons. However, the first tampon with a plastic applicator was invented in 1929 by Doctor Earle Haas. Since then, the feminine hygiene industry has grown to $2 billion in the US.

Aside from the commercial mentioned above in 1985, it did take time for the word “period” not to be completely taboo when mentioned in any type of print or digital media. For example, menstruation was not mentioned in a fictional storyline until 1970 in Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

In 2014, just three short years ago, Paule Kragten founded a magazine called “Period!” It is a digital magazine that talks about menstrual issues exclusively, such as menstrual workplace leave, endometriosis awareness, and so forth.

In 2015, a woman named Kiran Gandhi, completed a marathon while on her period without using any products to absorb the blood. She referred to this as “free bleeding,” which got a lot of public attention. However, the media’s reaction to her doing so proved to her that the period stigma is still going strong.

In 2016, New York City, introduced a bill that seeks to provide free tampons and pads in bathrooms in public schools, shelters, and correctional facilities. An advocate of the bill, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland compared the necessity of feminine hygiene products to the necessity of toilet paper saying, “no one is freaking out about toilet paper.”

While there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to normalize the idea of periods in our society, along with many others, thanks to the tireless efforts of women from around the world, we are slowly inching closer.

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