OK, guys. Enough is enough. Those long, paper-covered things in our purses aren’t sweets, neither are they for applying make-up. We don’t use them to clean our kitchens, make food, or use for a stippling effect on an oil painting we are not creating. They are tampons, and they are used to absorb menstrual blood flowing from the uterus into the vagina when women are on their periods. This happens to almost all women once a month, from puberty until their mid-40s or 50s.
Sadly, as one BBC journalist reminded us recently, not all women will know a) what a tampon actually is and b) what it is used for.
Claire Read was walking through Cairo Airport in Egypt recently when she was stopped by a security guard after she was caught with a tampon in her pocket. The catch was that the security guard was female.
“What’s that … how do you use it?” the woman asked.
Now, tampons were originally developed in the 1930s, and periods have been a thing since the dawn of womankind, so Read was somewhat shocked to have to explain to the security guard what they were. In fact, the guard found the concept of the items so foreign that she put all of Read’s tampons through the airport scanner.
Keen to discover why a woman from a thriving capital city seemed never to have encountered a tampon before, Read decided to write a feature about it. Apparently, menstruation in Egypt is known as “ma’ib”, or “shameful”, when roughly translated into English. Not great grounds for women wishing to discuss ways to be more comfortable during their monthly cycle in the first place. Further more, there is a societal myth, perpetrated by the high prize of virginity in Egypt, that using tampons could prematurely break a girl’s hymen.
Read ended her piece by saying that the female security worker, having detected no danger in the tampons, asked her if she could get some in Egypt. She kept the instruction manual.
“I wish I had given her some of the tampons,” she concluded. “But I’m minded now always to keep a tampon in my pocket at airport security to bring more women into the fold.”
And yes, the year is 2017, thanks for asking.