-“Doctor…We would never allow her to use that contraption—a devilish invention.”
Those harsh words—reminiscent of a tirade from Savonarola in a Firenze public square during the Inquisition—were uttered when I questioned a lady why she had not instructed her daughter how to use a tampon during her menstrual period. Due to uncontrolled bleeding she had brought her to the Emergency room where I used to moonlight for long week-ends in an isolated, quaint small town in the northern hills of Georgia. Fortunately the local gynecologist was making rounds in the hospital and he took care of the situation immediately, including a long talk with the mother.
Women menstruate and have always needed ways to contain the bleeding. There are numerous accounts sine Antiquity of several types of material used to insert in the vaginal cavity and limit the blood flow, which were also used to avoid pregnancy. Egyptian women used papyrus, Greek women used gauze, Roman women used wool—materials that were highly absorbent. In our age a tampon has of a core made of cotton covered with polyethylene. The patriarchal institutions were always leery of that necessary practice as it was solely carried out by women without any manly supervision or control.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Earle Cleveland Haas designed the first commercial tampon to help his wife, a ballerina, to control her bleeding. In 1931 Gertrude Tendrich bought his patent to create the Tampax brand; the inclusion of millions of American women in the World War II factories prodded the use of the device, in spite of the silly puritanical resistance to it. A few years later Judith Esser-Mittag, a German gynecologist, designed one that did not require an applicator, which she dubbed as “o.b.”(ohne binde)
Paradoxically, in our age of women’s liberation from the social prejudices, we can still see the resilient stigmatization of menstruation in the media. TV or radio ads about tampons tend to emphasize their “hygienic” and “aesthetic value” as if that natural biological process were a shameful disease to cure.The feminine care industry has exploited that irrational “sense of dirtiness” to relegate the use of tampons to the sphere of intimacy, not to be discussed.
Menstruation is an integral part of the uniquely marvellous biological cycle of mammals that enable us to create new life and perpetuate our species. The mendacious demeaning of women’s functions must stop in the public sphere.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.