Recently, a 15-year-old boy from Miami named Jose Garcia made a splash on the Internet by attempting to become the caped crusader for the demystification of menstruation. Garcia has taken to Instagram and other social media outlets with his campaign #RealMen-
SupportWomen, a movement encouraging men to stop thinking “Menstruation is some monstrosity” by carrying tampons and pads in case the women in their lives happen to need one.
But coming from the personal perspective of a 34-year-old man who has been married for seven years and grew up in a house full of women, where tampons were as commonplace as toast and television, I can attest to the fact that menstruation doesn’t illicit a feeling of disgust from all men. The only feeling that it elicits from me is the empathy associated with knowing that someone I love may not feel tip-top.
The big questions Garcia does not seem to consider is whether this is something young women even want a lot of extra attention given to, and if women are going to feel comfortable asking male associates for hygiene products.
It is these kind of sweeping statements and assumptions, along with unrealistic and self important quotes like “Girls should be able to ask for a tampon like I ask for a pencil” and “We should all help each other out like this so you don’t have to thank me at all” that make Garcia’s efforts asinine at best and downright harmful at worst; asinine because no one has ever been verbally abused for asking for a pencil, harmful because it may just add fuel to a fire of recognition and harassment over personal matters that most women may, shockingly, want kept personal.
It becomes apparent when reading his posts that “men” and “women” are misnomers. What he actually means is teenage guys and their feelings in reference to teenage girls. Most women learn to time their periods after a few years and most men over the age of 25 know that the mystique or taboo associated with menstruation disappears once you co-habituate with a woman. This is not to say that there aren’t men who cling to some irrational beliefs or that the collective immaturity of men won’t prevail when they get together and matters of toilet humor arises. But a love of toilet humor is not a strictly male characteristic. Ask Amy Schumer.
It goes without saying that no young woman should be made to feel ashamed for something that’s beyond her control and is perfectly natural. From a biological perspective menstruation is actually a beautiful thing, as it is an essential part of the process that makes reproduction and the propagation of our species possible. If one wishes to make things easier for young women regarding menstruation there are better ways than advocating a pumped up tampon supply, a problem easily solved by petitioning for dispensers in school bathrooms. This is more a matter of the ignorance and taboo inadvertently creating stigmatization.
The answer then would logically be to lessen the stigma within the individual. Educate young people better about the biological and physical facts regarding menstruation. The topic is given a very uninformative two-minute segment during boy’s sex education classes and young men would definitely benefit from a greater level of honest education and healthy cultural exposure. The total avoidance of the subject by adults and kids alike that made it seem like something unnatural and thus, as something dirty or taboo among my 15-year-old peer group.
Women are told of the biological dynamics during girl’s sex education, but they are not taught how to prepare and deal with the initial onset and unpredictability of their periods adequately. It seems to be assumed by teachers that a woman in the girl’s personal life will teach them those aspects, but this leaves girls without a healthy female role model or someone who is willing to tackle the subject head on at a distinct disadvantage. Less allusion and more education would help curb this disadvantage.
In the end, it is going to take a whole lot more education and understanding than a 15-year-old boy’s twitter campaign advocating the carrying of tampons is going to provide to resolve. Especially when the true ethos of that campaign seems less like an attempt to help women than it does a 15-year-old using the most taboo thing he could think of in his limited experience to generate net buzz.
Robert Jude Decker is a third- year literary journalism major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.