The New Zealand supermarket chain, Countdown, has become the first to explicitly use the word ‘period’, in their packaging for menstrual products, such as tampons, menstrual cups and pads. Usually, in the U.K. and across the rest of the world, we see phrases such as ‘feminine hygiene’, noticeably avoiding the whole reason behind why these products are made in the first place: periods.
To some people, this may seem like a minor linguistic change, but this is political. This is big news, sis. The small change sends a very important message to people that periods are nothing to be ashamed of. The shame that society has created surrounding menstruation, when you think about it, is just ridiculous. It causes people to portray periods as unhygienic, and yes, to be honest, they are bloody disgusting (pun intended hehe you know I’ll never miss a pun opportunity). Sh*t gets messy, and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s pretty damn cool what my body is doing – preparing to make a little human life. So rather than feel shame, I feel pride. I’ve always been known as the one in my friendship group that talks about it very openly – too openly in some of the boys’ opinions. Their inability to stomach a bit of blood exiting my vagina sure as hell doesn’t warrant a blanket of shame to be draped over me, or anyone else.
This wrongfully constructed taboo surrounding periods has always been around. From ‘time of the month’, the ‘P word’ and ‘lady problems’, we’ve always found an alternative to the word ‘period’. However, with roughly 26% of the global population menstruating, it seems long overdue to begin minimising this unnecessary taboo. Surely, if periods are a natural process occurring in over a quarter of the global population, we should be empowering people who menstruate and encouraging an open conversation about periods and period-related health issues. After all, periods are the reason we’re all here today: they’re essential to the reproduction process and therefore should not be something we have to hide every month of the year.
Minimising the taboo has particular benefits for some nine to 18-year-olds living in New Zealand, as many find they cannot afford products for when they’re on their period. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, pointed out that around 95,000 young people therefore miss days of school whilst menstruating. This comes shortly after announcing that menstrual products will be accessible for free in all high schools in the country. Without the taboo, young people will feel more comfortable talking about their periods, including the issue of how expensive some products can be, and will therefore feel more comfortable to ask for help.
Despite this, there’s been a rise in the use of menstrual cups over the past few years. These bad boys can save you huge sums of £££ on pads and tampons. As well as the environmental benefits of using a menstrual cup, we can remain hopeful that there’ll soon be a decline in the number of young people struggling to afford tampons and pads.
In addition to the avoidance of the ‘P word’, the use of the word ‘feminine’ on menstrual products also carries issues. Not everyone who menstruates are female; people who are in the transgender community, or identify with another gender, may still experience periods. By using the word ‘feminine’, supermarket chains are not respecting every single one of their customers, and may harm some of their identities. Simply utilising the word ‘period’ is far more respectful and encourages more inclusivity for some of those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The supermarket’s decision comes three years after Tesco became the first UK retailer to remove the tampon tax in 2017. Changes such as these are vital in the feminist movement, in order to gain more equality between all genders. Fortunately, Countdown is a major supermarket chain, operating 180 stores across the country, which means their message will reach a wide audience in New Zealand. With some hope, Countdown will be the first of many to update their word choices, and we’ll begin to see a reduction of the unnecessary euphemistic language like ‘feminine hygiene’. Yes, please.