[TRIGGER WARNING: MENSTRUATION, ILLNESS, NEAR DEATH, AMPUTATION]
There's been a lot of talk lately about the "tampon tax," since those very necessary products for people who menstruate are deemed "non-essential" in the US and until very recently, Canada, and therefore include a sales tax. This despite the widespread cis male hysteria about "free bleeding" and how horrifically unsanitary it is for people who menstruate to go without tampons or pads during their period.
You can see the disconnect here.
But what people haven't been talking about is just how fucked up these male-run tampon companies are and how those of us who are privileged enough to afford other options should boycott the shit out of them.
Toxic Shock: Why This Woman Is Suing a Tampon Company After Losing Her Leg
In the 1980's, people who used tampons started dying of toxic shock syndrome at an alarming rate. If you don't know, TSS happens when a massive amount of infectious bacteria like Staphylococcus blooms in the human body, causing a huge spike in fever and organ failure, often leading to death. It can also lead to gangrene, such as in the case of Lauren Wasser, who thanks to Kotex is now an amputee model.
The problem with common tampon brands is that they use a particular synthetic fiber that is basically Staphylococcus paradise. This bacteria, responsible for the infamous Staph infections common in hospital settings, is found naturally in an entire 20% of the population. If you are one of those people and you also menstruate, using tampons puts you at risk.
They didn't know this in the 1980's, and so a bunch of people died. After they figured out that it was the synthetic material in tampons turning the human vagina into a petri dish, they put a warning on tampon boxes and NOTHING ELSE. They did not change the material in tampons. Tampons are still made the same way with the same shit as they were in the 1980's.
Yeah. And now Lauren only has one complete leg and no toes.
While it's wonderful that she's overcome the initial depression that naturally comes with losing a part of your body and is now an incredible representative for amputees, continuing her modeling career while featuring her artificial leg, this should never have happened to her. Ever. And someone with less privilege than the white, thin, conventionally beautiful, and rich Lauren might not have made it through. But I am kind of glad her parents are rich because now Kotex is getting so sued.
What's super fucked up about this story is that Lauren knew she was supposed to change her tampon every 3-4 hours and leave it in no longer than 8, but when she fell ill (it's unclear if she was already developing a Staph infection or if she had an unrelated illness) and accidentally slept for god knows how many hours with her tampon in, she nearly died anyway. But most girls don't even know about TSS because our sex education is shit and god forbid anyone ever talk about menstruation ever, and most people ignore warning labels, especially on products they're told they MUST USE OR DEAR GOD CIS MEN MIGHT GET UNCOMFORTABLE.
I've never used a tampon in my life. At age 11 when I experienced menarche, the idea of sticking something up my vagina and leaving it there for hours was too fucked up to contemplate. Later, I learned about TSS not in school, but from my sister, and was then too afraid to try them. I used pads, the only other option I knew about, though they were uncomfortable and the thicker ones made me feel like I was wearing a diaper.
Today, I still use pads, but I finally ditched those awful, plastic-y, crinkly, sticky, pube-hair-pulling-y, mass produced by male-run companies pieces of shit for reusable cotton pads. They are so fucking soft and comfortable and amazing. I got mine from Lunapads, which makes them in all kinds of adorable colorful prints. Not that I can show them off, but it makes me happy. They also have menstrual cups and special panties that can be used for periods, pregnancy, or light bladder leaks.
The problem, again, is privilege. Though you'll ultimately save a lot of money by buying reusable cotton pads, panties, or cups, getting enough to cover you for the week requires that you be able to save up a pretty decent amount of money at once - probably over $100 unless your periods are fairly light.
If brands like Kotex actually did use natural fibers or at least synthetic shit that didn't create an ideal environment for Staph growth (and don't be fooled by the ones that say "natural" on the box - that's what Lauren was using, "natural" means nothing), they could save lives. And legs. But all they did was stick a "get out of jail free" card on every box. Because they don't care about people who menstruate - or in their eyes, women. If cis men menstruated then hahahahaha, well, you know.
So they change nothing and rake in the cash. And that is why, if you have the privilege of choice in the matter, do not buy from Kotex and Always and similar brands. There are actual people who menstruate making much better products that will not kill you. Buy from them.