Thanks to a new crop of start-ups, product innovations, and a whole lot of conversation, your period is getting more attention than ever.
For centuries, women have dreaded the arrival of "that time of the month," but thanks to a new wave of policies and products, the days of hiding out and using euphemisms to talk about a quarter of our adult lives (seriously, enough with all the conversations about shark week already) are long gone. Periods are a thing and it's about time we stopped making them so taboo.
The good news is, thanks to a few pieces of period-related policy, the menstrual cycle has finally made it into the cultural conversation. (We are actually living in an age where Women Are Live Tweeting Their Periods.)
Down with the Tampon Tax
Earlier this year, the "tampon tax," which currently adds a 4 percent "luxury tax" to the sale of all feminine care products, caused an uproar. As anyone with a uterus knows, using a tampon is no luxury. In New York City alone, women are paying $14 million in tampon taxes each year. Yikes.
Which is why it's not surprising that women aren't taking the bogus luxury tax law sitting down. At home and abroad, tampon taxes are slowly being banned or repealed. Score one for the right to manage your own flow each month!
As we continue to destigmatize periods by taking action against discriminatory policies like the tampon tax, the next step is to normalize them. This month, New York City's Education Department began offering free tampons and pads to high school girls in 25 public schools across the city, with plans to expand to more schools (that shouldn't be too hard, considering all of that tampon tax revenue lying around...).
And the trend is starting to bubble up in the private sector too. One UK company is even offering paid time off for women who have their periods—a move that means way more than getting to stay home with the heating pad when you have a case of killer cramps. Most of us can't imagine waltzing into our boss's office and citing PMS as the reason we'll be needing to take the rest of the week off (#awkward). But policies like this make that conversation a little more comfortable.
Period Protection Gets a Modern Makeover
Not only are we talking about periods, a female-focused group of innovators is actually changing how we deal with them.
For the majority of our recorded history, women have had a choice of either tampons or pads. That's it. Talk about a lack of innovation for a product required by half of the population! Thankfully, the $15 billion industry is finally (finally!) seeing some evolution—high-tech menstrual cupsperiod panties, and delivery services that will bring non-toxic tampons right to your door have completely changed the menstrual game.
Menstrual cups, the reusable silicone cups (which sort of look like giant thimbles) inserted up your lady bits to collect blood in lieu of a tampon, have been around for a while—options like the Diva Cup and Lily Cup have an eco-friendly (not to mention hella cheap) advantage over tampons. But even these options are getting a makeover under the new Period Regime. High-tech versions like Looncup promise to deliver period data directly to your smart phone thanks to a teeny wireless antenna built into the cup—data nerds, rejoice!
Then there's the new crop of panties and leak-proof pants that make the idea of free-bleeding (or, going au naturale by forgoing any sort of tampon, pad, or cup) a little easier to stomach. Dear Kate makes yoga pants with a period-proof lining that will keep you from stressing about leaks in the middle of a booty-baring squat, and THINX goes the full monte by making lacy bits capable of holding a couple of tampons' worth of blood. Cool?
In the midst of all this crazy tech, the business of regular old tampons hasn't exactly been resting on its laurels. Thanks to modern-day upgrades, you can now get tampons delivered right to your door, avoiding that whole awkward encounter with the hot cashier who seems to be working every time you stock up on a few packs of super absorbancy.
The on-demand tampon market includes organic tampon delivery services like LOLA and Cora that focus on sustainable development and design. Then there's Le Parcel, which delivers your period protection along with gluten-free truffles to handle your PMS (why the heck hadn't we thought of this before?) and Period for Good, which donates 25 percent of your tampon purchases to a charity of your choice. Stocking up on tampons is not the pain in the ass it used to be.
But Why Are Periods Having a Moment Right Now?
All this innovation begs the question—after decades of the same old pads or tampons, what happened to make us finally make periods a priority?
According to Jordana Kier and Alexandra Friedman, founders of LOLA, it's part of a larger trend of informed consumers who make knowing what's in their products and what's going into their bodies a priority. (Do You Know What's In Your Tampon?). "Like most women, we'd been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. It made us wonder: What's in a tampon?" say Kier and Freidman. "To us, that lack of information was the most pressing issue. We've opened up a dialogue on a topic that has flown under the radar for too many years—especially given that periods have been seen as taboo until very recently."
And we can't ignore how the shifting political landscape is also at play here. Women's issues as a whole—from equal pay to sexual assault—are more a part of our national conversation than ever before, and health is not falling by the wayside. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that women aren't afraid to embrace more modern period products, challenge the fact of those products are taxed as a "luxury," and welcome time off for what can be a serious health issue.
Whatever the driving force behind the period revolution, it's about damn time.