Let me start off by saying that I am a man. I should also clarify that this is Nate, the third cofounder of The Period Store. A lot of men feel uncomfortable buying menstrual supplies. The most common reaction falls juuust short of chivalrous.
To be completely honest, I can relate to each of these men (some more than others). It wasn’t too long ago that this was my experience buying period products: I would dash off to the store to buy Ashley (cofounder, and my wife) some needed FHPs. My mission: to buy a box of tampons, maybe pads, and then fill my cart with everything from movies to groceries to pillows to distract everyone from the tampons. Next, carefully choose the cashier. It had to be a guy, preferably someone shy–this way, we would both be equally uncomfortable so that neither of us would acknowledge what I was buying. Women cashiers were off limits, and so were cool guys–anybody who might look like they’d comment on my purchases. Did my plan work? You bet it did.
Flash forward a few years, and I’m the guy who’s buying tampons, pads, sponges, and menstrual cups by the hundreds for The Period Store. So how did I get from point a to point b? Well, after you’ve stood in line with about 40 boxes of tampons and an attractive cashier checking you out (checking out my products, not me), it starts to get a little easier.
But why are men so afraid of the T word to begin with? Or the M word? It’s a really good question, and although I cannot speak for everyone, I do have a few thoughts. We are all products of our generation, and our thoughts/actions are influenced by both men and women.
On the one hand, men generally don’t talk about menstruation – they just don’t (I would like to note that I have recently found the topic of menstruation quite the conversation starter around my male counterparts). Men talk about “manly” things: sports, cars, women, etc. And just because we talk about women, doesn’t mean that we talk about their periods. That’s off limits–it’s in the unwritten, but culturally understood book of manliness. To mention periods among your male peers or even your elders is just plain and simply a taboo, and this is one taboo line that we do not cross. Without change, this cycle will continue to repeat itself.
On the other hand, I remember several occasions as a child when I’d be watching TV with friends and a tampon or pad commercial would come on. Right around the time the ubiquitous blue liquid started to pour, moms would come running into the room to change the channel. Really? If anything, this just left me with more questions, like, do girls really have blue pee? And, why don’t moms come running in during the Brawny commercials? In hindsight, I know they were trying to do a good thing, but what they really did was instill in me a sense of secrecy about menstruation and menstrual products.
Having said this, I do think that times are changing. The Kotex video mentioned that 40% of people are uncomfortable buying tampons. I’d imagine that 10 years ago, this number was much higher, and that 10 years from now, it will be even lower. I’m resistant to change – I’m a man – but in this case, I think any change that makes us men more understanding is a good thing.
For all you guys out there who aren’t quite ready to make this leap, I’d be happy to buy your special someone’s period products for her. Who knows? This may be my life calling.
Boy, were those high school aptitude tests wrong.
Nathan Smith, born-again feminist, juggles TPS inventory and vendor relations when he’s not at his full time job in New York City. He has a background in Russian, Advertising and Communications, and Anthropology.