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What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.



Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

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Menstrual leave in Spain would allow people with painful periods three to five days off per month.

How people experience menstruation can run the gamut, from minor inconvenience to debilitating pain and discomfort to everything in between. For some, it's a few extra bathroom trips and maybe a little moodiness for a few days. For others, the symptoms can include migraine headaches, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and cramps that make it nearly impossible to get out of bed.

Societies and cultures around the world have taken different approaches to menstruation, from stigmatizing ostracization to celebration and respect. And generally speaking—other than perhaps putting period product machines in women's restrooms—the professional world simply pretends that menstruation doesn't exist. Employers aren't about to ask about it and considering the uphill battle to get women accepted in many professional settings, most women aren't going to openly talk about it.

But globally, women make up nearly 40% of the labor force, and in the U.S. that percentage climbs to nearly 50%. With so many women participating in the workforce, and with a good percentage of people who menstruate experiencing significant pain and discomfort, it seems logical that menstruation would at least be a consideration of some sort in terms of employment policies.

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Men try a period simulator.

Imagine how different the world would be if cis-gendered men had the ability to give birth? Would the state of Texas attempt to ban abortions after six weeks or would they be available on-demand?

Would we live in a country without mandatory paid maternity leave? How much more affordable would childcare be? Would there be a tax on period products? How would we treat people experiencing period pain?

A few brave men decided to see what life was like for people who have periods in a funny but enlightening video that's gone viral on TikTok. In a video posted by Benz Trap House that has over 1.4 million views, a group of guys tried a period simulator to experience what menstrual cramps really feel like.

Period simulators are essentially the same as labor simulators. They're called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machines that are designed to relieve pain. But when turned up a notch can create intense, debilitating discomfort.

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New legislation makes period products free in all public school and college restrooms in California.

The fact that you can find toilet paper, paper towels and seat covers in just about every bathroom in the United States while period products are nowhere to be found shows a major blind spot in how we view hygiene.

When a person who menstruates gets caught off guard by their period, the implications are just as bad as having an accident. So why aren't bathrooms prepared to help people in these situations as well?

"The consequences of not having access to [menstrual] products are pretty humiliating, and really a loss of dignity," Free The Tampons founder Nancy Kramer told WBUR. "I mean you can, as we like to say, 'MacGyver' your own solution with a bunch of toilet paper, but that's certainly not ideal. Women run the risk of having blood-stained clothing in an environment where that's just disrespectful and humiliating."

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