FASHION round table: Let’s talk about period stuff

Period roundtable

Perhaps the biggest moment in period talk happened this year, when Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon sans tampon, blood-stained running tights and all. She did it to fight the stigma against menstruation—after all, when exactly did blood become gross or something to be ashamed of? It’s been that way for as long as many of us can remember.

And while the times are ch-ch-ch-changing, just a couple weeks ago, Thinx, a brand of period-proof underwear (bring. it. on), was told their ads weren’t appropriate for the New York City Subway, as the imagery was suggestive (a half grapefruit resembles a vagina) and the copy was blunt, with “bold” statements such as “shedding of the uterine lining.”

Whatever the execs’ reasoning, no matter. Nine editors at FASHION decided to take the issue of period shaming to the boardroom. Who knew talking about the monthly-ish visitor would be so fun?

On tampons and stuff

Emilie (Health and copy editor): “I’ve been using Tampax my whole life, because that’s what came in my bathroom. I didn’t want to experiment. I like cardboard applicators because [they’re] better than plastic—[they] could biodegrade.”

Jacquelyn (Executive editor): “I use the Diva Cup. I started using it after my second child was born. Once I had kids, I became much more conscious of environmental things and health and reducing my risks of any kind of disease. Plus, you’ve had so many people in your business that you’re a lot less precious about what’s going on down there. People getting in there [is basically] a handshake.”

Randi (Executive digital editor): “Are you supposed to feel something with the Diva Cup? [Does it] lock?”

Jacquelyn: “It’s a little cup, and there are two types: cups for women who haven’t had children and women who have.You’re supposed to fold it up in half, and then insert it and twist it so you can get your suction. It’s trial and error. It doesn’t always work and there is leakage sometimes.”

Suzie (Associate digital editor): “How do you empty it here at work?”

Jacquelyn: “It’s very difficult. You dump it in the toilet, and then at night you wash it. There’s a special soap you get with it.”

Suzie: “Did you switch from pads to Diva Cup?”

Jacquelyn: “OBs.”

Erin (Photo editor): “My friends think OBs are so gross.”

Sarah (Beauty editor): “I love them.”

Randi: “I love pads. Always wingless. I remember the first time I tried to use a tampon; it was an awful experience. I clamped up and I couldn’t get it out. My friend had to come in the bathroom and calm me down, and I never used them for years [after that]. I started using them more recently again, but it’s like 70/30 pads-tampons. I just don’t see what the big deal is. People complain about them all the time, but [they don’t] bother me. I don’t use the thick ones.”

Lesa (Beauty director): “But don’t you hate feeling the gush?”

Randi: “No, I want to know what’s happening.”

D’Loraine (Assistant editor, research): “What are you supposed to wear at night when you have your period?”

Suzie: “[Sometimes] I wear tampons, but I set an alarm to change [throughout the night].”

Lesa: “I use organic cotton tampons because if something is inside my body, I’d rather not have chemicals, and also I sleep with it in, so I figure that makes it less risky. I actually remember my mom had a sanitary belt. It was before pads were adhesive, so it had these long extended pieces of cotton that had attachments and you would attach the cotton into these little clips.”

Randi: “My grandmother tried to pawn them off on my sister.”

Lesa: “They’re family heirlooms.”

Suzie: “Speaking of family stuff, I’m Iraqi and a lot of people say you’re not supposed to use tampons until you lose your virginity, so it was a taboo thing when I was a teenager [among my extended family].”

Jacquelyn: “I was working part-time at a clothing store, and I remember talking to a girl I was working with [who was also] in high school and I said something about tampons and she was like, “Ohhh.” Kind of like that meant that I wasn’t a virgin anymore.”

Sarah: “It’s definitely easier to get them in the more sex you have.”

Lesa: “I couldn’t do it when I was a teenager, so I didn’t even revisit them until well into my 20s.”

Sarah: “They were always popping out. I remember taking swimming lessons and having it halfway out, and I was like, I don’t even know what to do right now. Should I just stay in the pool? My swim teacher was a guy, and I was trying to meet my mom’s eyes, because it was in our backyard, and I was like, ‘I’m just going to stay in the pool,’ and she was like, ‘Don’t be silly.'”

Randi: “Speaking of dislodging, do you guys change your tampons after you pee?”

Suzie: “I used to change it every time I peed, and my friend said that’s really bad for you because if it’s not ready, little pieces of the cotton will stay in you and that can harbour bacteria. It’s not clean.”

Erin: “My mom told me that when I first started using tampons. She was like, you might get pee on it but that’s OK. My mom talked me through that. So I just leave it.”

On the pill and period sex

Randi: “I fucked up my period this month and I was very worried because it’s never happened to me before. I went to my parents house for two days and I forgot to bring my pills with me. I double-pilled by accident, and then had to stay home from work the next day because I was so dizzy and nauseous—I felt awful. Then I got my period like two weeks after I had just gotten my period, and I didn’t know what to do, so I looked up the instructions and it was like keep taking the pill and that felt so unnatural, so I finally ended up emailing my doctor.”

Erin: “My husband will not come near me at all. He tells me to go to my red tent.”

Randi: “So if you had had your period on your wedding night, you would’ve just not had sex?”

Erin: “I would’ve [lied and] been like, it’s gone, it’s good. It’s not like it’s a massacre. I think guys are really precious about it. If they ever see blood on themselves, they think they’re dying.”

Suzie: “That’s one thing I’ve never understood about period sex. People say to put a towel down, but I’ve never found it that crazy. I don’t have a heavy flow though.”

On stigma

Erin: “It’s the taboo-ness of things. I think you’ve been taught to not go on about it. My brother never really knew anything about my period growing up.”

Sarah: “Well, I don’t remember it being a great moment at all. It was so embarrassing, and I was really sad.”

Erin: “I thought I was never going to get mine. I got mine at 16, and my friends all had theirs. I practised wearing pads so I knew how to walk properly.”

Sarah: “I thought people would hear. And taking the pad out and coughing in the bathroom, not wanting anyone to hear the disposal thing. In high school, it was like, I hope nobody else is in the bathroom. It’s just crazy.”

Randi: “I used to pray every night that I would at least get it when I was 12, and I got it when I was 11. I was miserable. I got it at home and I was ironically playing in a bathing suit indoors. I told my sister, and she was like, ‘Oh, my god, yay!’ She had all of the appropriate reactions that an older figure should have. Then my mom came home and my sister was like, ‘Randi got her period,’ and my mom goes, ‘Oh, nooo.’ I remember just thinking it was such a betrayal, like how dare you not support me in my time of need.”

Sarah: “I think my mom was excited about it, and she was kind of laughing. I was doing dance workshops, so all day I was in tight clothing, and I’m fumbling around with this enormous pad, and wearing these ridiculous bike shorts and feeling like everyone else could see the pad outline. Does anyone get embarrassed when you’re buying tampons from a male cashier or when there are a bunch of males hanging around the cash? I hate it. I’ve waited people out. I feel really shy. And I would never ask my husband to buy tampons.”

Randi: “I used to be freaked out until I started to buy denture cleaner for my mouthguard and that was like a thousand times worse. I think I’m more embarrassed about pads versus tampons, because I feel like such an old lady.”

On leaks

Lesa: “Has anyone every leaked?”

D’Loraine: “Who hasn’t?”

Lesa: “It’ll be 3 a.m., and I’m like, John, get up, I’m stripping the bed.”

Suzie: “I haven’t leaked. If I’m about to get my period and I’m somewhere where I don’t want to get it yet, I can just hold my pee for a couple hours and it won’t start until I go.”

Emilie: “So you’re magic, is what you’re saying.”

Randi: “Have you ever fainted because of your period?”


“I passed out of the shower once. I had bad cramps, so my sister told me to go into the shower and put hot water on my stomach. So I went into the shower and I passed out of the shower, over the door, and sliced my thigh [open]. My mom and sister found me passed out in the bathroom. It was because the cramps were so intense. That was when I was a teenager but other than that I rarely get cramps.”

Emilie: “I feel envious of people with heavy flows—I only have one or two days or so—because you get this relief when you get a good period.”

Randi: “Like a good cry. This is akin to pooping.”

Lesa: “That’s like the rabbit pellet of menstruation.”

Suzie: “My doctor always says if something has always been that way, then it’s your normal.”

On period underwear and ~feelings~

Lesa: “Does anyone have period underwear?”

Randi: “For sure.”

Erin: “I just wear black.”

Lesa: “Black boy shorts.”

Randi: “Mine are just the really old ones. And some of my sister’s have gotten in there now. I think I was probably at my parents and I was like, shit, I need underwear. So now those are my period underwear.”

D’Loraine: “I wear briefs when I have my period just so that I can put a liner on because I don’t usually wear tampons alone.”

Sarah: “When you first got it, were you like, oh, shit?”

Jacquelyn: “Since you are the closest to it.” [ed’s note: D’Loraine is the office millennial]

D’Loraine: “I think I was in Grade 7. I did feel the exact same way you did, with the pad being so massive, the waddling, and I’m pretty sure my dad knew about it through my mom. He was like, ‘You’re a woman.'”

Sarah: “In high school, if a girl seemed like she was in a bad mood, guys were always like, ‘Oh, she’s on the rag.’ It really bothered me.”

Erin: “I know I get crazy the week before. And my husband knows where my pills are. I’ll tell him, ‘I’m feeling a little extra emotional,’ and he’s like, ‘I know. I saw the pack.'”

Randi: “When you’re in it, sometimes you can’t identify that that’s why [you’re being emotional].”

Nicole (Associate designer): “I’ll start crying at sad commercials.”

Suzie: “Crying at commercials is my cue. I don’t really get offended at the whole ‘Are you being crazy because you’re on your period’ thing, because it’s like, yeah, I am.”