Mum's the word: What's wrong with talking about tampons and periods? 

Mum's the word: What's wrong with talking about tampons and periods? 
Alison Curtis

Last week, a Tampax ad was banned in Ireland by the ASAI, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland because the authority accepted it caused widespread offence.

In case you don’t know the contents of the ad, as it wasn’t re-aired after 84 people made a complaint to the ASAI and it was removed, the ad features a talk show host and a guest on a show called Tampons & Tea. The host is asking her audience how many of them ever feel their tampon and goes on to show how to insert a tampon correctly.

What has happened, is more people have reacted to the complaints about the ad than to the ad itself. Conversations have started about how the removal of the ad means we haven’t progressed very far as a society and how there is still so much shame attached to girls and women getting their period. Which is something that needs to be addressed.

All women remember getting their period as a big life-changing experience. 

And as with these experiences how they are shaped and framed can influence how you feel about something for the rest of your life.

If it is presented as a positive and natural thing that happens to girls of a certain age then that will be your relationship hopefully with your period as long as you have it. If it is presented as something gross or something to be ashamed off and hide, then that too will be your perception of it for as long as you have your period in many cases.

When I got mine it was actually my father who said “Now honey, let's talk about what is happening” as I passed him some nails for a job we were working on together at our cottage. I remember my instinct was “gross, no!” But he persevered and we had a proper, healthy conversation about what happens to your body when you get your period.

Fast forward to secondary school and I don’t ever remember being embarrassed or hiding my period from my friends but I do really remember trying to get a pad discreetly out of my bag in my locker and into my pocket. So there was something in me that wanted to keep my period a secret.

Fast forward even further and to my daughter, Joan who is 9, so not that far away from when she might start having her period. She knows all about mine and we have started talking about what it means for her.

I explained that it is nothing to be afraid of and it is totally natural. We have gone a bit into the ‘science’ of it and how her body operates to produce a period. But mainly I have spoken to her about what it feels like and that yes sometimes it is uncomfortable and you might get some pains in your belly or be tired with it, but not always.

It is essential as well that our girls know how to manage their periods and to stay healthy while they have them. We will have to talk all about hygiene and keeping them comfortable, this information has to come from us their parents and again be presented in a positive and empowering way.

I have encouraged Joan to never think of it as something to hide, while also explaining she can keep it private if she wants. This extends beyond her getting her period I really want her to have a positive outlook on all things to do with her body and feel totally comfortable in her own skin.

The next few years will be ones of big changes and there will be some tricky things to navigate but one thing for definite is I don’t want her dreading her period or ever feeling ashamed.

More in this section