Periods are so in right now, I fully expect a giant sanitary pad to be turned into an ironically winged dress and sashayed down the catwalk at the next London Fashion Week.
A woman’s natural monthly loss of blood was once again brought onto our social newsfeeds this summer after Chinese Olympic athlete Fu Yuanhui told reporters she had struggled with her swimming race because she was on her period. She was hailed a hero for bringing it up, on tv. She was factual and honest, and it was refreshing.
Earlier this year, we also had Bodyform tackle the idea that periods are a Delicate Lady Issue head on, by bringing out what I’m hailing the coolest ad of 2016. It’s well worth a quick watch. Their message? Women bleed. From every part of their body. So get on with it, yeah?
Periods are something that you grow up thinking you’re only allowed to whisper about. I don’t know if society’s changing or if I just care less now I’m an adult, but it now feels like it might be ok to speak about periods in polite company nowadays.
After years of scurrying about as a teenage girl, worrying about leaking through my clothes, hundreds of pairs of ruined knickers and that god awful fear of rustling, having a conversation in a cafe about moon cups the other day felt like I had finally reached the No F***s Given echelons of Adult Ladyhood. (And by the way, if moon cups still make you go “ewwwww” and think of hippies, watch this).
The reason I’m talking periods today is because there’s something I need to have a REAL moan about. And it’s this:
I remember the first time I opened up a packet of scented loo roll (I was in Spain I think) and that was bad enough. I shuddered at the weird, chemical smell that wafted out of the packet. Why did this functional purchase smell like fermenting jelly beans?
All I really remember about this packet of tissue was how gingerly I applied it to myself during my holiday, lest the porous membranes on my body ingest the chemical floral smell impregnated into the loo roll.
Fast forward to this week, and I open up a packet of pretty normal looking sanitary pads, only to be hit with an even stronger chemical smell than my Spanish loo roll memory.
The smell, I think, was masquerading as some sort of summery bouquet. I sniffed the packet, confused. It hadn’t said scented on the packet, had it? What was this heavily perfumed hell? Yep, that smell was seeping through each individual liner, sullying my nostrils with its powdery, “girlie” scent.
I’ll admit I was dismayed to find that my Value Added Tax purchase came with the extra assurance of making sure my vagina would smell as inoffensive possible, without me even requesting this “benefit”.
Scented pads and (horror of horrors) scented tampons seem to be creeping onto our shop shelves at an alarming rate. And I don’t understand it.
Here’s the thing. I am a human being. I use my body, how I wish, when I wish, and that sometimes means I go to the gym, where I work damn hard. This results in me sweating and smelling from most areas of my body. My vagina, being part of my body, also smells when I sweat.
THIS IS NORMAL, BECAUSE I’M A F***ING HUMAN.
I don’t smell like I’m rotting from the inside out, I don’t smell horrendous, I just smell like hot, freshly sweaty human. I clean myself when I get home, and miraculously, I don’t smell anymore. I don’t stay in my sweaty clothes for months, and actually, my natural, fresh sweaty smell is pretty inoffensive… just like most other humans who’ve freshly sweated.
I apply this same logic to the times I’m on my period. I don’t smell bad when I bleed. I don’t actually smell to the people I come across either – and as part of my research into this post, I have genuinely asked people I have close relationships with, if they can smell that I’m on my period. The answer has been a resounding NO, they can’t.
They can’t, because they aren’t sticking their nose into my underwear.
The fact is, when I’m on my period and applying common sense to my levels of hygiene, I smell of either nothing, or else I smell HUMAN. I clean myself as regularly as I feel necessary, in order to function as a social animal. I don’t smell like stale blood. I don’t smell shameful. You cannot tell I’m on my period, when I am on my period, by the way I smell.
WHAT I DON’T NEED is sanitary product companies to make me feel ashamed of my vagina and its natural, subtle human smell, by assuming it’s scented pads and tampons I wanted, when I buy a packet. By manufacturing these, and by failing to label the fact they’re scented, women are being given a message that really isn’t true – that we smell when we’re on our periods, and we should probably take steps to cover that embarrassing odour up.
What these companies are saying to us is that, rather than smell of either NOTHING or at the very worst, LIKE A HUMAN BEING, we should probably take steps to make our pants smell like a weird chemical spray. They’re telling us that vaguely floral smelling chemicals being rubbed against our most intimate area is preferable to being natural. And they’re demanding we pay VAT for that privilege. What a brilliant marketing strategy.
Do you know what’s going to give the game away that I’m on my period? Smelling like a pot pourri, that’s what.
However you choose to manage your periods, whether that’s towels, tampons, moon-cups, cheeky wipes, scented or unscented, is up to you. But I’m suggesting that you don’t feel forced to choose scented products because sanitary ware companies have made you paranoid about the way your natural human body smells.
Scented sanitary products really annoy me. What’s your view?