[X-Rated] Quote of the Day:
Forget the selfie or the belfie; the latest craze to hit the internet is the ‘tampfie’. Twitter users are raiding their bathroom cupboards to show solidarity for the hashtag #JustATampon.
–Ella Whelan in the (London) Spectator
The Spectator story is about the “Just A Tampon” campaign (yes, Miss Prudie—me—had a debate with herself about whether to post on this), a charity that is supposedly aimed at helping Third World women deal with their monthly cycle, presumably something that has baffled them since time immorial. But now Western do gooders are coming to the rescue! The “Just a Tampon” website states:
#JustATampon is a campaign to start a conversation about periods. Plan UK is partnering with V Point News to break the taboo around menstruation and support women around the world. The stigma and embarrassment attached to women’s periods contributes to gender inequality worldwide.
This copy appears under a the picture of an (oddly) androgynous person holding a tampon. Supporters of the charity are urged to send three pounds to help Third World women buy sanitary products. Fine, but I don’t quite get how being photographed with a tampon furthers the goal. The website also notes that Third World women often skip school days because of their periods. Let she who has never done this cast the first tampon!
Still, this might be a worthy charity. I don't know enough about the need for sanitary products in the Third World to make that call. But the pitch and indeed the entire campaign has that fixation on body parts, especially those of women, that has become bizarrely common in developed countries. One remembers the Obama campaign ad with the injunction to women voters to “Vote Your Lady Parts” (built on the politically productive canard that the GOP wants to outlaw contraception!). The Spectator's Ella Whelan writes:
This invasion into the personal lives of women is a popular theme in the West. Female body parts have been ruthlessly politicised, with feminists driving campaigns for almost everything: weight, hair and now bodily functions. Earlier this year, a Miami teen posted a picture of himself on Instagram holding two sanitary towels, calling on all his male friends ‘to start bringing a couple of pads or tampons to school to help our girl friends’. Instead of cringing uncontrollably, young women took to the internet with the hashtag #realmensupportwomen in praise of the kind American boy. Instead of being jeered, this young man was heralded ‘a hero on Instagram – and, basically, to the world’.
This kind of personalised politics has broken down existing notions of what should be private and what should be public. Periods are a monthly occurrence for most women, but there is no need to make them public.
There is also the condescension of which western do-gooders are often totally unaware:
More disgusting than the prospect of Plan UK representatives snooping around for blood stains in African villages is the continuing perception of people in developing countries as dirty, unhygienic and unaware of the simplest things, like a period. Young do-gooders handing out tampax as if it’s a form of foreign aid miss the point: the problem isn’t education about sanitary products, but the fact that there isn’t a Boots on every corner.
Instead of tampax handouts, why not support capitalism, a system that might actually put more drug stores in more Ugandan towns?
Western do-gooders will be surprised at how brilliantly African women can handle their personal needs, if only they had more drug stores.