10 signs that menstruation is modernizing

As Apple adds a reproductive tracker to its devices and Charli XCX talks alt-tampons, we look at the recent ways in which Aunt Flo is getting hip.

by Jane Helpern
Jul 1 2015, 5:00pm

Photography Rupi Kaur and Prabh Kaur

In case you haven't heard: females make up more than half of the world's population. And at some point, every single one of these glorious women will bleed. You've seen those pandering commercials in which a sterile blue liquid is soaked up by a fluffy cloud before a supposedly menstruating woman rides horseback into the sunset wearing a white linen frock. So you don't need us to tell you that even now, periods are still treated as icky and unspeakable. While the infamous tampon scene from the book version of Fifty Shades of Grey was cut from the movie, indicating that we deem bondage to be more appropriate than blood, the good news is we are living in the heydey of menstrual artcollapsible diva cups, and online tampon delivery sites. Here are just a few more indicators that menstruation may, after years of wearing an actual belt to keep a pad in place, be modernizing.

1. Charli XCX wants to make tampons.
Last year, Charli XCX tweeted that "periods r punk" (a riot grrrl-reminiscent statement that received over 1.5K retweets). Then, back in March, the songstress told MTV News, "I really want to make tampon merch... but it's a health issue of someone's going to put it in their vagina." Considering the vagueness surrounding what synthetic materials we're currently lodging between our legs, it's a shame that pesky health regulations would stand in the way of Charli XCX-branded tampons.

2. Artist Rupi Kaur challenges Instagram. And wins.
It's no secret that Instagram's censorship policies are arbitrary. But the photo sharing app took female-phobia to new heights when they banned artist and poet Rupi Kaur's photograph of a woman on a bed in period stained sweats. Bleeding through clothes is a totally natural (and inconvenient) side effect of menstruation, one that every woman has likely dealt with on at least one occasion. Eventually, the image was reinstated by popular demand and Instagram was forced to apologize, proving that no matter how squeamish femaleness makes patriarchy or big business, women will not be shamed into submission.

3. Hello Flo makes an epic pro-period ad.
Gone are the days when periods were shrouded in secrecy. At least that's the aim of online tampon subscription brand Hello Flo, thanks to its new period-positive ad for monthly period starter kits. The spot stars a young girl who can't wait to get her first period, so much that she paints her undies with glittery red nail polish in an attempt to fake it (possibly inspired by artist Hannah Altman). Mom exacts revenge by celebrating her daughter's first period with a mortifying "moon party," complete with a uterus piñata, a blood-red fondue fountain, and the requisite creepy uncle toting a box of super-sized maxi pads. If only periods were really that much fun.

4. Apple expands HealthKit to include "Reproductive Health."
Despite Apple's many advanced features designed to track and enhance all aspects of human life, from nutrition to sleep to installing U2 on your phone regardless of whether Bono makes you want to bang your head against a wall, reproductive health care has been noticeably absent. Until now. Beginning with iOS9, the new HealthKit will offer a "Reproductive Health" section focusing specifically on Basal Body Temperature, Cervical Mucus Quality, Menstruation, Ovulation Test Result, Sexual Activity, and Spotting. While the HealthKit's initial oversight was attributed to its predominantly white male employees, we're happy to see the tech giant using its clean design to help women organize the messier parts of their lives.

5. #LiveTweetYourPeriod
Since April, thousands of women have taken to twitter to gush (pun intended) about their menstrual woes using the hashtag #LiveTweetYourPeriod. Cue food cravings, odes to elastic waistbands, and screengrabs from the infamous pig-blood moment in Carrie. If this seems like gratuitous over-sharing, this is exactly the point: to destigmatize menstruation (something that is still seen as unsanitary and taboo in many parts of the world, and can prevent women from being allowed to enter places of worship or leave the home). In response to the trend, grossed out tweeters responded, "Stop this now!!!!!! Wtf is wrong with people" and "People don't want to hear about bleeding crevices of human body." The aforementioned tweets were both composed by women, a sad fact which only further illustrates why the movement is so necessary.

6. Period Sex is in.
There are few intimate acts as hush hush as period sex. But a recent investigation into the habits of sexually active New Yorkers reveals that some guys don't just tolerate period sex, they actively seek it out and enjoy it. This is good news for women, especially since menstruation has been known to heighten sexual pleasure and relieve cramping. A New York magazine article refers to these menstruation chasers as "Blood Hounds," and this interview talks to one member of the "Red Brigade." 

7. Toxic Shock Syndrome awareness is up.
Toxic Shock Syndrome - a bacterial infection that can be brought on by tampons - has long been one of those mythological conditions that young girls were warned against, but that nobody really understood. Model Lauren Wasser, who lost her leg and nearly died from complications associated with TSS, is helping to raise awareness about the reality of the disease, as well as the correlation between it and the harmful synthetic materials that are used in every major tampon brand. Thanks to her brave story, the work of TSS researchers, and a new bill by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, a new generation of tampon manufacturers and activists are fighting to create feminine care products that are 100% organic cotton and free of the mysterious chemicals that have harmed so many women.

8. One company made clever period panties.
As much as we bask in the monthly glory of the period and the cycle of life it symbolizes, we are sick and tired of ruining supercute lace thongs. Enter Thinx: a stylish, well-designed, and totally cool brand of "period underwear" that are designed as a backup for the tampon or diva cup, and can be worn solo on lighter flow days. Designed to keep you "clean, dry, and lookin' fly" without cumbersome diaper vibes, Thinx's modern technology and millennial branding is a sure sign that the underwear industry is finally catching up to what women really need: a way to wear white pants while bleeding, obvi.

9. Up next: vibrating tampons? 
Okay, fine, this hasn't quite arrived yet. But according to a recent Reddit AMA with tampon designer username "Karnim" who identified himself as a male college-aged research-and-development intern at one of the major tampon brands, vibrating tampons, along with tampons that have saturation sensors and reusable applicators, have already been patented. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

10. The #FreeBleeding debate.
While this radical feminist social media movement turned out to be bad hoax by 4chan designed to dismantle modern feminism, it is evidence that menstruation has become such a mainstream topic that misogynist haters have taken a hiatus from writing bad pickup lines in an attempt to squash it. While the images posted by 4chan are exaggerated for impact, many women are in fact seeking out alternate solutions to uncomfortable and potentially harmful tampons, including letting themselves bleed freely in the privacy of their own home, and rocking aforementioned period panties sans pads, cups, or tampons.


Text Jane Helpern
Photography Rupi Kaur and Prabh Kaur

Charli XCX
Charlie XCX
Lauren Wasser
Rupi Kaur
Jane Helpern