Tampons are on my mind at the moment.
They’re there because of two happenings this week (and nope, neither of them were the arrival of my period, she’s been gone for years): the OIWC “Pitchfest” at Outdoor Retailer trade show, and the request from a prospective client about what particular products should go into a “women’s” first aid and survival kit.
When considering the latter, the question made me pause for a bit. What DOES make a first aid kit a “women’s” kit? Sadly, I had to say that it usually just means the kit has a tampon in it and it has a “girlified” bag, probably with butterflies or flowers – or both – on it. For a few minutes my brain was frozen on this problem. Surely we were all missing something. I pondered on the first aid-related problems a woman, and only a woman, would have on a backcountry trip, and soon enough the ideas starting flowing.* I thought of things like stocking the kit with latex gloves small enough for a woman’s hands (almost every pair of gloves I put on from my kits are baggy and oversized because they’re sized for the Default Status of North American Personhood: maleness), pantyliners (why tampons and not these, ever? They’re great for keeping underwear clean enough to wear for multiple days), personal hygiene wipes that aren’t “antibacterial,” and the most important: emergency contraception.
The last idea seemed particularly genius. What could ruin a trip for a woman but not for a man? Easy answer: a broken condom or other birth control emergency. I’d hate to have a sexy times mishap in the middle of a long trip only to spend the rest of the trip anxious about an unwanted pregnancy. We have emergency contraception over the counter now for that, but it’s hard to stop by the Walgreens when you’re three days back into the mountains, and Plan B and other emergency contraception is called the “morning after pill” for a reason – you have to take it right away for it to have maximum effect.
Interestingly, the client I supplied with those ideas liked all my non-pregnancy related ones, but shied away from even mentioning their thoughts on the Plan B idea, which made me think about why no “women’s first aid kit” manufacturers had even thought of this idea. They’ll go for tampons and the painfully prim “Cramp Tabs” period pain medications, but otherwise pretend that women’s sexuality – probably the second biggest danger to women’s health than men themselves, given the possibilities of infections and pregnancy/childbirth itself – does not exist.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. But I thought that stocking a woman’s kit with Plan B, something practical that women alone would need, was borderline genius. Someone should jump on this idea, really, because providing us with the tools we need for practical women’s concerns like unwanted and unwelcomed pregnancy scares shows that the company is actually thinking about women, not just throwing a dragonfly decal on a bag, tossing in some “Cramp Tabs” and a tampon, and calling it good. It would also demonstrate without a doubt that the company cared more about women than about offending the sensibilities of people who, frankly, need to butt out of women’s personal concerns already. I’ve gotten samples of first aid kits with dental equipment, suture supplies, and products designed to treat gunshot wounds, but no one else has yet thought emergency contraception belongs in a kit designed for, well, emergencies? We can sew each other up and glue teeth back in place without anyone blinking an eye, but if we want to choose to prevent an utterly life-changing accident, we are on our own? Come on, first aid kit people. Just call it something cute like “Oopsie Tabs” and stick it in the kit.
The second reason tampons are on my mind is this short blurb about “Pitchfest,” a chance for women entrepreneurs to have a chance to get their ideas in front of CEOs and investors. Cool idea, but I found it wearying that the top scoring company makes feminine product accessories. You know, like a plastic bag to put your used tampons in.** I’m not a tampon or pad user (Mirena IUD, people, it is a life changer and probably the best little outdoor product a woman can ask for – no more periods, ever, and no babies either!) so maybe it all just seems overblown to me, but do we need a whole new product to put a pad in? A regular bag won’t suffice? If one is that concerned about one’s disposal method being “eco friendly” (tip: enabling the manufacturing process for yet another new product is never “eco-friendly”) one could just temporarily store the used tampons in a ziploc and then dump them in the compost pile when you get home, or in the trash, or whatever. I know I wasn’t there for the pitch, but the idea that an opportunity for women entrepreneurs gave the top prize to a tampon baggie just chaps me. Being a female entrepreneur does not mean that we have to produce a “women’s” product and especially not one so tiresomely overdone. There had to be something more interesting than that, please let there have been something more interesting than that. There’s precious little opportunity for women to break into fields like guiding and other leadership positions in the outdoors; let’s not relegate even entrepreneurs to the dragonfly-and-butterfly-decal sect.
There is more to women than our periods! My god. It seems like half the articles on women in the outdoors have to do with peeing and bleeding. Come on, by the time you are 21 you need to have these things figured out. “How to pee in the outdoors?” Blogs, you must be kidding me. It’s galling that women are patronized in this manner. No one is writing articles for city boys about how to pee while camping (though men probably need more lessons than we do, because of that oh-so-difficult “hand washing” step they never seem to get the hang of. Pro tip: never, ever let a guy reach into your bag of food. Take the food out and hand it to him, or you’ll be ingesting fecal matter and ball sweat your entire trip). If you have learned to take your pants down at some point in your life, you can manage to figure out how to do it when you are outside. Taking a dump outside is something that EVERYONE has to do, and from the look of campsites and trailheads these days, men and women alike can’t suss it out beyond “1. Poop. 2. Drop TP on top of poop pile. 3. Leave.” Yet there’s no “men’s first aid kit” with a handy, discreet, baggie for the boys’ daily dump. If men don’t need waste excretion lessons, neither do women. So stop it.
**I beg the winners of that contest to not take this personally. I’m glad you found an opportunity and won a contest, I really do.