Backpackman and the adventures of menstruation
Written by: Suzanne Noordermeer (Moja Foundation Coordinator)
I remember this one time when I ended up spontaneously sitting outside a café with a bunch of strangers, back in the day when that was still possible. One of the male strangers was carrying around a gigantic backpack, because “he liked to be prepared”. To find out what that meant we decided to unpack the backpack. During the great reveal, everything from nail clippers, band aids and screwdrivers to condoms and tampons was laid out on the table. When Backpackman was asked why he carried around tampons and pads, he replied that he did so in case someone needed them. That simple answer made Backpackman my personal hero.
You see, a lot of people tend to forget that menstrual products are not luxury products. Everybody that has found themselves unexpectedly bleeding at work, at school, at a shop, the gym or anywhere else recognizes that feeling of going over every place in your head where you can potentially find a tampon on a pad. I cannot speak for all menstruators, but I have found myself frequently frustrated about having left the house in a rush in the morning while forgetting my pouch with all the menstrual goodies. Followed by that feeling of intense happiness when your workplace has sensible women in leadership positions and the toilets have some spare tampons for emergencies. Or followed by the feeling of uneasiness, because you have stuffed your underwear full toilet paper in the hope you will make it through the next couple of hours. Hours that will be spent by paying attention to every potential wet drop that could lead to leaking through and by going back and forth to the toilet to check. Menstrual products are not luxury products, they are necessities in daily life.
The fact that not every office, every coffee place, every school, every toilet has menstrual products available means that we need Menstrual Health day. Menstruation is a natural process of which the (un)availability of products is only the tip of the iceberg of the experience. Do not get me started on menstrual cramps leading to menstrual pain, menstrual poop, differences in menstrual flow, endometriosis (ask your local search engine) and menstrual migraine, just to give you an idea. Everybody experiences menstruation differently and in a perfect world, all people that do not experience menstruation themselves are like Backpackman. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. In the Netherlands alone, 1 in 10 women does not have access to menstrual products1. Period poverty is a global phenomenon, as is period taboo, even though about 800 million people menstruate daily2. Most importantly, we all thank your lives to the process. We need Menstrual Health day to make sure that menstruation is considered as nothing more than the natural process that it is. If one day that may become a reality, we won’t need heroes like Backpackman anymore, because his superpower has become the norm and menstrual products can be accessed everywhere.