Who uses tampons?


What word doesn’t appear in this 1,808-word on-line ABC News article about tampons?

‘Women.’ Instead the journo, one Paige Cockburn, adopts a chatty tone – unusual in a news item,
surely – and addresses her reader as ‘you’ (as in ‘If you’re someone who has periods’) or cosily
refers to ‘we’ (‘the tampons and pads we grab from our bathroom cupboards’). By the way, this isn’t
the first time Women’sCooee has come across the ABC studiously avoiding the naughty W word’ when talking about menstruation. I suppose we can be grateful Ms Cockburn doesn’t use the repugnant dysphemism ‘menstruators’ – about which more anon.

Is it standard practice in the media to avoid the word ‘Women’ when talking about tampons?

No. The article itself includes a link to a program (Media Bites) with clips from Channel Seven
News on the same topic where the reporter says ‘Women are being encouraged …’ and an
interviewee speaks of ‘A positive step for women …’.

So how about on-line ABC News/Health articles?

Other ABC articles in the news/health category posted the same day (30 November) use the word
‘Women’. An article about pregnancy terminations for medical reasons (TFMR) states that ‘Women
who have a TFMR are only covered by unpaid special parental leave’. An article on needle-spiking
quotes an expert who says she thinks ‘the issue with the media is the focus often is on women’ rather
than the perpetrators; and another article on the same topic refers to ‘two young Australian women
who believe they were drugged via needle’.

Well, then: Is it standard practice in the scientific literature on tampons to avoid the word ‘Women’?

No again! The article links to five scientific papers on tampons, all of which use the word ‘Women’
at some point. Though admittedly one of them, Upson et al, a review of menstrual products as a
source of environmental chemical exposure, does explicitly prefer ‘menstruators’, explaining that
this is because the authors ‘acknowledge that not all individuals who have ever menstruated identify
as a woman and not all those who identify as a woman have ever menstruated.’ About which more

Why does an ABC News article about tampons go out of its way not to use the word ‘Women’?

I’m guessing it’s got something to do with the ABC’s membership of a scheme run by an
organisation, namely ACON, that believes that ‘having a period is not a feminine thing’ and that
‘plenty of men’ menstruate
. I’m sure the ABC knows, at some level, that men don’t in fact
menstruate (and so does ACON). If the ABC were obliged to answer for this practice – and I hope
some day they will be – I suppose they’d say something similar to Upson et al. That is, that they’re
going by what people ‘identify as’. In other words, the ABC is allowing gender identity to trump
biological reality. Around the traps, this is known as female erasure.

Why does it matter?

The reason menstruation has long been overlooked in medical research is because it’s women who
do it, and we don’t count for much in a patriarchal society. It was women who died or were
hospitalised due to tampon-related Toxic Shock Syndrome back in the 1970s and early 1980s. The
reason that happened was Procter & Gamble’s inadequate understanding of women’s physiology. It is women’s organisations – for example, Women’s Voices for the Earth – that continue to monitor
and advocate for the safety of menstrual products. Because it’s women who are affected. Not men. If
the word ‘Women’ is left out of an article about tampons, these whole dimensions of the issue are
left out as well.

Are tampons toxic?

I don’t know. But I do know that what’s toxic is the ABC’s allegiance to gender-identity ideology,
an ideology harmful to women.