#RedAlert - Looking At Menstrual Hygeine Through The Years

#RedAlert - Looking At Menstrual Hygeine Through The Years

I'd like to think we don't appreciate tampons, sanitary napkins and menstrual cups enough, because after looking at what women used way before these were available, I'm so thankful.

Periods have always had a crazy stigma around them - from men believing women were witches to women being entirely ostracized from society for bleeding from their vagina - it hasn't been easy to menstruate.

Just to get a glimpse of what periods were like from the 1800's to now - let's look at the menstruation sanitation from the times.

The 1800's

Women across the globe were ashamed to admit that they did bleed for a few days every month - so taking sanitary steps to comfort them wasn't an option. They often bled freely and confined themselves to their houses.

But soon they realized that bleeding free wasn't sanitary - so they started using rags to absorb their bleeding. Homemade menstrual cloths were made out of flannel or woven fabric that didn't exactly do much - but acted like a weak safety net.

And the first recognized menstrual sanitation product was an apron! The apron looked and felt like one except, the apron had pieces of rubber that you would wear over your butt between your bloomers and skirt, so when you sat down there was a rubber barrier that collected the blood.

Soon after, menstrual products were being patented by the dozen. The apron, for very obvious reason, failed as a successful product. Then came the "Lister's Towel", which was basically a whole let down because the industry was so taboo about periods. They were a product of Johnson and Johnson - the first ever industrial, disposable sanitary napkin.

For years it remained that way, women switched between homemade sanitary wear or these two products. But the next product is what changed the dynamics forever.

The 1900's

In 1920, Kotex sells the first large scale sanitary product that launches after the War. The first pad made of cellulose, a cotton-acrylic blend that was used for bandages during the first World War. If it's good enough for our soldiers, it's good enough for us - that tagline was enough to sell the product.

But they were marketed towards wealthy white women who could patronize the department stores where they were sold. The women would leave a nickel in a jar and take a pad from a box so they wouldn't have to call attention to themselves. A change in advertising technique helped popularize the products, later.

Then came the sanitary belt which just looked, and probably felt like a Victorian Era torture device, that no one should have worn, like ever. And to that effect, the idea fails and in comes the menstrual cup!

That's right, the menstrual cup came in as early as 1930, but failed ever so miserably that no one remembered it until a few years ago. Leona Chalmers, the woman who patented it though that it was the idea of touching bloody things that put people off.

And soon after that, comes the iconic, legendary tampon. In 1931, a man named Earle Hass creates the modern tampon as we know it, made out of cardboard and cotton and complete with an applicator. Kotex laughed at the idea and passed on the opportunity to sell the product under their brand name.

But a woman named Gertrude Tendrich buys the patent and founds Tampax. But the taboo around tampons was crazy - people thought that it could take away their virginity and so, it was advertised to only for married women.

1969 was revolutionary - Stayfree came out with stick on pads - complete with adhesive and disposable wrappers. The menstrual belt, and Kotex cotton pads start becoming obsolete because the adhesive strip was an ease for women.

For the next few years, brands start competing with Stayfree and tampax - with more adhesive pads and tampons with different materials. But what changes the entire understanding of periods is in 1985, when Courtney Cox says the word "period" in a Tampax commercial.

This is the first time ever that periods are acknowledged on such a large scale with no stigma around it. And from there on - more and more commercials adopt the word and the world becomes slightly more desensitized to the idea of periods.

The 2000's

The 200's have been an era of technological advancement, and it doesn't act any differently with period products.

In 2003, women can start skipping their periods thanks to Lybrel, the first FDA-approved continuous birth control pill. Many more companies hop onto the grand idea and make their own formulas that are safe and healthy and more women can now used birth control pills.

Around the same time, menstrual cups make a come back with Diva Cup re-branding the concept. Women turn to these cups made out of materials like latex and silicone instead of pads and tampons, while also learning that they are reusable and also eco-friendly.

And now, in 2019 we have every single kind of product we can think of too aid ourselves during our period - all healthy and safe options. The sanitation for periods has had a long history of strange aid, but now more than ever - the menstrual sanitation industry has answers to all kinds of period needs.

WRITTEN BY  - Nandita Potnis Nandita Potnis nanditapotnis29@gmail.com



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