Padded Feminism

This bit of information might come as a shock to some people, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway: pads and tampons are freaking expensive. So when you get them, it would make sense that you don’t waste them and use them to do ridiculous things like post feminist messages in the street.

But that’s exactly what an artist in  Germany is doing to push her message. Elonë is a street artist on a mission to push the feminist agenda — which sounds awesome, until you look at the way she’s doing it. Elonë is printing out badass messages like “my pussy my choice” and “rapists rape people not outfits” and taping them onto period pads.

While the message is great and the mini messages are even greater, this kind of  arctivism (art + activism) is highly problematic because it equates the serious problems that women endure like street harassment to just plain old menstruation. The whole thing is honestly counterproductive to the movement. On top of that, pads and periods aren’t a secret. We all know about it and we all know that boys think it’s gross. Newsflash: girls think it’s gross too. Do you think we get excited about periods? It’s nothing like the commercials where we get our periods and suddenly it’s time to break out the white shorts and go for a drive down the coast. Don’t even get me started on the cramps. I think a user on Tumblr put it best when they said, “King Joffrey is the human personification of period cramps.” Truer words have never been written.

The kind of feminism that boils everything down to having a vagina that bleeds is not a feminism that is inclusive to everyone. And if we aren’t including everyone in our strides towards change, then we aren’t actually practicing feminist ideology.

We’ve got to stop equating feminism to female biological functions; stop belittling it. The need for sanitary napkins does not a feminist make. This kind of project, while well-intended, is exclusionary to trans females and males that are participating in the movement. It also perpetuates the men are from Mars, women are from Venus trope that we just need to let die already. We could all exist on the same planet if we just started listening to each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that this woman is bringing attention to the movement and I love that people are talking about this. But guess what? They aren’t talking about the things that need to change. They aren’t talking about equal pay, or rape culture, or objectification, or abortion laws being crafted by men who don’t understand how the vagina works. They’re talking about the pads. The expensive pads that she’s just wasting.

Do you know how difficult it is for low income women to get pads and tampons? These products are not covered by income assistance programs like S.N.A.P and EBT.  There’s no tax break for buying these things when you submit your medical expenses every year. We’re talking about something that most women use nearly every single month for a majority of their lifetimes, not because they want to but because they have to. In fact the revenue from tampon sales in 2014 was slightly over 1 billion dollars. That’s JUST tampons, not pads or panty liners but just tiny sticks of cotton and their plastic applicators. So you can see why my blood boils when they get posted up on walls as a publicity stunt.

In all fairness to Elonë, she does donate sanitary products to local shelters in Germany which makes me believe that she understands the struggle. But if there’s an understanding, why use this angle? Why open the door for other people to copy this wasteful style?

The only reason pads are being used is because their function is unique to females and because the sight of them in public is provocative. You know what else is provocative? Women using their voices and speaking out. That voice can manifest in the way of art, song, dance, blog posts; that voice shouldn’t be completely overshadowed by what’s carrying it.