4 Utterly Useless Menstrual Products

by Eliza Castile

You'd think that menstruation would be left up to the people who the people who, you know, actually get a period, but that's not really how it goes down in the real world. For better or for worse, history is littered with the bloody detritus of weird and/or useless menstrual products. Although some products were simply better in theory than in practice, others were clearly bad ideas from the start — probably because they were designed by people who hadn't actually had a period before.

This isn't to say that people who don't get periods can't understand the mechanics of menstruation and contribute in some ways; the inventor of the modern-day tampon was actually a male physician, Earle Haas. (He later sold the patent to Gertrude Tendrich, who formed Tampax.) However, considering the depth of the stigma surrounding menstruation in most cultures, it can be infuriating to see people who've never menstruated try to profit from products designed to help you hide your period — not mention how that lack of experience can result in some seriously weird ideas about what makes a menstrual product work.

For an embarrassingly recent example, consider my.Flow, the Bluetooth-enabled tampon that received massive amounts of media attention earlier this week. Created by a woman but developed by a team of mostly men, the product's usefulness has been widely debated online. A tampon that alerts you when it's saturated sounds helpful in theory, but will people actually want to use a tampon whose string connects to a clip on their belt?

Although that's the most recent example, it's hardly the only one out there. Let's take at look at four menstrual products designed by people who clearly haven't ever experienced a period.

1. Deodorizing Tampons

Women are encouraged to feel ashamed of their body odor, especially when it comes to their vaginas; the pressure to smell like flowers and sunshine downstairs is so strong that many women may not realize that period odor is 100 percent normal. Products like deodorizing tampons certainly don't help matters — in fact, they just reinforce the (ridiculous) idea that vaginas are supposed to be odorless.

2. "Form Fitting" Sanitary Aprons

When I'm on my period, worrying about my silhouette is the last thing on my mind. Sanitary aprons may have gotten the job done in a time when menstruation was even more taboo than it is today, but did they really need to be marketed as form-fitting? According to the ad's fine print, it even had the benefit of collecting your perspiration, so ladies could keep up the facade of being utterly without indelicate bodily functions.

3. Any Vintage Ad Ever

...I'm just going to let this one explain itself.

4. This Video

In 1946, the short film "The Story of Menstruation" delicately explained the concept of menstruation to viewers. Needless to say, it's got some not-so-subtle sexist overtones. And undertones. Actually, it's safe to say it just has a sexist tone; highlights include admonitions not to take hot showers in your delicate state and avoid strenuous exercise. Of course, cisgender men aren't the only ones to perpetuate stereotypes about periods, but anyone who's gotten a period knows that you don't actually have to lay around swooning all day. You just desperately want to.

Images: Giphy