Breaking news: In a recent Reddit post, a local man discovered that his girlfriend is, in fact, a woman. The lady in question took to the internet to (rightfully) complain after he refused to buy her tampons when her period started unexpectedly at his place. You know, in case you needed a reminder that menstrual stigma is alive and well in the modern day.
The post was published on Two X Chromosomes, a subreddit aimed at women's perspectives; its content is a mix of personal stories and links to interesting content from around the web. On Tuesday, a user who goes by faultierin took to the subreddit to relate a story that may be all too familiar to anyone who gets a period. That day, she was at her boyfriend's home when her period made a surprise appearance six days early. She wasn’t prepared for Aunt Flo to visit that far in advance, and her boyfriend didn't have the necessary supplies lying around. Between the cramps and the general ill feeling that comes with a period, she didn't feel like going to the store herself, so she asked her significant other — someone with whom she is in a relationship of supposedly mutual respect — to pick up some tampons for her. Although he had to leave the house in around half an hour, she wrote that he would have been back from the store in 10 minutes.
Easy peasy, right? Not so fast. Her boyfriend refused to make the trip, saying he would be too self-conscious buying feminine products. "He looked at me and asked if I can't go by myself, because it would be embarassing [sic] for him to buy tampons," she wrote. In a totally unsurprising turn of events, she was less than pleased with his reasoning:
Somehow it's not embarassing [sic] for him to have his dick sucked, or to have sex with me, but it's a big deal to buy some female products. I felt weird after all. I got cramps, pains, and he was all like "How would it look like if I went to buy tampons?" So I put on my pants, took my stuff and came back to my place.
A few minutes after she left, he sent her a text apologizing not for being embarrassed, but for having to leave. Apparently, he experienced a bit of selective amnesia and claimed he would have bought the tampons if he hadn't had to head out. "Emmm... what? He specifically told me it was the embarassment [sic] that didn't let him buy me the things," the user wrote.
As you can imagine, the comments section had words for the man who refused to help out his girlfriend. "What you asked is reasonable, how he reacted was rude," wrote one user. "From his response, it sounds like he might have realized his mistake (failing to care for you) after you left."
Unfortunately, this situation is common enough to be a trope in romantic comedies and sitcoms: The poor, emasculated man is forced to buy menstrual products while cashiers and customers alike point and laugh. It might make for a cheap laugh from the audience, but the joke only works if you think periods (and by extension, anyone currently menstruating) are gross and shameful.
Judging from the current Reddit post as well as several previous ones, that line of thinking carries over into real life. Across the world, men and women alike are taught that menstruation is disgusting on a different level than other bodily functions. If menstruation didn't carry its own special brand of stigma, wouldn't the same men who refuse to buy tampons refuse to buy toilet paper, too? Furthermore, in some countries, women are banished to live in huts during their period; in others, they are widely criticized for free-bleeding during a marathon.
Women's rights may have advanced in many ways, but menstrual stigma has managed to stick around for thousands of years. In the end, the best way to fight it is by talking openly about periods — and maybe dumping anyone who's embarrassed by tampons.