There was no feeling quite like getting your flo in middle school, when you were still so young and self-conscious. Trying to sneak out of the room and get to the john with a giant pad in your hand — or better yet, that slick maneuver where you secretly slide a tampon up your sleeve — felt on par with an Olympic event. One woman is trying to make things easier. This middle school teacher makes period care packs for her students, and the internet has officially voted her the menstruation warrior.
Kristin Heavner works as a teacher in Michigan, and she hasn't forgotten the burden of an unexpected period. Middle school is tough enough as is without having to worry about that week of the month. To make life a little easier, Heavner puts together discreet little bags containing tampons, pads, and wipes, and keeps them in her desk for anyone who needs them. She tells her students to take as much as they need, and even asks if they need any extras for home.
She shared her thoughtful act in a post on Facebook that's since gone viral — why aren't more schools doing this? Three cheers for Kristin for making life easier for her students.
It's no secret that we still sweep periods under the rug, even as adults. They're private and gross, and we're supposed to pretend they don't totally screw with us one or two (or more) weeks out of the month. We sometimes have to go to school and work in utter agony — both physically and mentally — and brush it off, lest anyone discover our dirty little secret. Why do you think companies who create feminine hygiene products are always reinventing their packaging to be more discreet? It's because from the moment we start our periods, we're told to be quiet about it. It's such a taboo conversation that according to research, half of people who have periods don't even know what's happening the first time they get them.
Period censorship is alive and well, with even Instagram scared to talk about menstruation. Schools are hesitant to educate their students on periods. Many still don't have sex education; and when they do, boys and girls are separated, and boys don't hear a whole heck of a lot about menstruation. Normalizing periods in school could make a world of difference; research has found that students at schools that offer free pads or puberty classes attended school an extra three and a half days a month, compared to schools without either.
It's these attitudes about periods being "gross" and inappropriate that contribute to the embarrassment women continue to feel about a natural process that roughly half the population experiences and doesn't have much say over.
Middle schoolers have enough on their plates already. Their bodies are changing whether they like it or not; they're confused and hyper-aware of these changes. They're learning how to socialize and make friends, discover who they are, get good grades, and manage the roller coaster of emotions that they don't understand quite yet. On top of that, we ask students to handle their periods — which may come as a total surprise — and play it off so nobody knows. This is why Heavner is a total superhero. Nobody should have to suffer at the hands of their period.
Changing the way we look at periods necessitates an entire cultural shift. It means making periods a part of the conversation and the curriculum, and helping boys and girls understand that there's nothing inappropriate about menstruation. But until people can freely walk around waving tampons in the air, Heavner's discreet care packs are a beautiful compromise.