How tampons changed a female immigrant’s perspective on reproductive health...
Menstruating, no matter where or who you are in the world, always seems to come hand-in-hand with challenges one way or another. In my case, growing up in a developing country defined by cultural norms and practices meant that something as simple as using a tampon could be your one-way ticket to being slut-shamed, or worse, outcasted. This didn’t make puberty easy, and it definitely set me up for quite the surprise when I immigrated to Australia at the age of 24.
Living in the Philippines, which was under Spanish colonial rule for 333 years, it’s no surprise that we were left with archaically conservative myths about menstruating, womanhood, and the many double standards imposed on us as soon as we learned to speak and walk. I grew up as a Catholic schoolgirl where, like almost any other all-girl school, even the littlest things sparked rumours like wildfire.
I remember how girls my age were so easily accused of not being virgins once people found out they were using tampons instead of pads. Those girls always seemed so much more grown up and were definitely defiant of the status quo, which of course also made them a little bit cooler. Suffice to say, that using tampons were a definite no-no and losing your virginity(by way of a tampon) was absolutely unacceptable.
A second puberty
Currently, I share a house with other immigrant Filipino women. While we all moved to Australia at different times in our lives, we have all experienced the same sense of confusion once we found out how many people prefer tampons over pads. Quite frankly, it was even more of a shock when I found that younger people seemed to have that preference as well. How could a person younger than my high school self even think about inserting those things into parts I once considered to be sacred?
To be fair, I still consider those parts to be sacred. I’ve just learned to look past the judgment and trust the science. As I’ve learned more about reproductive health, and how menstrual products such as tampons and cups can provide me with comfort rather than shame, it’s as if I’m going through puberty all over again.
Finding my identity in menstruating
Crossing oceans to find a new home can really impact one’s sense of self, as it did mine, as I struggled to find a cool medium between my cultures, habits, and beliefs. Over the years I’ve spent in Sydney, I’ve learned more about period products, like tampons, reproductive health and organisations who push the agenda forward. Who knew that my periods, which were a part of myself I’d always relate with shame, judgment, and discomfort, would actually be my advent to finding my true self, one who now thrives through struggle, bleeding, and change.
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