My Experiment with a Packet of Sanitary Pads

Today I want to tell you about a small experiment of mine. It was something that I had been wanting to do for a while. So just after lunch today I set out to tick this little test off my list. With a stomach full of scrumptious canteen food I walked into the small convenience store at my office campus brimming with employees. It was lunch time hence the rush. Some buying chocolates, few groceries while a few others cosmetics. But I was there to buy something else. Something that I needed for my experiment and for myself as well. I was there to buy sanitary pads. Yes, you read that right. Sanitary pads. Something worn by a woman during menstruation as defined in Wikipedia. Uncomfortable? You shouldn't be.

Moving on. While in the queue for billing I began to notice reactions. My experiment had already begun. It was time for me to start noting the results. My first subjects were the men in line behind me. They appeared embarrassed seeing this purple and green pack. But I, the one holding it, was not. Their eyes implored me to hide it. They felt awkward seeing a woman hold something that was essential for her health and hygiene. Why? Beats me. But I guess that’s how they were raised to feel. There’s sadly a taboo surrounding periods and sanitary pads in our society.

My next set of subjects had the same reaction as well. And these were women, thankfully only a small number out of the many in queue, but women nonetheless. So the same response from women, even though from only a few. Regrettable I know. And these men and women, mind you, were engineering graduates in the least. Educated? Nevertheless, I being me kept holding the packet just as I would hold any other packet at a store. Too bad if that made them uncomfortable.

A slight context on what happened next. In India whenever we buy sanitary napkins it is first wrapped in newspapers and then put in a polythene bag to be carried home hidden from the rest of the world. It is almost as if we are doing something wrong by buying or using it. So in this store too after I had paid the money, the woman at the counter picked up a newspaper to wrap the packet. But I stopped her. At that of-course she shot back a confused look at me. Note, just a confused look. But I think she understood, at some level perhaps, and gave me the packet without looking at me disparagingly.

Now the next part of my experiment was to begin. I had to walk from the store to my building, up to my cubicle through a floor full of employees. I wanted to see how these ‘educated’ people would react seeing me walk unapologetically with the sanitary pads pack in my hand. I didn't have very high hopes of course based on the opinions on various socio-cultural issues shared by this very ‘educated lot’ on e-bulletin board of the organization where I work. But then maybe this experiment would prove me wrong?

Remember there is no shame in buying or carrying a packet of sanitary pads.

As I walked, I saw two women walk by casting critical glances first at me and then at the packet I was holding. Maybe they wanted me to rush back to the store and get a bag to cover it? But I kept walking. Further along there stood three men, all in their late 40s I think, who stopped discussing whatever it was they were discussing for a second or so as I passed by. This because I didn't cover the packet which evidently they thought was meant to be concealed. Perhaps they felt uneasy. In this way a couple of more stunned glances later I entered the building I work from and got into the lift. There was just another woman in the lift with me and she seemed fine with me holding the pack of sanitary pads. I was so happy when she didn't look at me in a manner asking ‘What the hell are you doing?’

Now the last leg of my experiment was on as I began to walk through the floor up to my desk. And mind you I walked real slow here. Except for a man who kept looking at the packet without batting his eyelids nobody seemed to care what I was carrying and how I was carrying it. Perhaps he was trying to figure out the same thing as those before him. Why had I not concealed it?

I think my experiment was a success in many ways. I had not anticipated it to be so positive because contrary to what I had expected only a small fraction of people appeared troubled, agitated and awkward at seeing the packet. It was a pleasant surprise I must tell you. This because most of the times education fails to enlighten our minds. Maybe many had not noticed the packet itself. But if I know anything from experience I can say that out of all the people that noticed me carrying the sanitary pads packet only a small percentage reacted negatively. That in India is a good thing don’t you think?

You know I feel we as a society need to grow up. So women use pads? What’s dirty in that? What’s in it to be ashamed of? Why do we need to hide the pads when we purchase them from stores? Remember there is no shame in buying or carrying a packet of sanitary pads. It is essential to a woman’s health. Don’t you think so too?

Tell me what did you think about my experiment? What are your views on it? Would you cover the sanitary pads packet next time you buy it at a supermarket or your local drug store? Would you?