When sharing pictures of FabLittleBag in action, some of our followers queried why we were showing a clean tampon. Surely the whole point was to dispose of a used one? Unsure of whether the world was ready for images of a used tampon, we turned to Twitter. A quick Twitter poll revealed that more people would prefer to see a more realistic image, blood ‘n’ all, than a sanitised image featuring a clean one or even one soaked in the dreaded blue liquid. Who knew?
But when one of our fans decided to rise to the occasion and shared photos of her used tampon and pad with a FabLittleBag, the censors stepped forward. Twitter has deemed it sensitive material and slapped it with a warning. Moreover, Twitter threatens to suspend her account if she continues to post “sensitive” images.
Admittedly a used tampon is not a pretty sight. But should it be censored? After all, a fair proportion of Twitter users will be faced with just such a sight every month, albeit in the privacy of their own bathroom. Would an image of a bloodied bandage attract the same controversy? Period blood is healthy and normal, so should be less offensive than blood caused by illness or injury.
Social media has form in this area. Instagram banned an image of a woman with a small blood leak showing through her clothes, until a backlash caused it to be reinstated. Looking at it now (below) it seems a rather peaceful image, nothing to scare the horses.
Most women don’t choose to leak, so this is clearly a snapshot of a period “going wrong”, whereas a tampon with blood on it is surely what it is designed for. Except, along with other bodily fluids dealt with in the bathroom, menstrual blood is never seen except by the person it belongs to.
We expect many women would feel indignant about period blood being considered so shameful as never to be pictured. Quite what the shame is based on is bewildering, after all, no periods, no babies. But it is worth considering that there is a shame and “eeew-factor” attached to our nether regions in general. It is easy to imagine faeces-smeared toilet paper attracting the same censure. Yes, it’s a natural, universal function, but no, we don’t always want to see it in all its glory.
Perhaps it’s not the image that is the problem here as much as the medium. We don’t always know what’s going to pop up on our Twitter feed. We can’t “unsee” what we’ve seen, or realise that the account we’re following may not be our cup of tea until it’s too late. Or maybe it’s a case of not knowing ourselves how much reality we’re ready for. We can see nothing wrong at all with showing red blood, until faced with the image and experience some discomfort.
We have many discussions with women about how they feel about periods here at FabLittleBag. Despite women’s growing openness on the subject, they retain a wish not to display their menstrual waste publicly. Which is why the opaque, sealable nature of FabLittleBag remains such a big plus for them. It’s more a question of dignity, rather than outdated coyness. There doesn’t need to be a conflict between wishing to retain some discretion and being “ashamed”: they are not the same thing at all.
It’s clear to us that the period taboo is well and truly ready to fall, as the popularity of this Instagram video showing a yogi bleeding through her leggings shows; perhaps the boys club at Twitter needs to catch up with that. The most disturbing thing about this episode is not so much the image, or even the censorship, but how on earth Twitter managed to intercept the image in the first place?
The controversial image follows below, so you can decide for yourself. We’d love to hear your view! #periodtaboo