Rapper Genesis Be

Rapper Genesis Be

“They say my flow is heavy so I guess I need a tampon,” Genesis Be spits in her latest single “Tampons & Tylenol.” The Mississippi-born MC claims her anthem is a “declaration of women’s power” that refers to “working past the physical of a woman and exploring the facets of who we are.” “Tampons & Tylenol” uses menstruation as a metaphor for the suppression of women’s pain, thus rendering the flow – literally and figuratively – invisible.

It makes sense. Tampon brands market their products by persuading women to believe that their tampon is the smallest, most-camouflaged and best at preventing leaks. Some experts, including Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, see the marketing of tampons as a way to perpetuate stigmas about menstruation.

“They really want to capitalize on girls’ and women’s fears about leakage and odors to sell a product,” she says.

In an article on menstrual stigma, Johnston-Robledo notes that menstruation is often associated with contamination, so using products that are less-noticeable to contain blood are preferred by women.

“If man’s body is considered the norm or the normative body, reproductive functions are going to render women’s bodies sick, defective, abject, especially in a patriarchal cultural context,” Johnston-Robledo says.

This is reason women prefer tampons opposed to pads, according to Johnston-Robledo.

Marketers capitalize on this fear by creating commercials that overstate the inconspicuousness of tampons. As Daily Beast writer Soraya Roberts points out, this implies that “the less you see the product, the less you see the period and the hotter you are.”

Johnston-Robledo agrees. “I think that is sort of a contemporary phenomenon that has a lot to do with the sexualization of girls,” shesays. “You can still retain this sexy image and menstruate at the same time.”

However, does any of this mean the tampon is a sexist invention?

Johnston-Robledo believes so. Developing cultural stigmas against menstruation makes women uncomfortable with their bodies’ natural function.

“Part of the stigma is the need to hide [the menstrual blood] right away and not feel it against your body,” Johnston-Robledo says. Women who are more comfortable with their periods “would be more likely to use products where you really have to look at and interact with your fluid as opposed to clogging your body with a tampon and just tossing it into the toilet.”

Roberts agrees. She writes:

“There’s no social benefit from having a period, so suppressing it makes a lot of sense to a lot of people,” Sharra L. Vostral, author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology, tells the Daily Beast. It certainly makes sense to Ke$ha. The famously “edgy” singer, who has bragged about drinking her own urine, told WBLI radio-show host Syke last month that the only thing she considers “off limits” on her reality show is changing her tampon. Considering how many people saw red after Giovanna Plowman ate hers, not to mention how female artists like Carina Ubeda are marginalized for using their menstrual fluid in their work, it’s little wonder that periods and pop culture don’t mix.

Lauren Rosewarne wrote last year’s Periods in Pop Culture, about how rarely menstruation is represented on film and TV (she found around 200 examples going back to the ’70s, while Genesis Be’s rap continues to be one of the few cases of period-inspired music, along with PJ Harvey’s “Happy and Bleeding” and Ani DiFranco’s “Blood in the Boardroom”). She tells The Daily Beast that when menstruation does make an appearance, “it needs to be concealed, deodorized, and that anyone finding out about it is a substantial social faux pas for the woman, if not, social suicide.” And when hygiene products are mentioned—“or, much, much, much less commonly, shown”—it’s the tampon that gets plugged. “This is likely due to the (comparative) social acceptability of tampons compared to others,” says Rosewarne, “as well as the more frequent advertising of tampons compared to other products (and in turn, greater audience familiarity with them).”

What say you, Clutchettes and gents? Are tampons sexist?

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  • So I Iooked up the artist Carina Ubeda and her work is just beyond the depths of my mind. I am all for respecting and loving the body of a woman and not being ashamed of it. But displaying an art room full of used sanitary cloths that were saved for 5 years is just nasty. Most women know what their menstrual looks like appreciates that it came and moves on with life. If we don’t use pads or tampons or cups what are we to do just bleed everywhere and on everything? That does not sound radical to me or freeing just a chance to be ridiculed.

  • lhoskins

    sigh at these negative,uninformed comments. I don’t use tampons because tss and because the one time I tried,it was not comfortable and I ended up wasting a tampon (instructions read that once you’ve inserted the tampon incorrectly (pain,etc) then you have to throw it away). i really wish that pads had a cottony feel. anyways,thanks for introducing me to such a cool,interesting person.

  • yean

    what the hell?! you don’t fart in public?!

  • LJ

    This is so dumb. (although, I do think the artist has got talent) If tampons are “sexist,” than I’d like to kiss the sexist S.O.B.s that invented and continue to market them.

    It isn’t some sort of subconscious marketing that makes periods embarrassing and annoying. They ruin my underwear. I’d rather they not. They smell horrible. I’d rather not smell it. They give me pain. It sucks. I hate periods- not because I’m self-loathing, but because they are the worst. I don’t like to talk about them because they are disgusting.

    I feel like tampon companies understand my pain and have my back.Tampon company heroes have made it easier for women to get through a period than it ever has been before in the history of people. Sexism would be to make me wear rewashed pads and quarantine me. Reverse sexism would be to be so angry at male domination that you read wayyyyy too much into a good thing to the point you make it a bad thing and then blame male bias for the made up oppression.

    I’m all for deconstructive theory, but there’s a point when you deconstruct your brains out of your head and stop making sense.

  • LittleBabyBug Jones

    this can’t be for real. no, they’re not a sexist invention. why would i want to come into contact with my period blood anymore than i absolutely must? what’s the solution, then, clutch? should i be content to let the blood drip all the way down my legs and puddle on the floor or pool in my crotch and thus ruin my pants, underwear, dresses, jackets, etc? did y’all ever stop to think that maybe this might be the outcome women want to prevent by wearing tampons and pads? lord. i started out wearing pads because i was uncomfortable with tampons when i was a child but toward the end of my teenage years i realized i preferred tampons because i didn’t like the odor of period blood left behind in my pads. no more than i like the odor i get if i don’t wash under my arms daily. or wipe my private parts on the regular. what, you’re gonna say it’s sexist that i should have to wipe my vagina to keep it clean? that men are oppressing me by making me think i need to maintain hygiene down there? for the same reason that i don’t want to come in contact with my poo or urine except to flush it, i do the same with period blood. that’s not sexist, that’s simply common decency and sanitation.