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Let me begin by saying (ranting) that I’m going to discuss the content of this article in pretty candid detail, so if women’s bodies make you uncomfortable, I might suggest putting this article down and stepping out of the 7th grade. It’s about time women everywhere feel they’re able to talk about their periods if they so choose. Some people don’t want to talk about their periods because it makes them uncomfortable to do so (or for whatever reason), and that’s totally valid. That’s okay, and it’s really none of anyone’s business. However, the women who do want to talk about it should be able to without feeling “gross.”
Why do we allow patriarchal societies to tell us we’re gross for having periods, and why in the world have we accepted it for so long? Sure, maybe I don’t feel like running down the beach in a swimsuit, but we should be able to say something simple like, “I’m on my period” without getting a reaction like we just told someone we sharted aggressively or like we fed a classroom of people human remains without their knowledge. Do I think you should go spouting off graphic details of your menstrual cycle to everyone who will (or won’t) listen? No. Don’t do that. Still, you and I and women in every corner of the world should be able to discuss it openly with people we love and people we’re close to and our goddamned OB/GYNs without feeling dirty or ashamed of our bodies.
The products traditionally available to women for our periods are…less than desirable, not only for us but for the environment as well. Tampons come with the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is exactly as horrible as it sounds and becomes life-threatening very quickly. Putting them in and taking them out is also just not the most fun thing in the world. Who would have thought that shoving a cotton cork-on-a-string in your vag wouldn’t be fun? Don’t forget the leaks! And that feeling where you are CERTAIN that your tampon just leaked all over your underwear and possibly your pants. So you run to the bathroom but when you get there you find that not only has your tampon not leaked, but it doesn’t even need to be changed yet. I used to do this three or four times a day when I wore tampons because every woman knows that no matter how many times it happens, it feels real every time and you panic every time.
Pads just feel like diapers and are incredibly uncomfortable for me. I don’t think I’ve worn or bought pads since I was in middle school. I’m already introverted and averse to being the center of attention (I don’t even write under my real name) and it’s just that much harder for me to walk around confidently with a pad on. I feel like everyone can see the outline, even if I know they can’t, or like it’s making noise when I move or walk. Just like tampons, pads are bad for the environment. Pads also can’t be flushed, so either the trashcan in your bathroom smells bad for a few days or you take your garbage out literally every time you change your pad, and both are massively unappealing to me.
I am also extremely clumsy, so while menstrual cups are a fantastic alternative to the less environmentally friendly options, in my hands they are an accident waiting to happen. I can just picture myself trying to change the cup in an airport bathroom, getting blood everywhere, and personal chaos ensuing from there. No thanks. Props to the women out there who rock the menstrual cup confidently and even change it in a public bathroom if they have to. That is some kind of witchery and amazing chaotic energy I’ve never seen.
So where does that leave women like me? Who are over the idea of using disposable feminine hygiene products, but are not graceful or brave enough to use a menstrual cup? THINX had the same question, and here’s where they come in.
“Period panties” are the future of feminine hygiene and I’m here to give you the good news. I will admit: They’re a little weird at first and they take some getting used to, but they are far superior to tampons and pads, and less anxiety-inducing than menstrual cups. You will panic the first couple times you use them and you’ll feel like you need to change them immediately, but depending on the absorbancy you choose, you can wear them all day like regular underwear while they function like a pad. It’s like magic. They range in absorbancy from half a tampon to two tampons' worth of blood and come in a variety of styles from thongs to boyshorts. You also have your choice of two colors (black and beige) and two fabric types (one is cotton, one feels like softer spandex). Options, y’all.
My next question was regarding wearability. It’s all well and good if they can function like a pad but if they’re uncomfortable I may as well be wearing a pad. So while I believed in their functionality, I was a little afraid they’d be uncomfortable and I only ordered two to start. THINX has more than 6,000 reviews on the products I ordered, but I wanted to see for myself if they live up to the hype and if they could be a realistic replacement for my current feminine hygiene routine or if they were just complementary to it; something you wear with tampons to absorb leaks.
To my delight, they’re comfortable. They’re really, really comfortable. When they got here, I put the boyshorts and a t-shirt on, and just lounged around my house for the rest of the day. I didn’t have to adjust them, regardless of the position I was sitting in. The fabric is really absorbent but somehow thin like regular underwear. I was pleasantly surprised to find this product as amazing as advertised; they’re as comfortable as they are functional. I wore them like my regular underwear and I didn’t have any leaks or incidents of bleeding through, nor did it feel like I was sitting in a wet mess all day (which was also a concern going into this).
Another big benefit: they pay for themselves in the first year. I did some math and found that I’ll spend about $20,000 on my period in my lifetime, and when I compared it with other results, found that to be about average. That's if you have your period every month for roughly 40 years, and while there’s no denying that period poverty exists and that the number of years a woman will spend having periods can vary +/- greatly from my average figure, the fact stands that periods are expensive for everyone.
Four pairs of THINX cost me about $150 dollars, and when you think about what I’ve spent on tampons since I was 12, and what I would have spent on them going forward given that I’m only 29, these will have paid for themselves in about eight months.
I think the only downside is their special washing/drying instructions, and even those aren’t really that bad, they’re just time-consuming. You have to wash them in cold water with plain detergent. No laundry pods that contain fabric softener, no other fabric softeners, and no bleach—it will ruin the absorbancy. I wash mine by themselves with plain detergent and half a cup of vinegar. The vinegar will take care of the inevitable odor. We all know period blood smells gross.
There’s no denying it: periods are a hassle. They’re expensive, they’re messy, and they can be painful, even debilitating, for some women. They create unavoidable biowaste and for 5-8 days every month, they can be quite distracting, which really sucks if you have a demanding school or work schedule. I think the greatest benefit of all to THINX is that for the for the first time in my life, I get to treat my period like an afterthought. Ten or fifteen years ago, I don’t think any woman on earth would have been able to say that she could treat her period like an afterthought.
This is revolutionary for us and I really want to underscore what a game-changer these could be for so many women. I don’t have to remember to take a tampon out so that I don’t die and I don’t have to make sure I have tampons with me so I don’t bleed all over my clothes. I just have to wear a certain type of underwear that day. I get to get dressed and forget it. THINX has taken something that was at best unpleasant and given us the freedom to not have to think about it beyond our normal dressing routines, and I think they deserve endless praise and recognition for doing so.