The world’s first tampons for men have been criticized by feminist campaigners as an “insult” to women with period discrimination.
Vuokkoset, a Finnish company, released the controversial new sanitary product earlier this month to coincide with Transgender Awareness week and International Men’s Day.
The product comes in a dark blue box with the words “For Men” on one side, but then spreads this phrase around the packaging so that it reads “For Menstruation” at the end.
The other side of the package states that “periods are not a gender issue”.
Vuokkoset has said in an online statement that it launched the period product to “raise the issue of the gender of hygiene products and the concern of menstruation in trans men”.
Trans-menstruate men undergoing hormone therapy
The company says that trans men – females who identify as men – may continue to experience menstrual cycles even while undergoing hormone treatment to change gender or may choose not to undergo such therapy at all and that they will still have periods.
They also said that studies show that 93 percent of trans men have experienced menstrual-related gender dysphoria – a feeling of uneasiness that a person can have because of a discrepancy between their biological sex and their gender identity .
Dakota Robin, a trans-Finnish man and human rights activist in the “For Men” tampons advertising campaign, said: “By changing attitudes and broadening perspectives, we can also end discrimination against gender minorities.
“The least one can do is understand that periods do not define womanhood and understand the diversity behind them.”
‘A period of shame as part of sex-based inequality’
However, feminist groups and women’s health experts on Saturday lambasted Vuokkoset for the idea of separating women from menstruation.
Anna Melamed, lecturer in midwifery, said: “For so many girls around the world the shame and lack of millennial products is a big part of the sex-based inequality they experience.
“To conclude that ‘periods are not a gender issue’ is a step backwards for those of us trying to educate young people and in fact is an insult to the sexism that girls and young women suffer every day because of their periods.”
Milli Hill, feminist writer and author of a best-selling book on female puberty called My Period, said: “I would have no complaints if it was clear on the packaging that this product is for people who identify as trans men, but they are saying this. The product is specifically “for men”.
“I think these companies need to stop changing the definition of words like male and female to support a lie that people can change sex when biological sex is immutable.
Backup against ‘cross-inclusive’ period products
“It’s also interesting that the packaging on women’s grooming products is being deconstructed and neutralized and yet here we have a period product shouting that it’s ‘for men’.”
This latest series is part of a growing pushback from women’s groups against a trend among companies and institutions to “destroy” the connection between women and period products in order to make them more “trans-inclusive”.
A spokesperson for women’s rights group Woman’s Place UK said: “Menstruation is not a sign of femininity – it’s a biological fact of life for women.
“Women only menstruate – that won’t change because there will be a small market for those who prefer products with ‘for men’ on the box.”
Earlier this year, Therese Coffey, the former Environment Secretary, ordered an investigation into the provision of tampons and sanitary pads in men’s toilets by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
And in 2019 women threatened to boycott the brand of early period products Always when it removed the image of Venus – which represents the female sex – from its packaging.
‘The majority of people who menstruate are women’
Senja Blomqvist, brand manager for Vuokkoset, responded to the criticism of the tampons “for men”, saying: “We fully recognize that the vast majority of people who menstruate are women and this is a significant part of the women’s experience . However, it is also a reality for some men and non-binary individuals.
“No one will be destroyed when we recognize the experiences of all menstruating people; it simply acknowledges and respects the diversity of human experience.
“We don’t intend to draw attention to women’s health issues, which are extremely important. Instead, we aim to broaden the conversation to include everyone who menstruates.”
Despite only being available in Finland at the moment, the tampons are due for wider distribution in early 2024 – although it is not yet confirmed whether they will be sold in the UK.