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If I Can Call My Congressman About the Proposed Tampon Safety and Research Act, So Can YOU!

As reported here last week, there is a bill, H.R. 2900, in Congress to fund the testing of tampons and pads for disease-producing material without using the money of the manufacturers!

Women put pads and tampons onto and into their bodies for decades, and we really don't know what harmful effects that may have. Many contain dioxin and other disease-producing substances.

Do you trust the manufacturers to tell you?

I had never called my congressman for any reason until two weeks ago.

I didn't even know who he was!

But I felt this legislation was important enough to get me off my behind.

 If you don't call, your congressperson will think you don't care, and might do the easy thing: join in the snickering with the guy sitting next to him and vote "nay" to those wacky women, who are doin' it again. All right, let's give that money to Joe Schmoe, who needs another road to hack down the public - your - forest to fatten his Christmas bonus.

I received the following letter from my congressman yesterday after I called to support this legislation:

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 2900, the Tampon Safety and Research Act.

This bill would authorize the research of health problems that relate to the toxic potential of tampons. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce's Subcommittee on Health and the Environment where it is pending consideration. [A legislative aide in the office of the sponsor of the bill, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, told me that they were trying to get hearings started. Wouldn't it be great to see outspoken Dr. Philip Tierno, of New York University Medical School and Medical Center, perhaps the most prominent researcher of the safety of menstrual hygiene products, and a member of the board of directors of this museum, in those hearings?]

As you may know, I have always been very concerned about women's health issues [the congressman is male; hmm, I guess men usually are], and plan to follow this bill closely. I will certainly keep your views in mind in the future as this legislation progresses.

Thank you again for contacting me and with kindest regards, I am

Steny H. Hoyer

[5th District, Maryland]

Here's how to find out who your congresswoman/man is, and how to contact her/him to give your support:

1. Click the congressional directory.

2. E-mail, call or write her/him, say you support [H.R. 890 in 1999] H.R. 2900, Tampon Safety and Research Act of [1999] 1997, and leave you name, address and phone number.

Read Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's speech introducing the tampon bill on the floor of the House of Representatives last fall, and visit her Web site. She represents part of New York City and has sponsored many bills supporting women. Follow what happens to the bill here, by typing in H.R. 2900 [H.R. 890 in 1999], at Legislative Information on the Internet.

 Consider this:

In 1975, a small newspaper in Rochester, New York, challenged Procter & Gamble to tell the truth about its Rely tampon, which had problems obvious to many people. Only after the tampon killed and maimed scores of women five years later did P&G withdraw it from the market. The paper tried, but couldn't force the company to change Rely all by itself.

Read these historic articles, a gift to your MUM in 1997, plus other items about the Rely tampon, which "even absorb[ed] the worry."

"Women have a right to know about vaginal products," says Rep. Maloney.

It's a matter of life and death.

Instead: Dead? But First . . .

A reader writes (see also some other letters about menstrual cups):

Glad to hear about others reusing Instead [menstrual cup]. I figured I reused a diaphragm for years, so how can they be any different? I just tried my first box and like others, I found some leakage after the 4-6 hours mark and messy to remove. I rinsed off and washed with soap and used each of mine 2-3 times. I will try them again. Currently they are on sale at six for $1.00 at my local Jewl-Osco in Chicago. I've never seen any ad for them anywhere.

Fans of the Instead menstrual cup should buy as many as they can right now - there are signs that the company, Ultrafem, may fold, or at least stop selling the cup.

The stock price, listed as Ufem, has plummeted, the Web site is inaccessible and the 800 phone number doesn't work, at least the last time I tried. I have heard that some stores have greatly reduced the price, as mentioned in the letter above; in some cases, they are giving them away.

A visitor to the museum yesterday from an advertising agency in New York said that she had never seen an ad for the product, just as the writer above hadn't, but had found some, which she has not yet tried.

If the cup disappears, it would be the fourth in the U.S.A. to flop, leaving only The Keeper, which has existed since the late 1980s. An interesting Australian menstrual cup with an insertion device failed about 10 years ago. It kept a woman's fingers away from blood during insertion.

My feeling is that there simply aren't enough interested women to support a large company making cups, although a small one like the The Keeper can supply those willing to insert an object with their fingers into their vagina a couple of times a day, empty it, wash it off, etc., as well as save themselves money and not ruin the environment.

Put on Your Glad Rags!

Here's a letter from a company with one of the cleverest names:


Your new look is great. GladRags' [a washable pad] site got a new look, also. []

Here's some news: GladRags won Connecticut College's "Inherit the Earth" Award in Environmental Education and we'll be presented with that on 26 February 1998 at the college. I'm planning on mentioning MUM and your site.

Thanks - keep up the great work!


You Don't Like Menstruation? Almost No One Else Does Either

I just finished Co-wives and Calabashes (second edition, 1993, University of Michigan, $16.95 from by Sally Price, a Dittman Professor of American Studies (along with her husband, Richard) at the College of William and Mary (Virginia, U.S.A.), and was reminded how different, and similar, people are to Americans. She sent me one of her essays, "The Curse's Blessing," a few weeks ago, which is worth reading for the doubt it casts on the idea that menstrual huts are fun.

Read the book not least for this description of menstrual huts, which Prof. Price frequented over a long period of time in accordance with local custom in Suriname. She, and the women she used it with, found it not an appealing experience to be in some sense - the word seems appropriate to me - cursed. In this light, her criticism of the book Blood Magic and similar publications seems justified.

The people she studied and lived with valued the fact of her using a menstrual hut more than even her learning the local language! Such is the power of taboo.

They Wrote Your Ol' Mum - Why Haven't YOU

Here are some recent letters from visitors to this site (see also some previous letters):

What a great site! I was interested to read about the grief you've received for creating it, as you're (gasp!) a MAN, and therefore ought not to be interested in a natural physical process which affects 51% of the human race for ca. 30 years of their lives.

What a world. You'd think that we could be a little less goofy about something like menstruation. The shame aspect is utterly bizarre to me; however, that's at 39; I was a perfectly ashamed 12-year old, I guess.

I found you when looking for some info about chocolate cravings and menstruation. I needed a little more ammo for when I talk in person with the science editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They printed an article about hormones' influences recently, in which they made such errors as referring to the time prior to the menstrual cycle, rather than prior to menstruation. I pointed out that the very nature of the menstrual cycle, i.e., its being continuous, meant there wasn't such a time, unless you meant "prior to the initial onset of menstruation," or menarche.

He admitted the error when he called me back, but insisted that the comment about women's craving chocolate "during menstruation" was correct; he went on to say that cravings generally started four days prior, and continued for four days into the period. Hmm. I'd said that my experience and that of other actual women with whom I'd spoken pegged the chocolate thing as a PMS [premenstrual syndrome]-related craving, and to my knowledge PMS occurs just prior to menstruation.

In thinking about this, the equally deceptive phrase "on the rag" came to mind. Clearly a lot of men assume that some women's cyclical orneriness coincides with actual menstruation; however, although cramps, inconvenience and general ickiness of bleeding (especially in the days of actual rags!) can induce crankiness, I think the worst of it is in the 10 days or so leading up to menstruation, which often means almost instant relief from bloating and tension!

I'm off to scope out the PMS sites. Thanks again for all the work on a fascinating and universal topic.


Maria Jette

p.s. Do you include that pamphlet from the Kotex folks, "Becoming a Woman"? [Not yet, but here are others.] I think most of us baby boomers got it in school, and the weird point they made -- about how it really IS all right to shower during your period -- haunts me to this day. Those must have been grim times, when women were led to believe that they shouldn't bathe during periods! Maybe it was only showers, for some inexplicable reason. The graphics were hilarious: a woman under a shower head with ice cubes coming out ("...not too cold...") and one being poached clouds of steam (". . . or too hot!").

p.p.s. I'd be pleased as punch for you to use any parts you like of my letter. You can go ahead and use my name, if you like -- I feel no need for anonymity! [See the comment at the bottom of this page about names and addresses.]

A woman friend of mine used to live in Alaska. She was in town one day and a moose was heading down the street. The male moose was only interested in the women who had their periods! She said whenever a woman had her period she would have to watch out for moose. [Here's more on menstrual odor and animals.]

In your archives, I haven't seen anything on the Playtex deodorant tampon (I don't know if it's still being made). To my memory, it was the first tampon to be advertised on TV in the US. [Apparently Rely tampon was first, at least in a limited market, and Playtex was second.] It may also have been the first with a plastic applicator. Before Rely it was the big health issue in tampons because some users had an allergic reaction to the unnecessary deodorant. Compared to toxic shock, I guess it's no big deal. [But see Congresswoman Maloney's bill at the top of this page.]

Also, down memory lane, Tampax boxes used to have plastic overwrap that you could remove and you would have a box with blue asterisks on it. This was so you could have your box out in your room or bathroom and no one would "know" what it was. They stopped that a few years ago. Interesting how perceptions change. [Yes, it is!]

Your Names . . .

Because of the nature of menstruation - many people are ashamed of it - I do not use names and addresses without permission from the writer, and I do not publish e-mail if the writer doesn't want it published. I do reserve the right to edit your letters for style or size.

© 1998 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to

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