Last week, following a letter from a trans campaigner, menstrual hygiene brand Always decided to remove the female symbol from its packaging. And in familiar fashion, an onslaught of online vileness ensued.
The change was made by the brand in order to reflect the fact that people who do not identify as female – trans men and some non-binary people – also have periods and require their products. A small gesture on the brand’s part, but a kind gesture nonetheless, and something that could make the lives of menstruating trans people just a little bit easier when that time of the month comes. To be reminded that the world does not see period products as intended for you each time that you buy them undoubtedly makes this already difficult process a little harder. And at its basic level, is just an incorrect representation of the customer base, regardless of the harm it may also bring.
A strong online reaction ensued. A failure to understand the reason behind the move was expressed by many not intending to offend. Yet, no time was wasted by many expressing their dislike and disgust at the move; this was another excuse for a wave of vile transphobia.
One avenue that a few popular tweets took was questioning the fuss made over branding many had not even noticed. “What feminine symbol?”, many asked. If you had not even noticed the symbol was there – as many, myself included, seemed to – then this is a perfectly good reason for its removal. If the people it was meant to represent did not even know it was there, but the people it did not represent had noticed and felt ostracised by it, surely its removal could only be beneficial.
A second wave of comments tried was the usual case of “whataboutery”. Many replied to the brand’s Twitter announcement with comments asking why they had tackled this while many girls were still struggling with the period poverty crisis. This is an important issue nonetheless, but the brand’s commitment to tackling other issues for menstruating people is unaffected by the product’s packaging. Significantly, the brand already has launched a period poverty campaign.
At a time when transphobic debate has become so normalised, and hate crimes against transgender people are worringly on the rise, anything that can be done to ease the load a little bit should be welcomed.
Cisgender girls do not need any extra representation when it comes to menstruation. We do not need to see a symbol on packaging to know that the world sees this as our issue. But for trans people who get periods this is not the case. Cis women do not need this symbol. Trans people can be helped by not having it. It is that simple.
Always made a small change that is a welcome recognition of the variety of experiences of those who menstruate. The number of people who did not previously realise that people who are not women get periods demonstrates why a small move like this, from a big brand like Always, can make a genuine difference. It is making things a little bit easier for trans people and educating the masses on trans experiences at the same time.
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