Undercover and armed with tampons

3 min read
Laura dropping tampons on the floor
Image: WaterAid/Hannah Stanton

Meet one of the women who went undercover to watch the British public squirm in the face of period chat – our very own Laura Crowley.

Let me introduce myself – I am the one piling sanitary products on the bar in WaterAid’s undercover film 'What if talking about periods was normal?' And then scattering tampons in Vauxhall bus station.

All to highlight the intense awkwardness that still surrounds the very normal thing that women and girls everywhere do every month. You can watch the results below.

At WaterAid we’ve been working for several years to challenge the taboos surrounding periods. In too many parts of the world these taboos stop women and girls being able to live a full life and in some communities, superstitions see women and girls banned from sleeping in the house, touching certain foods, going to school or even using taps and water pumps.

We want to change this. And we know that if we, here in the UK, find it awkward to talk about periods, then women and girls everywhere will find it more difficult to get the education and facilities they need to be able to cope with their monthly cycle safely and with dignity.

At present, one in three women and girls still don’t have access to a decent toilet during their periods. This is simply shameful.

Err, excuse me, is this your tampon?

So to bring the issue out of the shadows, some colleagues and I tested the waters by re-enacting some of those potentially embarrassing, time-of-the-month moments.

Because of my job, I talk about toilets and periods all the time, to anyone who will listen – at work, weddings or parties, to my best friends or sometimes to total strangers. Like many working at WaterAid, I forget the usual norms of polite conversation.

So I was so surprised just how nervous I felt when making this film. I was blushing scarlet when piling up my sanitary supplies on the bar, and returning to the same pub later for a much needed after-work drink felt pretty embarrassing.

So what have I learned from the experience? Firstly, it made me realise just how difficult it must be to talk about periods in a place where there are even more taboos around the subject. Even in a country where we’re taught about menstruation at school, where sanitary products are advertised on TV and are readily available in the supermarket, it’s still an awkward topic.

But I also learned that some people are just lovely – the young, good-looking man who returned a 'dropped' tampon to me like it was my lost glass slipper. Or the sweet guy in the park who slightly sheepishly ran to me after retrieving a tampon.

Little by little, by being more open, less coy and remembering that periods are normal, we will whittle away at the taboos until they disappear.

Follow WaterAid UK on Twitter >