Image by Ashley Leonard at

Boycotting Always? Boycott All Commercial “Feminine Hygiene Products” While You’re at It

Stephanie Brail
Oct 24, 2019 · 9 min read

Always, purveyor of pantiliners and other “feminine products” — now called “period products,” apparently — is facing a boycott over their decision to remove the female “Venus symbol” from their packaging in order be trans-inclusive. Many women are outraged at the “erasure of women” this symbolizes.

Always isn’t the first company selling pantiliners to do this, actually. Seventh Generation appears to have already gotten on the gender-neutral bandwagon, quietly. Found on a recent box of their eco-friendly pantiliners I recently purchased:

“In the U.S., many people can’t get the period care they need because it isn’t always considered a basic human necessity. Try telling that to anyone who gets their period.”

To be honest, my first reaction to this was: What’s up with this ridiculous terminology of “period care” and why it is being made out to be some sort of major humanitarian crisis? “Period care” sounds like “hospice care.” Are people with periods on their deathbeds during that week out of the month?

Try telling that to any 50-year-old woman who is now in menopause, going through an extended PMS hell because her period is overdue, and she’ll laugh in your face. There are things worse than your period, trust me. I’m relieved when I get my period now, and I never thought I’d say that before!

It was only on the second reading that I noticed the wording many people…anyone who gets their period” — I’m going to confess, this annoyed me. Many people? Not women? Not girls? As a writer, it bugged me. The wording is awkward and sounds insincere. And forget about the gender stuff — “Try telling that to” sounds like something a teenager would throw out at a parent during an argument.

And what’s up with the phrase “period care products” — which also sounds like kindergarten to me — is the word “menstrual” taboo now? I get that the old school “sanitary napkin” language was ridiculous, but “period care” is a bit too much in the opposite direction for me.

It was at that moment I realized that every single product that used to be labeled for women was going to be rebranded and reworded, so I better just get used to it. Always is just one of the first to be doing this on a massive public scale. But it was already happening.

Still, there’s a way to be more gender neutral without making women feel like a target. For example, with Seventh Generation, a better way to say something that was gender-neutral — without it being so obvious that we’re trying to avoid the word “woman” — could have been:

Seventh Generation is committed to helping the poor get access to period products by donating a percentage of profits to charities.

To be fair, that same Seventh Generation box has a silhouette of (what appears to be) a woman on the front of the box, but how long will that last? Not long, I’m sure.

So, if you are serious about boycotting Always, you can plan on adding every “period care product” company to that list. Eventually.

A Pox on Marketing to Women in General

Look, I’m a GenXer. I’m not down with a lot of the Millennial obsession to rephrase every single little thing out of fear of offending someone. Someone will always be offended. And the women’s “Venus symbol” shouldn’t be made out to be the equivalent of a swastika. It’s not an alt-right symbol. If you don’t identify as a woman but need a menstrual product, a Venus symbol is not intended as a personal insult.

All that said, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s a good thing that we’re making some traditional women’s products more “gender neutral.” That’s because marketing to women tends to be patronizing and sexist in general.

Photo by Alicia Solario at

I am a woman who always purposefully purchased disposable razors made “for men” since I thought the idea that women needed cutesy pink versions was stupid.

So, I’ll admit, I’m not keen on removing “female” and women” from “period products.” But I’m also sick of pink and purple on “female” packaging. Just because I’m female, it does not mean I like pink! On my list of favorite colors, pink isn’t even on it! I hate pastels! So, quit acting like all grown women need packaging colored like a Barbie dollhouse. Ugh! Also, Frozen is one of my least favorite Disney movies.

In fact, the notorious Always wrapper with the Venus symbol also has this on it: Awesome #LIKEAGIRL. Eeuw. That is just ridiculous. If that goes, I’ll be applauding.

I might actually be more inclined to buy a package of Always if it had Godzilla and a load of monster trucks exploding on it, as the Babylon Bee facetiously reported in a story titled “Always Appeals To Men With Pads Featuring Pictures Of Monster Trucks, Pro Wrestlers”:

The pads and tampons’ packaging will feature pictures of monster trucks crushing each other, AR-15s, and John Cena dropkicking people….

Various pictures on the products include the following:

· A nuclear weapon decimating a city

· Bacon

· A 1978 Trans Am with fire coming out of the pipes

· Aragorn chopping off an Orc’s head

· A T-rex with Gatling guns for arms

· Batman

BACON!! Oh, my sides!

I recently noticed, with some amusement, a comment on a story about the Always boycott. It was from a man who says that he likes to use pads to mop up spills since they are so absorbent. Always: The Quicker Picker-Upper.

Let’s just go all out and have some fun…let’s call maxipads “supersoakers” and tampons “blood suckers” or something a bit more graphic and zingy while we’re at it.

But seriously, we shouldn’t be relying on these “period care products” in the first place, no matter how they are marketed.

The Environmental Waste of Menstrual Products is the Bigger Crisis Here

The bigger issue here is that ALL of these menstrual products, whether more “eco-friendly” like Seventh Generation, or synthetic, end up in landfills. Sure, Seventh Generation and Natracare use cardboard boxes for packaging instead of non-recyclable plastic* like Always does, but their pantiliners all end up in the same garbage bins.

(*Technically, Always has some odd recycling symbols on their package that make no sense — it first says the “plastic wrap” can be recycled with store drop-off but the “plastic wrapper” is not recyclable. Huh? Either way, the majority are throwing these plastic “wraps” away.)

The fact is, menstrual products are major sources of landfill waste: 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons yearly in the US alone. They are environmentally toxic to produce and make up literally mountains of trash. I’m frankly stymied at some efforts by progressives to stop “period inequity” by trying to get more of these toxic, wasteful products to women (err, people?) in need.

A commercial I saw for National Period Day was like some odd parody, with men and women with (fake) blood streaming out of their noses talking in hushed or outraged tones about what sounded like a period holocaust, in which the alternatives to commercial menstrual products were things like — gasp — toilet paper, cardboard, and even “trash”!

OK, let’s get real. Who hasn’t used toilet paper when you’re out on the town and realized that your period started inconveniently? I actually thought using cardboard (I’m assuming it’s the flexible kind) with perhaps some toilet paper over it wasn’t that bad of an idea: it’s eco-friendly recycling!

The whole reason we have the phrase “on the rag” is because that’s what women used for centuries — rags — and frankly, I think we should be going back to that more.

Making DIY “period care” solutions out to be some sort of medieval horror is bizarre to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping the poor, but shouldn’t we be helping them by giving them reusable menstrual products that will last for years? What big tampon companies are behind the sudden period hysteria? I want to know. Because this smells like big money to me.

It gets even worse.

Are There Toxic Chemicals in Your Pantiliner?

In reading about the Always brouhaha in various Internet forums, what truly alarmed me was the bigger issue with Always, and perhaps any and all synthetic maxipads, pantiliners, and tampons: They apparently contain toxins and chemicals that can “gas off” much like your new carpet does.

Granted, the toxins found in Always were in trace amounts — supposedly. I’m also guessing that most menstrual products may have similar amounts of trace chemicals, and maybe even the more “natural” ones.

However, a previous international boycott of Always was started in March due to substandard products being sold in Kenya that were allegedly causing rashes and maybe even chemical burns. So Always, in particular, may have some quality issues (in the least!). I do know that their pads seem like plastic. And whether they are toxic are not, they are definitely not eco-friendly.

Tampons are also an issue. I’m old enough to remember the toxic shock syndrome of the 80s. All of these “period care products” are terrible in one way or another.

I pretty much stopped using tampons years ago (in favor of menstrual cups), and I had also built up quite the “library” of reusable pads. But a recent move in with parents left my reusable pads in storage, and they can be expensive to replace. So, I actually had some Always in my bathroom cabinet when this story hit. The idea that they might have neurotoxins in them, when I happen to have neurological damage due to an illness…yikes!

OK, no more Always for me, Venus symbol or not. No more synthetic pads, period. I’m going back to reusables.

My homemade pantiliner, complete with snap. Lopsided, but it works!

I can sew, so I’m making my own.

So, whether you are outraged over references to women being removed from menstrual products, or even if you think it’s a great idea in the name of inclusivity, using alternatives to Always (and other mainstream menstrual product) brands is probably a good idea. It’s a good idea for your personal health and the health of the environment.

Some alternatives to check out include vertical reusable “cups” like the Diva Cap, reusable and disposable horizontal cups like the Intima Ziggy cup and Softdisc (formerly the Instead SoftCup), and reusable cloth pads. Note: the Softdisc isn’t reusable — technically. (Confession, I have washed and reused these many times, with no adverse effects.)

Now, I have no idea of any of these reusable cups have any sort of toxic residue on them, it’s possible. But they are definitely safer than tampons because they collect blood instead of soaking it up.

Quality organic cloth pads or “mama pads” are also a great option. Unfortunately, they are harder to get now in the US since the FDA passed a ridiculous regulation in 2014 labeling cloth menstrual pads as a medical device. This required cloth pad companies to pay outrageous fees of over $3,000 to sell cloth pads, putting a lot of small shops out of business.

If you are truly interested in stopping “period poverty” and/or sending big corporations like Always a message, I’d start with lobbying the FDA to remove that high-fee cloth pad requirement. (Note to any conservatives reading this: you now have a reason to join the reusable pad movement — too much regulation!)

Then, support small businesses that are creating reusable menstrual products that are much safer and more eco-friendly than standard menstrual products made by big corporations.

In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for Always: Special Monster Truck Edition. Eco-friendly or no, I might have to splurge on that one. (Just kidding.)

Stephanie Brail

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Mindful Life

Perspectives and information on spirituality, holistic health, mindfulness, and life in general.

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