We’ve had a couple of productive discussions recently here at re:Cycling about men and menstrual humor, so it seems a good time to introduce Vinnie D’Angelo, creator of Vinnie’s Tampon Case. Therese Shecter has graciously shared this clip from her thought-provoking film, I Was A Teenage Feminist.
I’ve written about Vinnie and the role of men in menstrual activism before, in the “Menstrual Counterculture” chapter of my book, Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation. Here is a brief excerpt from that chapter:
According to interviews, D’Angelo’s motivation in developing his tampon cases was to help out his female friends. He would see them fishing in purses or backpacks for a tampon and retrieve “a mangled applicator and a lump of cotton with old gum stuck to the string” (quoted in Raappana). He also liked the idea of changing attitudes toward menstruation. . . . Interviews with D’Angelo reveal a feminist sensibility that extends beyond providing menstrual support.
I confess to some ambivalence here: I am uncertain what men’s role should be in celebrating menstruation. I appreciate [Harry] Finley’s genuine curiosity, and I admire D’Angelo’s feminist approach and his lack of squeamishness. I’m glad to see men talking about menstruation and not insisting that it remain hidden. I like D’Angelo’s playful, accepting attitude toward menstruation, but at the same time I find the fact that he has built a cottage industry of it vaguely exploitive. No one is harmed by his products, of course, but it is more than a little ironic that someone who doesn’t menstruate launched this successful line of whimsical, self-conscious menstrual products. On the other hand, perhaps D’Angelo’s masculinity adds a social legitimacy (as well as a humorous novelty element, as he has noted in interviews) that a woman’s name would not carry in the current cultural climate. And he’s great with the clever slogans: He owns the domain name knowyourflow.com, and recent ads for his tampon case say, “Don’t let your period cramp your style.”
What do you think, re:Cycling readers? How do you feel about the fact that two of the most visible examples of menstrual activism in the U.S., Vinnie’s Tampon Case and Harry Finley’s Museum of Menstruation, are created and promoted by nonmenstruators? Does it matter if these ventures are commercially successful? (Just for the record, Finley has received no financial benefit – only internet notoriety – from the Museum of Menstruation. Since introducing his eponymous tampon case in the late 1990s, D’Angelo has also developed Vinnie’s Giant Roller Coaster Period Chart and Sticker Book, and Vinnie’s Cramp Relieving Bubble Bath, which is also available packaged with Vinnie’s Soothing Bubble Beats CD of “music to menstruate by”. I do not know how profitable these products are for him.)