Breaking News: Men Discover Tampons Can Absorb Blood

Disposable menstrual products, DIY, Men

Photo by henteaser // CC 2.0

Last week at The Art of Manliness, a contributor wrote a post about numerous possible wilderness survival uses of tampons. The post was picked up by the popular site, Boing Boing, and the commenters in both sites added more uses, as well uses for disposable maxi pads (although some contributors seem uncertain of the difference). Many creative uses for disposable femcare products were suggested, and while I can’t personally vouch for (or against) any of them, I offer this post as Public Service Announcement to correct some of the misinformation about tampons and pads that those uses presume.

The use of an opened tampon or a maxi pad for a bandage probably seems obvious to re:Cycling readers, as many are familiar with the history of Kotex, developed when World War I nurses discovered that the cotton cellulose they were using on wounded soldiers was highly absorbent. (The phrase ko-tex stands for cotton texture.) But as a few sharp readers of The Art of Manliness are aware, it has been decades since maxi-pads or tampons of any brand were made of cotton (except, obviously, the all-cotton types sold in health food stores). Pads are made from mostly from wood cellulose fibers, with plastic outer layers made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Some of the newer, improved maxi-pads feature synthetic gels designed to draw blood away from the body — not exactly a feature you’d want in a bandage, when you’re trying to stanch the flow of blood and promote clotting. If you’re bleeding heavily, you’re probably better off tearing off your t-shirt and pressing it against the wound. Tampons are also made of wood cellulose, often with a core of viscose fiber. Viscose fiber is rayon, created by treating cellulose with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide.

And although most brands are individually wrapped these days, neither tampons nor pads are sterile. Nor are they produced in sterile conditions. I’d be very leery of using a tampon as a water filter. Surely there are safer, equally portable, emergency filters one could pack in a wilderness survival kit.

Many of the other emergency uses of tampons involved using the fluffy wood pulp as kindling, or otherwise setting them on fire. Now there’s a use I can get behind!

Kotex Tampons Recalled Due to Bacterial Contamination

Disposable menstrual products, FemCare


If you’ve got Kotex tampons at home, check your boxes: Kimberly-Clark, Kotex’s parent company, has recalled the brand’s Natural Balance Security Unscented Tampons (Regular Absorbency) in both the 18- and 36-count boxes, reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The recalled tampons were sold at select Walmart stores in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas; select Fry’s stores in Arizona; and select Smith’s stores in Utah and Arizona.

During the manufacturing process, the tampons were contaminated with the bacterium Enterobacter sakazakii, which can cause UTIs, pelvic inflammatory disease, and potentially life-threatening vaginal infections. There is also a chance that the bacteria can be transmitted between individuals.

Consumers should stop using the tampons immediately and contact a physician if you have used them, or if you experience unusual vaginal discharge, rash, fever, headache, vomiting or abdominal pain, particularly if you have AIDS, are HIV-positive, are pregnant or have cancer or any other existing serious illness.

Consumers should also contact Kimberly-Clark’s Consumer Services Division at 1-800-335-6839 so the necessary information and arrangements can be made to retrieve the unused product.

A full list of products is available at the original post.

Culture-Jamming Kotex

Activism, Advertising, DIY, FemCare, Humor


If you’ve been with us for a while, you might remember that we (and our fabulous readers) had a lot to say in the spring of 2010 when Kotex launched U by Kotex (or YOU.BUY.KOTEX, as we came to call it) and its “Break the Cycle” campaign.

In digging up a copy of the “Reality Check” video that launched the campaign for one of my classes this week, I came across this critique of “Reality Check” by an activist/artist identified online only as Annamalprint. She’s a menstrual activist after our own bleedin’ hearts!

The campaign has won many advertising industry awards, and has been credited with increasing Kotex sales by 10%, by the way. We can expect those neon tampons to be around for a while.

The Two Voices of Kotex

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, Menstruation

This Kotex advertisement appeared in the September, 2011, issue of Ebony magazine.

Slip on stilettos and zip up those skinny jeans. Because there’s nothing so comfortable to a menstruating woman as skin-tight pants, right? At least they’re not white pants.

It is interesting that for one line of products, Kotex is mocking the usual tropes of femcare ads, while deploying those very same clichés for their other line.


Tampon Wars

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, Media, New Research

Remember back in February when I made fun of Tampax for explicitly comparing their Tampax Pearl to U by Kotex in their newest print ads? Such direct comparison to the competitor’s product is not a trendy marketing strategy; it hearkens back to the days when Darrin Stephens was a copywriter. (You young-uns can look up that reference.)

I wasn’t the only one who noticed: a recent article in Ad Age says the “30% better protection” strategy has not been used in femcare marketing since Rely tampons were withdrawn from the market in 1980. Not coincidentally, that was the last time Tampax picked up significant market share — a lot of those former Rely users switched to Tampax (Tampax was not owned by P&G at the time, but Rely was).

With the U by Kotex brand apparently winning new customers as well as winning others away from Tampax, how successful will “30% better protection” be as a persuasive strategy? Jack Neff (author of the Ad Age piece) points out that it’s pretty challenging “in a category where absorbency has been tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the wake of the Rely withdrawal.”

Shed the Shame

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, magazines, Media

Kotex still wants us to “break the cycle“. But every time I see these ads, I think of Chella Quint‘s message to Kotex: We’re only gonna stop feeling the shame when we take ownership of our periods. And we’re taking it back from you, dude. So you can’t reclaim our periods for us. You’re some of the people we’re reclaiming them from. Got it?


Advertising Wars: Tampax vs. Kotex

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, magazines, Menstruation

It looks like Kotex is winning. Explicit comparison to the competitor’s product is an advertising strategy of 30-40 years ago. Under the new rules, the competitor’s product doesn’t even exist, and certainly isn’t deserving of mention in a promotion for your own.


This ad for Tampax appeared in the March, 2011, issue of Marie Claire

Cheerleader: “P-E-R-I-O-D”

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products

Last spring, Kotex introduced U by Kotex, a.k.a. You Buy Kotex, small tampons with bright neon applicators and a forward-thinking “Break the Cycle” advertising campaign announcing that Tampon Ads Are Ridiculous. Apparently tampon ads are STILL ridiculous. Here’s the new installment, developed by New York ad agency Ogilvy: