By Gözde Güler
When I was 14 years old, I saw how a German girl went swimming despite having her period. I asked her how this was possible, and she told me that if you used a tampon, you just could. I asked what a tampon was, and she showed me. It was a longish thing with a strand at the end, and she explained you had to push it into your vagina. Vagina? Push? My first thought was, “What is that going to do with my virginity?” However, it was the only way to go swimming, and I loved to swim in the sea. I asked my mom if it was okay to use one, and her reaction was clear. “Vagina? Push? No, you must stay a virgin!” But why was it so important to stay a virgin? I knew that I had to be one, but I did not understand why. “If you are not a virgin, you will never marry,” she said. “But you said that I should have a career,” I told her. She countered that only an educated woman would find an educated man. So, everything, even my right to go swimming with a tampon, depended on my future husband. This guy of whom we had no idea who he might turn out to be. Actually, she swapped my rights regarding my own body into a ‘no-body’, just so I would stay a virgin.
All this happened to a girl born and raised in Germany (okay, within the Turkish community). While at university in Turkey, I asked some students whether they knew about tampons. They didn’t. On TV, advertising sanitary pads is permitted but not tampons. This is because they are associated with losing your virginity. It’s a symbol of a lifestyle that goes against the traditional Turkish norms. If you use a tampon and your mom sees it, she knows that you are not a virgin, which is considered worse than any crime. Strangely enough, it is associated with dirty behavior, despite being a hygienic product.
Two years later, when I was at the seaside for a week-long holiday, I got my period again. I said, “Okay, now or next year, use it for f* sake! Take a tampon!!” So, I did! It was so comfortable, and I had fun swimming to my heart’s delight. Nothing happened, I did not have any pain or feel dirty. Actually, it was so comfortable that from that moment on, I have been a tampon user. I rebelled with my tampon, I did it! Although I have my period, now I can swim because I use a tampon. No, I don’t care about my virginity or about my future husband. At supermarkets, I never hide my tampons when I see a Turkish woman. Look, I don’t care about those who will not marry me because I use tampons, and I never understood why other women care about my vagina. If a woman thinks like that, what do you expect from men? Why do you give so much power to someone you don’t know?
We, as women, should fight against moms who do not permit their daughters to use tampons. We should fight because education is a fundamental right, and knowing your own vagina is education. Mothers should support tampons and not hide them from their daughters. They shouldn’t judge their daughters because they want to swim. Tampons are a symbol of a lifestyle that goes against the male dominated society in many oriental cultures. It says much about your role as a woman or a girl in such a society. It says something about your “untouchable” parts, which are only considered touchable by your future husband. Don’t hide your tampon! Show who you are. Show that you love and know your body. At least you know it’s your own body and not an instrument to be used by someone else.