Free the Tampons!


Free the Tampons

In college, I declared that women should receive monetary compensation from the government for having to endure periods. My roommate thought I had a worthwhile theory, but most of our friends declared the plan nuts. Having your period is a privilege, they argued, part of the great plan of womanhood.

I wondered then and continue to wonder today, why the miraculous plan of life has to include periods, especially periods that can be painful for some and inconvenient for all. But periods are a big part of the plan, and tampons and pads are a necessity for most women for about forty years. I haven’t forgotten the inconvenience of running out of tampons. Hiding them in my shopping cart. Sighing at their steep price.

Free the Tampons is an organization fighting to make tampons available in all restrooms. Check out their website here. 

Roll Your Own

And watch this TED Talk by advocate Nancy Kramer.

No doubt this concept will not make businesses happy. Tampons are expensive.

This brings up another issue. Taxing tampons and pads. Check out this article on the Time Network reporting that all but five states tax tampons. The movement is growing in the U.S. and worldwide to remove tax on tampons and pads. Read about it here and here.

Maybe, oh so long ago, arguing in my dorm room, I was onto something. Periods are not easy to deal with. We need all the help we can get. As menopausal women, let’s endorse the movement in support of our younger sisters. Free the tampons!


The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Bathrooms in the Developing World


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A guest post by my friend Gwen Bellinger:

Two weeks after obtaining my master’s degree, I spontaneously found myself on a month-long backpacking trip across Indonesia with my friend from New Zealand. These bathroom doors feature “His and Her” small masks at Goa Gojah, from the Island of Bali, Indonesia.


The door below comes from Ngurah Rai International Airport on the Island of Bali.


After a month in Indonesia, a pit stop in Australia, and two weeks back in the United States to wait for a visa, I flew to India for a job working for the Haryana government project for government-run schools. You can read more about my work in India here.

Anyone who has traveled outside of the Western world knows that bathroom “norms” take all kinds of shapes, sizes, (and smells) around the world. I’ve seen all sorts of bathrooms since arriving in India four months ago.

Some bathrooms are quite upscale and conventional according to Western norms such as this bathroom at Satva Restaurant and lounge in Chandigarh, India.


Or the bathrooms behind these painted doors at Pashtun, one of the oldest restaurants in the city.



Some bathrooms are decent but nothing special. I did appreciate the artistic playing cards for door markers on the one below. This was spotted at the Gymkhana Club in Panchkula, India


Other bathrooms have been just downright terrifying like this toilet in the Sector 8 Panchkula market. It was locked, but I did appreciate the little pencil drawing of a woman on the outside wall.


Here’s a good example of some of the things one needs to get used to in India: used pads on the ground of a very wet and dirty public restroom in Chandigarh. The next stall was streaked with blood.


The ladies rooms in Shiksha Sadan, the government office where I work in Panchkula, are perfectly sanitary although a bit sparse.


The deadbolt on the outside makes me quite nervous. My colleague is in fear she will be locked inside one night while working late.

Another She

There are things one must get used to, of course, including the necessity of sometimes using squat toilets (fortunately, the government offices have both these and Western toilets) and the absence of toilet paper in most establishments (unfortunately, none is provided in the government offices, but I have a few rolls stored in my desk).


In India, water is considered to be the most hygienic means of cleaning oneself after using the bathroom. From what I understand, you turn on the faucet to get fresh water from the tap and then wash yourself using your hand. The water runs into the bucket that you can use to “flush” the toilet by dumping it down the hole and cleaning the basin in the process. Often western toilets also have a little hose you can use to clean yourself off.

In this sense, there isn’t a problem with germs. Actually I think a lot of people think it is more hygienic to use water. However, I still haven’t figured out how you “dry” yourself after all this.

 In villages though, I could see a potential for problems if there isn’t running water and people are using one pot of water for cleaning. But I don’t have much experience with this and shouldn’t comment.

A quick google search produces a plethora of articles about cultural “anal cleaning” and theories for why water is preferred in India and the Middle East over the West. (One suggests that paper is used in Europe since Europe’s temperature often drops below freezing, meaning access to water wasn’t always possible as it is in India. Being a good Master’s student who hasn’t found any scholarly articles on the subject matter, I can’t endorse the idea with any certainty, though the hypothesis is certainly interesting!)

I rarely know when toilet paper is going to be provided. (It is at my gym, the mall, and most night clubs). An intelligent person would carry a pack of tissues with them everywhere, which I did when I lived in the Middle East last summer. However, I’ve gotten lazy here since I spend most of my time at work. That being said, I have been in a pinch a few times now. None of my Indian friends seem to believe in paper over water. I’ve had more than a few disappointing moments when going to friends’ houses and getting stuck the whole night with just a bucket of water and my sense of adventure.

Part of my job is to visit government schools mostly populated with the poorest kids in the state. It was only in 2011 that a national law established that all these schools must have separated bathrooms for girls and boys. Here is the bathroom of a secondary school in rural Ambala. (Note the sinks on the left.)

Girl's Toilet

This is the toilet for a school in Kundi (part of Panchkula). The school has about 300 children. There are two of these.


Here are some primary students in class.


These secondary students are taking a yoga class.

Yoga Class

In conclusion, the bathrooms in India are part of the experience. It would be easy to categorize them all as “less than sanitary” (many Westerners have). However, having traveled around the world and after living in a few developing countries, I think it’s more important to realize that our sense of cleanliness and hygiene is mostly a privilege, and in some cases, strictly cultural. Many people actually prefer the squat toilet and water, and perhaps find them more sanitary than our Western bathroom practices.

Gwendolyn Bellinger graduated in June ’15 from the University of Chicago, after studying Arabic, Islamic finance, and Gulf aviation. She currently works in Panchkula, India, on a project to increase the quality of public education in the state of Haryana. In her spare time, she enjoys gallivanting around the world with just a backpack; trying to learn new languages; and pursuing her hobbies of reading, writing, photography, and videography. Gwen is the daughter of my good friend and faithful blog reader, Susan Bellinger.

Check out Gwen’s fascinating travel blog, Gwen Goes Global.

Learn more about the work she is doing on the team website, Qip Haryana.



Grandma Update: Clap, Eleanor!




Whenever I watched preschoolers perform, my praise went to the whipper snapper little kids who sung ever note. The children who knew all the words. Those kids who kept the program afloat by doing everything they learned in rehearsal. They were obviously the smartest. The leaders of tomorrow. The clever ones.

My grandson Mazen, despite many rehearsals, did not sing ONE single note in his preschool holiday program. Not one word. I know because I watched the video three times.

Instead, Maze waved to the audience and beamed broadly during each round of applause. You can hear him shout, “Clap, Eleanor!” to his friend. Maze loved being on stage.

So of course, loyal grandma that I am, I have changed my tune about little kids who don’t sing a note. Those kids are clever, too. They’re making the program into their own moment. They’re defining just how they want the show to go for them.

And perhaps there’s a larger lesson for me and you. It’s okay not to do exactly as you are told. Great joy comes from relishing an event in your own way, right Maze?


(I must add that Maze did a fine job pulling Santa’s paper box sleigh and adding a flannel board piece to the nativity story.)

Bladder Leakage and a Confitex Giveaway!


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A post and a giveaway offer from Confitex, creators of fashion underwear for bladder leakage: 

Have you had kids? Are you currently going through menopause? Do you want a functional and beautiful underwear solution that protects you for those ‘just in case’ moments?

1 in 3 women worldwide at some point in their lives need a little extra protection down there to avoid those awkward moments.

Bladder leakage is a far more common issue than most people might expect, and is still one that many people are too embarrassed to talk about or seek help for. But don’t worry, because you’re not alone! During menopause your levels of estrogen change, which can result in decreased pelvic floor strength. But the good news is that there are lots of options available for treatment, and now you even have an underwear choice that doesn’t stop you from living your life – and no one would ever know the difference.

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Confitex is all about designing beautiful highly functional underwear so you can go on living life just the way you want. The underwear is reusable, washable, and environmentally friendly. And the best part about it? They look and feel just like regular underwear, because no one wants to feel like they’re wearing a diaper! Our underwear features our revolutionary 3 layer technology, which rapidly takes moisture away from the body, and absorbs it whilst being waterproof and breathable.  We’ve developed these products for people who love style and design and who refuse to let their badly behaving bladder hold them back.

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Just to prove that incontinence products don’t have to be bulky, disposable, unsightly and uncomfortable we, in a world first, showed our underwear collection at New Zealand Fashion Week. Some said the runway was no place for our underwear, but we proved them wrong. Our Hi-Life collection featured sumptuous silks, beautiful lace, and even an absorbent G-String.

If you are experiencing bladder leakage it is also very important to make sure you get proper treatment, so that you don’t suffer needlessly. There are several things you can do to improve the problem. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, see a pelvic floor physical therapist and get them to draw up a pelvic floor exercise programme for you, and if the problem persists see a urogynecologist. Don’t take incontinence lying down – you have a right to live your life without limits, and enjoy all the adventures life has to offer without worrying about where the closest toilet is!

To see the range of Confitex products and to shop the products go to

Watch Confitex modeled live in this video:


Giveaway! Confitex is offering two pairs of underwear to TWO Friend for the Ride winners. To enter, please leave  a comment here or email me by February 1, 2016.  You’ll get a code that will enable you to select your style and size. Thanks, Confitex!