Tag Archives: tampons

Menstruation as topic in South Africa

23 Mar

South Africa is a country of, as we like to brag, “rich diversity”. Without getting stuck in detail, let’s give you an idea.

This is not me. I found this picture by searching for "children South Africa". Thank you, random teacher-tourist girl, for taking a picture of yourself with these really cute girls!

We are culturally diverse. We have 11 official languages.  80% of our population are black African, but then we have “coloured” people (of mixed descent”), white people (European settlers who have been coming and staying since 1652), and people of Indian descent. As well as lots of smaller minorities.

Some are fabulously rich, some are desperately poor. Because of a centuries-old history of white government, many of the rich and the large middle class are white, while the poor are the non-black except for a growing number of exceptions.

Our constitution is liberal; our people… not always. According to surveys South Africans don’t generally support homosexuality or abortion or gender equality. Many are untolerant of other African nationals, Jews, and each other. But our non-discrimination rights are enshrined in the constitution and people have actually used these rights to win cases. And there has been a significant, growing and very vocal liberal constituency in the population since… well, since liberalism globally came into fashion after WWII.

So… menstruation as a topic? I guess our reactions would be as diverse as our people. My mother, an Afrikaner (the more conservative of the two white cultures), has been using tampons since the 1960s. She spoke to us about sex and menstruation and that seems to have been the norm for my white girl friends too. Is that cause we were upper middle class? Or because we were white? Or cause we were urban? My small-town best friend is more awkward about periods, suggesting the latter explanation.

Are black girls more squeamish because their groups are newer to this whole “liberal values for all” thing? I don’t know! I’ll check with my black housemates. Are coloured girls, who may be less or more traditional and have often grown up in conditions of moral decay and urban hardship, different?

I don’t know.

But I think it’s time someone found out.