To battle the stigmatization of periods and show her sons how to be good friends, mom Tara Epple Ahrens encourages them to carry pads and tampons for their peers.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 21, 2021.
Tara Epple Ahrens is battling gender roles and menstruation taboo. When she posted a photo online of her two teenage boys Elijah and Micah accompanying their younger sister and her back-to-school shopping for her daughter's first bra, people were shocked. Many believed that the mom had simply gone too far, while others expressed how they wish their moms had done the same. Ahrens took things one step further by sharing that she in fact provides her two boys with "emergency" pads and tampons so that their friends are never caught in a tough spot. In an article for CafeMom, she expressed why she believes her sons will be better men for taking an interest in what is usually relegated as "women's issues."
Let's all make conscious efforts to not make periods seem like such a taboo. The pain and discomfort it comes with is enough trouble for us to have to add feeling ashamed to it. We deserve peace. Ah ahn!— Hafeezah. (@i_am_feezah) January 16, 2021
She wrote the article following the uproar on social media about her parenting techniques; some people believed young boys did not need to learn about menstruation. Therefore, Ahrens wrote, "One thing is clear: Menstruation is still a major gender taboo that we have not let go of, but I’m doing my best to raise men who see past it." She shared what it was like to educate her sons about periods, explaining to them that "bleed-throughs happen" and "kindness and understanding from any person" can go a long way.
One day, I needed to get pads, so I went to the pharmacy with my male friend to get some. When I was trying to decide what brand and flow type to pick, he asked how they differed, and I explained to him in full detail. I even gave him the one I was holding to feel the texture.— Hafeezah. (@i_am_feezah) January 16, 2021
"I first started talking about this with them last year, after reading an article about a man on the Appalachian Trail who gave a tampon from his backpack to a woman who had bled through," she continued. "As I was driving in my car one day, I looked at my boys in the rearview mirror and nonchalantly told them that they should probably put a tampon in their backpacks in case any of their friends had an emergency. They seemed to think it over and didn’t say much, because teenagers." Although the two boys brushed it off at first, an incident at school showed them how they could be the person to help a menstruator in need.
At school, a girl had bled through her pants. She used pads and all the other menstruators only had tampons. Ahrens stated, "After that day, [Elijah] took it upon himself to make sure that he and Micah had pads in their backpacks, just in case." Since the incident, Micah has even told his girl friends that they could reach out to him if they ever needed a sweatshirt or a tampon, both of which he keeps handy at school. Meanwhile, Elijah told all his friends, boys and girls, the same. Ahrens suggested, "As you normalize these things in your own family by regularly discussing them, they become normal to your kids, too."
5. According to the @UN, ensuring access to sanitation facilities, dispelling myths around menstruation and introducing supportive labour laws can help end the taboo around periods. #MenstrualHygieneDay pic.twitter.com/FPul9eGALg— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 28, 2020
"It’s my hope that kids of all genders, including transgender kids, know that my boys are a safe place to get period supplies, should they ever need them," she affirmed. "But it is an even bigger hope of mine that these small actions change the way kids in our high school handle and view the whole subject."