Chris Crowder: On masculinity and tampons

Sunday, January 24, 2016 - 11:49am

When my girlfriend asked me the hypothetical question of whether I would buy tampons for her if she needed me to, my initial response was, “I would, but ask multiple people, like girls, first. If they say no, I will.”

What I should’ve said, and what I say now is, “Yes, just like anything else you may need, I would be happy to do that for you.”

I used to place an imaginary asterisk around buying feminine products because it was such a foreign concept to me. Imagining myself being uncomfortable or embarrassed in the scenario revealed that this initial response to my girlfriend’s question was, on some level, immature. When I first thought about it, I envisioned a scene in my head where my lanky, 5’10” frame sheepishly steps forward to the counter with something stereotypically masculine like a hammer and the “obvious” box of tampons (and a bag of gummy bears, because they’re delicious). Suddenly, a female acquaintance from one of my classes appears and snickers; the male cashier says some joke that warrants a sarcastic, “You got me there!”

But I walk out of the Walgreens alive. With the box of tampons, hammer and gummy bears concealed in a plastic bag, I’m proud that I put my nervousness aside and helped my girlfriend out. The fact that I could do something for her trumped my embarrassment that turned out to be unwarranted.

When she told me, “If you needed something like that, I would definitely do it for you,” that snapped me back to reality. I shouldn’t want someone else to do something that I should be comfortable doing myself. From that point on, I wanted it to be me. I wanted to be an admirable man. Yes, a man.

Some men, when facing the thought of buying tampons for their significant other or seeing others do it in public or on social media, claim these men are “whipped.” They deem that the man has lost his “man card,” his balls or his dignity. I myself never viewed buying tampons as being “whipped,” but I could imagine some guy friends or people I’ve never met claiming it was. I would frantically attempt to defend myself, but would probably dig myself into my own hole of put-downs as I tripped over my tongue.

Do you want to know the thing that takes actual balls, my misogynistic teasers? Putting your damn ego aside and realizing that tampons are normal. Yes, news flash, women use tampons. You didn’t hear? They just invented them! They’re not some alien concept. Buying them isn’t like you’re buying a used toothbrush or a Shake Weight. This is a necessity for a biological human function. It’s not weird. And if you buy them for your girlfriend, you’re completing a much-appreciated task in the process.

This extends to other things outside of buying tampons. People use the word “whipped” to describe situations besides just buying something, doing your significant other a favor or simply being kind. “Whipped” can be used more negatively in situations where you’re being controlled or are never able to do what you want to do — and that could be something to gripe about. But calling someone “whipped” reflects negatively on everyone involved. It implies that one side of the relationship is controlling and overbearing while the other is a pushover or submissive.

But the fact is that the one using the term has no clue, and frankly, no business knowing, how the relationship works. They usually just aren’t seeing the whole picture.

Being in a relationship, whether it be romantic or platonic, involves doing things you may not be ecstatic about. And you do these things not only because the person you’re involved in this scenario with wants you to, but also because making them happy makes you happy.

I strive to be there for my girlfriend and everyone I know. I feel a knot in my chest if for some reason I am unable to do something I am asked to do. That’s why I felt horrible when this question came up and I didn’t respond in a way that represented myself, how I wanted to be perceived or that reflected my heart.

So now I envision myself walking into the Walgreens, head high with no sign of chagrin. My knees are a little weak and my palms sweaty, but I am calm and ready. I am a man. Men can do this. I confidently grab a box of tampons and a bag of gummy bears, posture to perfection, and slam the items on the counter.

The cashier says, “Your total is $9.39.”

Chris Crowder can be reached at ccrowd@umich.edu