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Image / Editorial

A form of protest: a book containing tampons is selling by the thousands


by Jennifer McShane
27th Jun 2019
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A new ‘Tampon Book’ – a protest against Germany’s 19% tax on tampons as “luxury goods” is flying off the shelves. But is it simply for the greater good or still a little strange that such a book about women’s normal bodily functions should be garnering such attention?


I understand the purpose of Germany’s Tampon Book. It was made to both inform and protest. Made by German startup the Female Company, readers will be able to judge the book more than by its cover – within it are 15 tampons.

It’s selling by the thousands. Around 10,000 copies have been sold to date which equates to 150,000 tampons.

A form of protest

The Tampon Book is a protest against Germany’s 19% tax on tampons as “luxury goods” – and a way of getting around it, according to The Guardian.

Books are taxed at 7% in Germany, and so the founders of the Female Company, which sells organic sanitary products, decided to publish one and include tampons inside it.

Founder Ann-Sophie Claus said she and her team came up with the idea for The Tampon Book after working for more than a year to raise awareness of the tampon tax – this is where tampons and other necessary feminine hygiene products are subject to value-added tax – appealing to Government to reduce the levy.

The German finance minister, Olaf Scholz, according to Claus, said he did want to reduce the tax because he cannot ensure that companies will pass on the tax reduction to consumers, but she says the release of the book has proved otherwise.

Priced at just €3.11 demonstrates that the company “will pass on the tax reduction to our customers.”

The book also features stories about menstruation from biblical times to the current era and Claus says hopefully helps to end the stigma that can surround women and their periods.

Claus says, “the history of menstruation has been full of rumours and suppression,” but the release of the book demonstrates a change in the modern era.

But how big a change?

A problematic stigma

The fact that a book selling tampons should cause such a stir is problematic in itself – it’s a sign that periods – and even having to use this method to protest a valid cause – still haven’t been entirely normalised.

Related: This is why you need to open your eyes to Ireland’s period poverty problem

We know there’s still shame and stigma attached when openly talking about them. That the tampons were sold in a book is also pointed; its accompanying products neatly packaged away from public eyes. Sure it made sense to sell them this way, alongside helpful text and illustrations. But one has to wonder if there would have been so many sold if they were packaged in such a way that they were more visible to the consumer.

Related: This eco-friendly tampon brand is helping to fight period poverty in Ireland

Recent figures from a survey carried out by Plan International tellingly  revealed the shame and stigma which still exists; nearly 60%, or one in two, of young women and girls, said school does not inform them adequately about periods, six out of ten young women reported feeling shame and embarrassment about their period, and more than 80 per cent said they did not feel comfortable talking about their periods with their father or a teacher.

“We’re not talking about it”

Chair and founder of the Oireachtas Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Deputy TD Catherine Martin, who spearheaded Ireland’s campaign to #EndPeriodPoverty said this is telling in itself in 2019.

“I could sense that, even when I was talking about it to some women, that there was a sense of uncomfortableness; this hush or taboo feeling and I’d think, how? How are we still so uncomfortable with this most natural of states for a woman? It’s the same as pregnancy. It’s because we’re not talking about it – we need to be speaking about it more openly.”

And perhaps seeing the products we use when we have our periods marketed in different ways.

Related: ‘The shame and stigma around periods has to end’

“If you look back at Dáil records alone in this country, the word ‘menstruation’ was only used 27 times in 100 years and usually in the context of fertility and rarely in the context of health and wellbeing.”

And a part of normalising that conversation means continuing to speak openly about our periods – long after you’ve finished the book.

Main photograph: Unsplash


Read more:

Related: World first: Scotland to offer free sanitary products to all students

Related: One tampon takes longer to degrade than the average woman’s lifespan… here.

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