American based artist Cass Clemmer first brought her character “Toni the Tampon” to life on Instagram, with adventures outside the wrapper.
Complete with googly eyes and a range of feminine hygiene friends, Toni’s experiences have been turned into a colouring book, The Adventures of Toni the Tampon.
Clemmer has documented Toni’s adventures and illustrated the book as a way to normalise menstruation after she had a tricky start with periods.
“I didn’t know what a uterus was, and I didn’t know where this blood was even coming from or why,” Clemmer told Mashable.
“The only thing I was taught was how to clean it up so the world didn’t see it — and then I was sent on my way to figure the rest out myself.”
The artist, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says she went from hiding tampons up her sleeve to photographing them for in public.
Siobhan Komander, founder of organic tampon subscription business Liverpool St, says the book is an opportunity for people to have more open discussions around periods.
Even amid the industry she says there is a need to break down the stigma around periods.
“We still have a cultural taboo around the discussion. Particularly when we have the discussion with our men. I think we need to be more open about it – it’s a natural human function,” said Komander.
“Even at 42-years-old I have a conversation with some people and they get giggly.”
Amazon has a series of great reviews for the book.
One customer said: “This book is a cute way to introduce menstrual products and what they look like to kids. To be clear, the only words in this colouring book are the names of the characters, like Patrice the Pad. Anything else a parent wants to teach their child about menstruation or human reproduction is completely up to them.”
Another said: “This is a great way to introduce young kids to body-positive messages about menstruation.
“A wonderful way to make light of a normal, crucial-for-the survival-of-mankind monthly situation that has often been stigmatised and taboo to discuss. Instructional and educational, too. For parents, this is a wonderful tool to make it easier for you to empower your little ones with an inclusive narrative.”
Sydney-based Komander says there is still a “cultural shame” around talking about menstruation.
“I work in an all-female office and it’s interesting to me that, even as women, if you say I’ve got my period I feel like crap today there’s still stigma around it.”
But she says the characters in Clemmer’s book are breaking down stereotypes.
“I think it could open the conversation,” said Komander.
“If we visibly see tampons and even in the industry the more we talk about it, the less controversial it’s going to be.”
The book also has a gender-neutral approach and includes genderqueer and transgender characters, which has had some harsh critique.
“I’d rather help just one genderqueer or trans menstruator feel like they were seen, than sell a thousand copies only to reinforce the boundaries society draws by gendering periods in the first place,” Clemmer told Mashable.
Podcast: A man has invented a solution to women’s periods.