Way back in 2008 Gwen wrote a great post using data showing the ways in which social context influences average age of menstruation. The average age is, it turns out, different across countries, across different groups within countries, and has been changing throughout history. In the U.S., it has been dropping and the average age (note: average, not earliest) is now about 12-years-old.
In response, Kotex has now introduced a website and a line of pads and panty liners for girls 8-years-old and up. Leigh, from Wherapy, sent us a link.
Meant to appeal to tweens, the product is packaged with bright colors, stars, and hearts. It’s decidedly cute and girly:
And also a bit smaller than “regular” products:
I’m not exactly sure what to make of the whole thing. The age of menarche (first menstruation) is going down. And girls need (as we called it in my family) “personal products.” And I’ll give it to Kotex that tweenifying the products with sparkles, stars, and hearts doesn’t just sell them, but may help girls feel better about getting their periods (on the assumption that some have mixed or negative feelings about it).
All that said. This is a fascinating moment in U.S. history reflecting, simultaneously, capitalism, the social construction of youth, and the circular relationship between biology and society.
Via Jezebel.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Jem — April 26, 2011
I started my periods at ten and would've loved a product like this, would've made it a lot less scary. I'm glad society is recognising that you don't have to be 16 for menarche.
Jennifer — April 26, 2011
Oh my god they look like diapers.
LibrariNerd — April 26, 2011
I'm completely OK with this. I was 11 and I was emphatically not ready to be a woman... but suddenly every month I had to deal with the hideous giant puffy pads my mom bought for me and her to share. I really just wanted to stay a kid... It would have helped to at least use *different* products than my mom!
Emily — April 26, 2011
On one hand, the idea of menstruation products specifically for tweens makes sense to me (on the basis of size, but also because I think it's a fair assumption that sparkles, etc. might make a new period - which is stigmatized in some ways and can be scary - more "fun"). On the other hand, I had the same reaction as Jennifer. They do look like diapers and I wonder if that would increase the stigma for kids, especially vis-a-vis the use of pull-ups for kids who wet the bed.
April — April 26, 2011
I didn't get my period until I was 15, and I *still* would have loved these.
There are many companies that make reusable cotton pads, and all of them offer the pads in all kinds of fun print fabrics. (Just one example: http://amysragbag.com/) So the appeal of fun pads doesn't end just because you get older.
My period isn't a disease and I admit I like pads that don't look like bandages.
I'm not a huge fan of disposable pads, but I think these are kinda genius. I'm surprised no one thought of it before.
Lola — April 26, 2011
I think it's a great idea (I'm thinking of buying these for myself, actually...)
Starting my period at 11 when I was still in elementary school, pushed into the world of womanhood when I was beyond not ready, really affected me. It pushed me further into trying to remain a child in every respect (I recall watching Sesame Street, and wearing my hair in pigtails to counteract "becoming a woman").
If there was a product out there that let me know that this "situation" was for kids(!), and not that I was now expected to "be a woman," I think I would have handled it a lot better.
Leslie — April 26, 2011
This brings back bad memories of the scented pink plastic-wrapped pads I wore when I first started my period. And my mom saying all my friends would guess why it was that I couldn't play in the sprinkler on the trampoline with them unless I stopped crying and figured out how to put in a tampon. (My mom = queen of tough love.) Do they make smaller, less scary tampons for little girls yet? Or better yet, smaller menstrual cups?
K — April 26, 2011
I really like the concept of this - making menstrual products less intimidating for young girls who need to use them. I think it's important in a situation where a girl might start her period at 9 years old to be acknowledged and to have a product specifically tailored to her.
The minor gripe I have is that it comes in one design (so far, anyways): pink, sparkly, with hearts and stars. This contributes to the gendering of girls as it relates to "feminine, pink" objects. What about a "tomboy" girl who isn't into the princess, fairy, etc part of the spectrum of girlhood? In order to break down gendered stereotypes, especially at this impressionable age, it's important to present girls with other options.
However, like I stated, that's just a minor issue I have with it, and just another interesting way to view this product in terms of gendered construction. Overall, I think the product is a good idea and will have more positive than negative effects on young girls who choose to use it.
Syd — April 26, 2011
I got my period at the "average" age, and I think this is a good idea. The only complaint I could possibly see is that they're stereotypically feminine in pattern (which wouldn't put off an adult or teen, but might for an 8 year old), but I can't see how their existence and 'tweenifying' it is even remotely an issue. I would have liked them when I first started my period (I might like them NOW, honestly) because at 12 and 13, I was not remotely adult-sized, so pads were always uncomfortable (and they still are today, though I prefer tampons). And the bland packaging annoyed me, because my options were 'pale blue,' 'pale yellow,' and 'pale pink,' none of which I thought was nice at that age. Plus, at the time, bright colors as opposed to pastels were popular for tween girls clothes, backpacks, and accessories, so having a big pastel yellow monstrosity peeking out of your purse is pretty blatant
m — April 26, 2011
What bothers me though, is how small the diffrence in design is from the regular pads. Not only are almost half of the populations generalized into the same concept, but I think it's also a good illustration of the blurring of the line between adult women and children.
Jenn — April 26, 2011
Kotex is also sponsoring some really good informative sites, containing articles for both girls and their mothers, about how to talk about what's going on. Although they may be competing with other brands for the tween market, they certainly aren't trying to sell an un-needed or inappropriate product to girls. I don't have any problems with this product line, and I think Kotex is doing an excellent job.
K — April 26, 2011
My only fuss is the lack of tween tampon -- I grieve for the girls whose parents were crazy enough to restrict tampon use; I can't imagine. The site says "Your tween has unique period needs. Which products are right for her? Find out here," and then just offers pads; if she's young, a tampon isn't even up for consideration.
I am baffled by the "they’re best for when: you’ve had periods for awhile and you’re ready to try tampons" on the "Choosing Between Pads, Tampons and Liners" page; I really doubt I was the only girl who looked at pads, thought 'Not a chance,' read the leaflet in the Tampax booklet and went for it? Hrm.
Apparently discontinued "Tampax Teen" box has a review noting the need for wee tampons http://www.amazon.com/Tampax-Satin-Tampons-Multipax-tampons/dp/B0000VCZ7A
Mint — April 26, 2011
I am 31 and the idea of a "narrower" pad makes me very happy, as I am a small lady and I've always wished someone would make one that was more narrow. I may be older than a tween, but I'm going to try these :P
Suedohnim — April 26, 2011
I am so glad you posted about these. Everytime I see the commercials I think, "who would want to announce that they are having their period? These products are discreet for a reason!" I missed the entire sociological framework. Why should women have to be discreet about their menstrual cycle? Thinking it was a dirty and scary thing made me wait months before telling my mom that I had started. I just started using her supplies - very very incorrectly as it turned out. So, I have done a 180. I love these products!
Uly — April 26, 2011
They are very similar in style to some of my cloth pads. It's fun (believe it or not) and cheering to think that you have a cute pad on.
Julie — April 26, 2011
I got my period at an "average" age (12). My mom gave me a bunch of "teen size" products because, she told me, I probably wouldn't need something too absorbent. While the "teen size" tampons were good for reasons other than absorbency, I felt like something was wrong with me because I had quite heavy periods from the start and was going through the "teen size" products every hour. But I was embarrassed to ask for adult sizes and it took a while for me to finally find super absorbency products and realize I didn't have to be running to the restroom halfway through each class period. All that to say, I love that these products lighten the mood of young girls' periods, in some way, but it's not always a given that a smaller size body will be getting a lighter period.
Tween Market | "Buy the Way…" Insights on Integrated Marketing Communication — April 26, 2011
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/04/26/sparkly-kotex-pads-for-tweens/#comments [...]
fog — April 26, 2011
I think I saw these at the store recently, and I thought they were kind of endearing. I got my period at age 13, but by age 12 or so I was starting to feel slow to develop and a bit left out. I bet I would have felt pretty strongly about "missing out" on using these preteen things. (I'm not saying this is rational, I'm reporting what I'm pretty sure my younger self would have said.)
Ari — April 26, 2011
RE: Jesus pad: "Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is my blood."
Sorcy — April 27, 2011
I really love the U line. Their adult/teenage version has the pads and tampons wrapped in neo-bright wrappers, with a fun box design. It makes it feel like something I can be open about, as opposed to something that has to be hidden and secret.
SW — April 27, 2011
These are very cute. I like how approachable they seem. It's also interesting to see a product that answers an existing need rather than creating one.
Sparkly Kotex pads aimed at tweens | Women's Views on News — April 27, 2011
[...] of story from The Society Pages, April 27, [...]
dawn — April 28, 2011
My concern is the marketing of yet another product. It is all about getting people to buy that brand. Just getting your period does not make you a woman. Putting heart and stars on something may or may not make it easier. I don't know that the pictures and marketing would make it any easier to have your period or that it would seem more girly as opposed to womanly just because there are flowers on it. Maybe if they put Disney characters on the box they could sell even more
Basil989 — April 30, 2011
I just wanted to share a related anecdote. Some of the other comments have mentioned how some parents don't want their daughters to use tampons for vaguely sex related reasons.
For me it was the tampons themselves that gave me the idea that people might think I was dirty or weird if I used them. They used to have a Q and A sheet in with the instructions and it said something like "Q: Will I still be a virgin if I use tampons? A: Tampons are not related to . . etc etc.
And that made me think: So there people who are going to think I'm not a virgin if i use tampons??? *cue panic attack*
I would have loved these as a teen though . . . but I do think black pads would be a good idea for . . . seeing the blood was often the scariest part. . . with these it will start out hearts and stars and end up hearts and stars and SLAUGHTERED DEER CARCASS IN MY PANTS AUGHHH. Lol.
Kat — April 30, 2011
I totally would buy these if I used pads....ever. I think I started my period around 11, and I was using tampons by 12. I'm totally going to buy a Diva Cup when I get the extra cash though!
Avendesora — September 10, 2011
I started when I was 8 and a half, and used pads up until 6th grade, when I got tired of having to sit in the principal's office on a stack of paper towels waiting for my mom to drive home from work, get a clean pair of pants, and bring them to me at school. The second time that happened, I just bucked up and started using tampons.
But frankly, the appearance of the pads or the packaging would have meant absolutely nothing to me. I was just going to bleed on it and throw it away, and the whole objective was to keep it totally and and completely hidden, from the secret zipper pocket in the purse to the little paper bags for the trash. Completely white or beige would have been just fine.
As an adult, I don't think having a period is any more shameful than urinating. But like urination or defecation, the elimination of body wastes is not exactly yummy, and is best done discreetly. But as a fourth grader, the fact that I was the only girl carrying a purse at school, and wearing a B cup already (C cup in fifth grade, when two other girls showed up with purses) was mortifying. Being different is worst thing that can happen to a kid, but I am not sure sparkles and inks in pads will help that. What does help is that lots of little girls carry purses now for lots of reasons, and that television commercials are a lot more frank than they were in 1983, so it isn't so freakish now.
Lacedjeanz — January 13, 2012
My parents got me this stuff.. Im loving it.. Im not too old.. Only a teenager below 18 :) also i love the fun bandz we got with it
Rent 02 — January 21, 2012
You know what...this is something..that AMERICAN SHOULD NOT CELEBRATE! sorry your daughters fertility is being wasted a girl has x number of egges and good mature eggs wasted at 7 or 8 and what then when she is 30 and wants to settle down? she is almost in menopause...or starting? Its not only that, america forces and lets there daughters grow up too fast, also it has been proven (my aunt is a doctor) 1 out of 4 girls get molested, so this in fact has shown little girls bodies develop faster...because of sexual stimulation! Also the fat americans eat, processed meats, and tons of junk and the pestides in our food...all leads to estrogen dominance and too much of it in a 5 year old girls body leads to having full-blown woman mature ovaries!
Also lets not forget what about 10 years from now when our 5 year olds start, the age of menstration is dropping like crazy....my grandmother got her first period at 17, and my mother in the 70's was 15 years old...me in the 90's 13 years old..and that was normal....even though the average age since the 60's has been 12...but this is crazy and you women just don't care, and think its nice that your 8 year old is now a woman ready to make a baby! so as i said what about in 10-15 years from now...are we going to have baby/child sized pads...sesame street maxi pads for the 6 year old or how about disney maxi pads and tempons for the 5 year old woman?
Many women do not realize that when a girl starts her period...this is the last signs of puberty, her body is telling her brain that now growth in height is too start to come to a halt, as her body and ovaries are mature and into woman hood! once a girl starts her period she still grows but not that much. The average age of a girl to stop growing is 16 and for boys its 18! My aunts a doctor she see many children and has these growth charts, which i also have at home normally these little girls grow really fast, then stop so when they are grown women they are short! If an 8 year old has her period this is precious puberty...and these companies such as Kotex, does not tell the mothers to see a doctor instead they market pads and say its a great thing...if this was a 3rd world country many of these 7 year old girls would be dead..in child birth..as it happens! I was the lucky one that started normal at 13 years old...because i didn't eat junk and my mother watched my body fat!
The normal age is still 12 to start...sorry under 10 is never normal!
Shelly — January 22, 2012
when i was 3 i was rapped by my step father daily, i started puberty at 7 and i also started my period at 8 but 2 months later i got pregnant, he was charged as my mother found out and i told her my belly hurt alot, and the doctor told us i was 2 months pregnant, I had to have a forced abortion, i didn't even kno how this happened? and what was happening and i only interested in toys and dolls, but this left me with night mares and scares i trying to kill my self 3 times when i was 9 and failed, i was also medicated by a doctor. I would have been a 8 year old mother, this makes me sick!!!! I lost my child hood...i i felt i never had a child hood, i went from being a baby in diapairs to maxi pads within 5 years? and i only had no child hood from baby hood into adult hood, i was told i was awoman and i should act like a grown up all the time. I hate it, i hate being a female, it really is starting to become a cure, woman don't see it, but its just a pain, females are not here to live they are only here for sex, thats why god makes us have our periods younger and younger, people talke about now normal its for a 9 year old to have periods and now dare a 12 year old start the 12 year old is to old or 14 many of my friends started at 12 to 15 years old, i was the only one at 8 and pregnant! i would have killed that baby if i had it...i hate it, and what it did to me!
Johan — January 22, 2012
women can use them too, i don't think they fit tweens cause my niece is 13 years old and just started and she is only 4, 11 and has a heavy flow, these tween pads fit me, and i'm 40 years old and use them...my cycle is average, but during the 1,2, 4 and 5th day its light, only the 3rd day its heavier, so i use these tween pads and they are great for a 40 year old woman like me and my 13 year old needs to use over nights! Again....these pad companies are only out to make money and using all these dyes on pads may not be good for young bodies especially when 50% of women are getting ovarian cancers and stuff. who knows!
John Torres — April 25, 2012
Bethanyheart123789 — November 22, 2012
I started my period when I was nine. It was so exciting, but, I looked for pads all around and couldn't find any that would appeal and/or fit my body. But then I found this! I love U by Kotex Tween Pads and I love it.
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Dane Alan — November 19, 2020
I would like to try a sample of your longest pad please. Send to Dane Alan at 1876 cty Rd o shullsburg Wisconsin 53586 thank you very much dane
Shirley Jones — May 17, 2021
I have an 8 year old that has just started her period. We have been to quite few different stores looking for the sparkly pads and haven't had any luck. Did these get discontinued? If not, where can I purchase them?
Hailey Hart — June 25, 2022
I love the idea of tween pads.i started my period at 12 years old and every time my period rolled around I would cry my eyes out not because of pain but because pads were so uncomfortable, my mom HATED tampons, and if I didn't wear a pad I would imbarras myself Infront of all my friends. Well one day I was on my period and I was at my church and looked in the girls bathroom cabinet to see what they had and I saw TWEEN PADS! I tried them on and it was actually comfortable! Well I looked online and very few people sell them now.
Jocelyn — October 9, 2022
Did these get discontinued because they are the best pads I’ve ever tried and they not only work for teens but I’m a small woman and they work great for me as well. If anyone knows where to buy them please let me know. Thanks