Sanitary Napkins Ruling Asia Over Tampons
Before I begin, I just wanted to mention this entry should not be viewed as being a “studied” or “researched” piece but more anecdotal or my own opinion on this matter. Please don’t expect authoritative statistics or anything 🙂
So I wanted to wander into the territory that in Asia, sanitary napkins (herein known as maxi pads or just pads) seem to still dominate the feminine hygiene market of Asia. With that said, I still think it dominates the market throughout the world, but more so in Asia due to the culture of the populace having misunderstandings or even anti-tampon sentiments. I understand that pads were of course available prior to tampons, therefore has a bigger influence, but there are certainly merits to using tampons, most notably, the ability to engage in water activities. Now I’m personally not a tampon lover, so I’m definitely not advocating them, but I believe they do have their value and when writing about them, I should of course give a neutral opinion of them! About 2 years ago, there was this amazing article written up (with actual statistics) by a news writer about pads still being the preferred (and by preferred, I mean highly-used) method of feminine hygiene products in China. Alas, the article is long gone and I can’t even find an archived copy of it. However, unless things have changed a lot over the past 2 years, this is probably still true. Having been back to both China and Hong Kong just last year, I can attest that there are definitely more choices of pads than there are tampons. Furthermore, tampons will also tend to be more expensive (the price gap is larger between pads/tampons) and only offered at your chain-stores. On that note, there are also fewer sales for tampons unless I was simply unlucky while I was there, because for the 5 weeks I was in HK, every week there would be a different brand of pads on sale, but not a single week of tampons being on sale. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind, lol.
I must gloat a bit about how great pads in Asia are so that might be a factor as to why not as many girls “convert” to using tampons. You don’t have to believe me, you can just look at the links on the side, choose the pads-brand from Asia and see how intricate the technology is used compared to the “big makers” here in North America. Mind you we also have fewer popular brands dominating the market, therefore, our manufacturers have no need to “make things better” when they have already hold the monopoly. On the other hand, there are so many brand name products in Asia that if you don’t stay on top of other competitors, you’ll lose market share. While Asian pads tend to focus on comfort, thinness, length and efficient absorbption, I think the makers here worry about making it silent, discrete, small and forget that when it comes to a menstrual product, the biggest factor is whether it can “do its job.”
I digress – sorry, bad habit. Many girls take cue from their mother when it comes to choice of menstrual protection. It is true that at some point, a girl will make her own decisions, but for the most part, I will say they follow-suit with their mother’s (or a female-relative/guardian) choice of products. Perhaps a really loose example, but a child who sees her mother smoking is more likely to smoke and likewise, a girl who sees her mom using pads will more likely choose pads over tampons (at start). I know that had I been a girl, my mom would likely never let me use tampons, I remember seeing her throw out a box before (not an empty one) and such is your typical Asian family. There is something repulsive about having to “stick something up there” when it comes to menstrual protection. I believe culture plays an important part of demystifying menstrual hygiene for girls of all backgrounds. In my opinion, your average white Canadian or American family is likely to be “accepting” of tampons than say your average “coloured” family. Out of my girls group, only 1 of them use tampons regularly, 1 uses them to masturbate (hehe) and 2 of them have tried. Of course my fellow flow-lovers will not mind this, but the point is that our upbringing really plays an important part in the choice of menstrual protection and whether that seems to really make a difference, I think it does. Case in point, my god-sister’s mom refuses to let her use tampons and in several instances has even taken them from her room and thrown it in the garbage and gave her a verbal warning (that’s a waste of money by the way, it isn’t cheap :P). I will often buy her tampons with her because she knows she cannot ask her mom to buy it and she doesn’t get let out of the house enough to do it herself. We were able to fool her mom a bit because I had her switch to a smaller sized brand, O.B, which she could easily hide. It worked for a few months until her mom noticed that the pads in the house weren’t being used up (they have a communal stash) and with some searching managed to find her tampons. Even her older sister says, “Those things are bad for you, you should not put anything up there!” and “You should not use them.” so clearly, tampons are still not accepted by your average Asian family. Now you might say this is one case, but this is just the most recent scenario I’ve seen, I’ve talked to quite a few girls who have had simlar experiences because their culture, background, upbringing affected their “right” to use tampons and heck, when your mother continually throws them up, you can’t do anything else but give up.
I have quite a few relatives who send their kids over to study in Canada and I offer (to the daughter) to help her with shopping and very I notice none of them ever buy tampons because it is just not something commonly used “back at home”. They will always stumble staring at the feminine hygiene aisle because it is so different than what they are used to seeing the entire shelf filled with pads and a little tampon section in a corner. Meanwhile in Canada, they stand there looking at a “half-and-half” shelf of pads/tampons and with the pretty designs on tampon boxes, they didn’t even know it wasn’t pads inside. Some had to even ask me about what the “other things” were because they weren’t knowledgeable tampons and a guy explaining it in FH aisle to a girl is always an awkward situation. I didn’t believe it the other day when I thought that everyone was over the whole “tampons causes you to lose your virginity” thing until I was reading a Singaporean forum the other day (in English, lol) and realized there are still many girls who relate the usage of tampons to losing their virginity, ARG! Unless your tampon also has a live penis attached to it, you’re not going to lose your virginity! Tampons are also small, so it is not going to make you loose like a goose either. If they began proper education of tampons in China and Hong Kong, it might allow more girls to adopt usages accordingly rather than perpetuating mis-information regarding tampons.
I’ve been concentrating a lot on those two regions because I’m familiar with them, but this is prevalent in places like Korea and Taiwan as well (from my minor bits of research and talking to friends). One of the links in my widget is actually a girl in Taiwan who promotes the understanding of tampons and is trying to get more retailers to sell them. In Taiwan, pads are a definite market-ruler and she actually has to spend a lot of time importing tampons for herself or to sell because they are not widely available there. Availability certainly plays an important part on market dominance since if you don’t offer them, no one can buy. I have found however tampons have been hard to break into the culture and Chinese mentality. I remember growing up with one of my girls and when she was 12 and got her first period, she swore upon that she’d NEVER use tampons, but then just 3 years ago I started seeing boxes of tampons in her closet and I teased her about it because she was so anti-tampon back then. “Things change” was her reply and sure enough they do! I think that same change needs to take place in Asia with proper information being dispered about it. It is one thing if girls choose to stick with pads (which is really awesome anyways, lol) but it is another thing if girls aren’t being introduced to the existence/usage/information about tampons that they can make an informed decision on what to use, then that’s a problem.
Japan on the other hand is the only Asian country I know of who are really adapting to the usage of tampons and more and more girls are using them there. With that said though, tampon usage proportionally is still lagging behind North America. Again, this really comes down to Asian culture and how we influence the idea of “putting a wad of cotton up there” even if it is a practical form of menstrual protection. I can certainly understand the risk of TSS though, so I’m not downplaying the fact tampons do carry a risk-factor. Funny enough the other day I was talking to Poh Ching and asked her sheepishly whether they sell tampons in Malaysia, haha, and her reply was that whether I thought people lived in the forest there or something! I chuckled because my question was more geared towards whether girls in Malaysia are open to the idea of tampons or whether they are like the majority of Asia where tampons are accessible, but not widely used. On that note, many of the girls in Malaysia I’ve talked to (whether living there or moved away) are all pad users, I have yet to talk to one who uses tampons. Of course this comes down to whether it is just “luck of the draw” who I have talked to or whether or not those girls misrepresented the menstrual-protection stat by all happening to be pad users and not tampon users. However this could also be used to prove the fact there’s a larger populace who still use pads over tampons. For their sake, at least they do seem to know the existence of it, but given what I’ve read from forums, many are still misinformed about them.
Hopefully in time, tampons will become more notable in Asian countries. While being a pad lover I hope tampons will never “take over” but for water sports, it is almost a must. I love a girl who balances both tampons and pads, but hey, a guy can’t ask for too much right? I’m really blessed to have so many girl-friends willing to discuss this with me and take seriously my interest. From the last period my god-sister has, looks like she’s reverted back to using pads (she says on her own accord, but I doubt it, hah), but we went swimming last time when she was on her period so I’m pretty sure she didn’t have much of a choice. I sure as hell hope she wasn’t wearing a pad in the pool! I know a lot of my girls in China/HK just avoid swimming all together when they’re “on” rather than using tampons which is a shame, but I’m not sure the same can be done if they were professionally swimming rather than just casually. Also, it’d suck to miss out on a beach-day just on the account of that. Hopefully the Chinese government will spend some money on promoting proper information about tampons like they do with condoms, lol.
Posted on February 2, 2010, in Periodtastic and tagged Blog, Culture, Feminine Hygiene, Interests, Maxi Pads, Menstrual, Menstruating, Menstruation, Opinion, Periods, Sanitary Napkins, Taboo, Tampon, Tampons, Thoughts, Women. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.