Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Men in Menstruation: Vinnie’s Tampon Case

February 3rd, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

We’ve had a couple of productive discussions recently here at re:Cycling about men and menstrual humor, so it seems a good time to introduce Vinnie D’Angelo, creator of Vinnie’s Tampon Case. Therese Shecter has graciously shared this clip from her thought-provoking film, I Was A Teenage Feminist.

I’ve written about Vinnie and the role of men in menstrual activism before, in the “Menstrual Counterculture” chapter of my book, Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation. Here is a brief excerpt from that chapter:

According to interviews, D’Angelo’s motivation in developing his tampon cases was to help out his female friends. He would see them fishing in purses or backpacks for a tampon and retrieve “a mangled applicator and a lump of cotton with old gum stuck to the string” (quoted in Raappana). He also liked the idea of changing attitudes toward menstruation. . . . Interviews with D’Angelo reveal a feminist sensibility that extends beyond providing menstrual support.

[ . . . .]

I confess to some ambivalence here: I am uncertain what men’s role should be in celebrating menstruation. I appreciate [Harry] Finley’s genuine curiosity, and I admire D’Angelo’s feminist approach and his lack of squeamishness. I’m glad to see men talking about menstruation and not insisting that it remain hidden. I like D’Angelo’s playful, accepting attitude toward menstruation, but at the same time I find the fact that he has built a cottage industry of it vaguely exploitive. No one is harmed by his products, of course, but it is more than a little ironic that someone who doesn’t menstruate launched this successful line of whimsical, self-conscious menstrual products. On the other hand, perhaps D’Angelo’s masculinity adds a social legitimacy (as well as a humorous novelty element, as he has noted in interviews) that a woman’s name would not carry in the current cultural climate. And he’s great with the clever slogans: He owns the domain name, and recent ads for his tampon case say, “Don’t let your period cramp your style.”

What do you think, re:Cycling readers? How do you feel about the fact that two of the most visible examples of menstrual activism in the U.S., Vinnie’s Tampon Case and Harry Finley’s Museum of Menstruation, are created and promoted by nonmenstruators? Does it matter if these ventures are commercially successful? (Just for the record, Finley has received no financial benefit – only internet notoriety – from the Museum of Menstruation. Since introducing his eponymous tampon case in the late 1990s, D’Angelo has also developed Vinnie’s Giant Roller Coaster Period Chart and Sticker Book, and Vinnie’s Cramp Relieving Bubble Bath, which is also available packaged with Vinnie’s Soothing Bubble Beats CD of “music to menstruate by”. I do not know how profitable these products are for him.)

5 responses to “Men in Menstruation: Vinnie’s Tampon Case”

  1. Jane says:

    I feel it is sad, not because they are men but because they are not women helping to lead the way.

    I don’t think that their being men is anything special, in my experience has been that men aren’t the ones with the problem with menstruation, any negativity about menstruation is picked up from the women in their lives – men have no reason to think of menstruation in negative terms, and men just as women need to learn about and appreciate menstruation.

    I used to walk around the city with a bag COVERED in menstrual activist buttons with imagines of vagina’s, menstrual cups, tampons, slogans about menstruation, where as women would avoid me or move away in disgust, men would approach me and discuss it totally openly and say how great it was and pass the ideas I shared with them onto their women (not sure how well that went). I have many males friends who after countless discussions with me have joined the cause, I find men are more open to ideas about menstruation, it’s their freedom from the sort of taboos many of us women suffer that almost makes men better menstrual activists as they can talk more openly and objectively. Not to mention that because men aren’t personally concerned about such things, so many consider men to be the ones ‘grossed-out’, and men being concerned with women’s well-being are seen in such a positive light by women, then male menstrual activists seem to get the message through better than us.

    Does it matter that they are commercially successful?
    People want to get their message out to a wider audience, and they want to get paid, that is as true for men as it is for women. There are plenty of women out there making money from cups and cloth pads, books about menstruation and menstrual activism (*cough*), and so-on – should the fact they’re male make a difference? Any success they have is of benefit to the cause, as long as there is no negativity involved then there is no problem with it as far as I’m concerned…if I could gain success through financial gain and recognition I would!

  2. Therese says:

    I believe Vinnie (or one of his faux Vinnies) still gives his Tampon Cases away if you see him at public events with his trademark red shirt on. I think a big reason his stuff is popular is because Vinnie is a great designer and the stuff just plain looks cool. I remember that interview being really fun to do.

  3. I think is the way that the world works that men are seen to be leading menstruation activism. People listen and take men more seriously than they do women. That is how they have been able to reach such great success. MANY women have trod down this path, but did not end up there.

    I also think that if men talk about menstruation, it can be seen as “funny”, even if the conversation becomes more involved later. If women are talking about menstruation then they are perceived as emotional, whiny, weak, or if they are positive about it, gross. Yes vinnie says that a lot of men think it is gross to talk about it, but he is less easy to dismiss than a woman.

    I think this is why we need allies in feminism. It sucks. and they should do everything they can to hear OUR voices, and get others to hear our voices. but this is currently how it is.

  4. Elizabeth Kissling says:

    Thanks for responses, Jane, Therese, and NakedThoughts.

    Your experience as an “out” menstrual activist encountering men in the city is quite interesting, Jane. I’m inclined to agree with your theory that “men are more open to ideas about menstruation, it’s their freedom from the sort of taboos many of us women suffer that almost makes men better menstrual activists”. Many men grow up completely ignorant of menstruation, whereas women are more likely to have internalized taboos of secrecy.

    And I do like Vinnie, Therese. I bought one of his tampon cases, long before I started writing Capitalizing on the Curse. As I mentioned in email, he was very supportive of my work when I asked him for permission to use an image of the tampon case in the book. He even sent me several stickers, one of which graces the lid of the laptop computer from which I type this message!

    NakedThoughts, excellent point about the (perceived?) legitimacy of male involvement in menstrual activism. A nonmenstruating man can talk about menstruation without being seen as self-interested. In the current climate, that makes him harder to dismiss, as you say.

  5. Chaylene says:

    I think where my discomfort lays most is that women’s biological functions are still being exploited for capitalist ventures. Not to mention how environmentally wasteful tampons, tampon packaging and tampon paraphernalia is when sustainable, re-usable alternatives exist. I’d be curious to know more about Vinnie’s understandings of consumerism, capitalism and oppression.

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.