Enraged. Shellshocked. Disturbed. That’s how I felt when I discovered that Tiger Woods handed a fellow golfer a tampon last week.
Yes, you read that right the first time.
During last week’s first round of LA’s golfing event, Genesis Invitational, Woods – a fully grown man, aged 47 – hit his ninth hole further than competition, Justin Thomas.
For some reason, he then thought handing his losing opponent a sanitary product was a sign of ‘banter’. If anything could’ve been worse, it was Thomas’ reaction.
Instead of calling Woods out and calling him a top-class idiot, he dropped it on the floor, laughed and embraced Woods.
Woods has since apologised for this move, and described it as ‘just friends having fun’. But was it really fun? I don’t think so – I think it was vile.
It’s proof that some men still think that periods are a joke – that they’re ‘girly’ and a sign of weakness.
And believe me, they’re not. Far from it.
I first came on my period at the tender age of 13. I bled through my school trousers, and I remember it dripping down my leg and leaving a red pool on my seat in geography. I worried myself sick about what the school bullies would say, or if I smelled bad.
Imagine that on your golfing whites, Woods.
With the red tidal wave, came the pain. It’s something that people who don’t get periods will never, ever understand. It’s a crunching, stabbing, searing, hot white pain that is physically debilitating.
I’m a heavy bleeder, too. So with that comes headaches; anaemia; trouble sleeping; nausea and fatigue.
I’d spend days off school bed-bound, my head swirling with exhaustion; doubled over in agony as it felt like my ovaries were being wrapped in barbed wire. It’s horrific.
And it isn’t just me. This happens, to some extent, to most people who bleed every single month – often until they’re in their fifties.
And don’t even talk to me about the methods we go to to control our periods. The pills, the injections in the arse, the plastic that has to be surgically removed from our upper arms, the coil of copper in our uteruses that, when it gets put in, feels like childbirth contractions.
To deal with such an obscene amount of blood, pain and personal responsibility before you’re even old enough to buy a lottery ticket is emotionally taxing.
It’s certainly not ‘all fun and games’, as Woods has since described his move.
Over the years, as I came to accept what was happening to my body, and appreciate it for its strength, some people (mostly, boys) found it disturbing. Actively repelled – going as red in the face as my menstrual blood – whenever I mentioned it, or spoke of the pain.
It was jokingly referred to as ‘that time of the month’. As if it was my dirty little secret, or something to be embarrassed about. As if I was a she-wolf, with people on edge for the full moon turning.
For some reason, Woods – in clearly a premeditated move, because I don’t think he’s kind enough to always carry around tampons with him – seemingly thought that, because Thomas wasn’t on top form, it would be funny to refer to him as being on his period.
The bizarre move, described as ‘really poor’ by former golfer Sophie Walker and ‘crass’ and ‘disappointing’ by Sky Sports’ Sarah Stirk, comes after the news that at least 500million women and girls worldwide don’t have adequate facilities to manage their menstruation.
In the UK, one in 10 young girls can’t afford period products – and the cost of living crisis will only make sanitary products even more unaffordable, with some skipping food and heating to be able to afford them.
I was lucky and grateful enough to grow up in a household that talked freely about what was happening to me, and could afford sanitary products – but some people who bleed have resorted to tissues, socks, sponges and pillow cases to stem the flow. They have to live with shame and confusion while men like Woods and Thomas band it around like a joke.
So to see international so-called golfing legends throw period products on the ground and laugh is sickening and distasteful.
With the world’s eyes on them, and as men dominate most sporting events, Woods and Thomas should know better than to showcase so-called locker room banter – implying that menstruation is a sign of weakness.
It’s disappointing, and setting a poor example that fuels both stigma and stereotypes of women being lesser. Of those who bleed as falling behind.
Woods has apologised, true – but in his apology, he dismissed the move as a ‘prank’. Shockingly, even former professional golfer Henni Koyack – who considers herself a feminist and ‘will do everything to fight for women’s sports’ – saw it as ‘someone having fun and enjoying a connecting moment with his friend’.
To me, it doesn’t seem like they understand the power behind Woods’ childish, misogynistic actions.
As well as vowing to educate themselves on period poverty, the only way Woods and Thomas could redeem themselves is by donating large sums of money to women’s charities, and working closely with those on the frontline of poverty.
To put themselves in the shoes of people who can’t afford a tampon and see if they think it’s amusing then.
Woods and Thomas – and indeed anyone – who thinks periods are funny, even ‘between friends’, certainly aren’t feminists. They’re infantile, and they’re pathetic.
They need to bloody grow up.
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