Where Were You When You Realized What Those Sticks On the Tampon Sign in the Bathroom Are?


Probably in the bathroom, the first time you saw this graphic. Not me. Until yesterday at 5:46pm I had idly wondered what the sticks were in the depiction of the person disposing hygienically of a tampon. It’s not like I was up nights consumed with uncertainty about this, but yeah, I kind of wondered what the deal with the sticks was.

I guess I sort of figured it was some kind of outdated period technology. Like how maxi pads used to have straps. Or maybe some people use Q-tips in their feminine hygiene in some way. I don’t know. Too polite to ask. I looked at this graphic and thought to myself—insofar as I even had a thought about this, I mean, again, it’s not like this question is at the heart of my belief system—something along the lines of “Did tampons used to involve sticks?” I could have asked my mom or consulted a Judy Blume novel, but I’d always forgotten about it as soon as I left the bathroom.

This came up because of this tweet, which passed in front of my eyeballs last night:

I popped into the Gizmodo Media Group office chat, Slack, to share a laugh with my coworkers about how those sticks are nonsensical and haha what are they anyway? Is that like, a woman whimsically tossing out her swizzle sticks along with her tamp or something ahhahahha? (That’s how I talk in Slack.)

Guess how my coworkers responded. Naturally, everyone praised me for asking questions about the world that surrounds us, full of mystery as it is. My boss said, “Wow, Kelly, your interest in the answers to questions like this is what makes you such an effective journalist.”

Just kidding. They mocked me for not knowing that that is a side view of the tampon disposal box. On the tampon disposal box. There’s a side view of the tampon disposal box on the tampon box and I’m the stupid one. OKAY, WHATEVER YOU SAY, TAMPON DISPOSAL BOX DESIGN INDUSTRY!

Why is it even on there? As if people who use tampons don’t know how to operate a little door next to a toilet? Saw-ree that the top one has the exact same silhouette as a swizzle stick. Exqueeze me for not immediately assuming that the industrial designer responsible for this graphic would include the side view of the freaking hinge that opens the compartment, but not, oh I don’t know, the tampon string.

Surely I am not the only person in the United States of America who has used a women’s restroom who has wondered this. Also, to be fair to me, I knew that Staples was a pun. So is Mattress Firm. Not that you see me bragging about any of this.

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