Have you ever stopped and thought about whether you were an ethical person who engaged in some unethical action or whether you were an unethical person who engaged in some ethical action? Everyday we live our life following an invisible set of standards and guidelines shaped by a random variety of sources such as one’s family background, life experiences, and societal influences. The Dalai Lama outlines his criteria for judging ethical actions as the following: 1.
Consider the impact on others’ experience and expectation of happiness 2. Consider the intent 3. Consider the nature itself, the content of our actions, and the motivation (the content of our hearts and minds). Though many people can agree that these set of ethics are rather standard, many are surprised to find themselves engaging in unethical behavior with their support of some products. If we consider how ethical the use of disposable feminine products are such as pads and tampons, we might be surprised by what we find. Though these products are promoted worldwide and made to look pretty in advertisements, the truth about their ethical standing is not.
Although it would be difficult to move away from products that have been implemented into our minds and stores as the norm, reflecting on the environmental and social impacts of it leads us towards change. As we dissect the production and concept of disposable feminine products, one notices their unethical nature surrounding their lack of biodegradability and sustainability, as well as the presence of gender politics that pressures for the continual use and purchase. An estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billions are disposed in the United States yearly. (Chic Ecologist) Without physically seeing these numbers go into play in the landfill, it is easy for one to ignore it. Although we cannot see or feel the effects now, we will as our climate gets hotter, and our earth starts to suffer. The effects of these products start with the materials they are made out of. Tampons and pads made and sold in the U.
S are made from cotton, rayon, or blends of both; products which are both non-biodegradable. (US Food & Drug Administration) Reaserch shows that a female uses about 5,000-11,000 tampons in her lifetime. (Chic Ecologist) Imagine that amount of non-biodegradable product that’s going to fill landfills.
This gives reason to avoid disposable feminine products. (Change to Green) After all of this, one might find themselves questioning who is behind these products and what motivation might they have for promoting them. The forces behind these productions are ironically all males. (Berman, J) As biology might have it, most of the male population has no virtual connection to the use of the product besides their profit from it. Referencing back to the ethics criteria, this behavior could be justified by the thought that the overall production benefits the happiness of these men with incredible amounts of money.The Dalai lama describes that happiness derived from materialism is not happiness as it tends to be short-lived and causes people to believe that full satisfaction can come from seeking happiness in items that merely “gratify the senses”.
(50-51) He goes on to relate this behavior to a saying from an ancient Indian writer that said, “Indulging our senses and drinking salt water are alike: the more we partake, the more our desire and thirst grow.” (52) The need to be satisfied in life and to be happy leads us to resort to anything that will provide that for us, regardless of the long-term consequences. The consequences of relying on materialism leads to suffering of another side that falls short of this advantage. In this case it would be the negative impact it has on the women forced to purchase the products.
On the contrary, if more women ran these companies than they would more likely aim to make products that are more sustainable and money-saving for women. For example, Miki Agrawal, the CEO and co-founder of THINX, created her product with these things in mind. (Johnson, E) THINX is a new reusable feminine product that looks like underwear but works as two tampons would.
Additionally, for every pair of THINX sold, they donate to a Uganda-based company named AFRIpad that teaches women to make and sell reusable pads. This is a prime example of women taking control of the stigma surrounding menstrual cycles and the lasting impact on earth. By focusing on the intentions of the producers, we become aware that their intentions might not always be pure. As we deep deeper into the unethical impacts on the buyers, one can notice how far the problem actually reaches.
It is common knowledge that every fertile female gets a period. It is common knowledge that women must work to pay for products as a result of things beyond their control. While searching for the ethical foundation behind the intent of normalizing the use of the products, I came up empty-handed.
The truth is that the stigma surrounding women and their menstrual cycle not only hurts their wallet, but also leads to women to miss school or work when they are unable to afford such products.(Reuters) As a society, we normalize the use of these products to avoid the reality that women experience menstrual cycles. We alter the conversation to make it seem like these products are helping females with their problems and their bodies, but in reality it is giving us an easy way not to acknowledge it’s presence. A prime example of the pressure to use them is the fact that female inmates are forced to buy their own feminine products from their commissary and the fact that these products are not budgeted for or provided in homeless shelters.(Reuters) When one can hardly afford to pay for the clothes on their back and for a meal on their plate, the purchase of tampons or pads should be the last thing to worry about. The concept of universal responsibility falls short in our society, but this concept would be one that the Dalai Lama describes as the cause for many of the problems in our world.
He writes that when we commit ourselves to honesty and recognize the worldly desire to not deceived, this in turn helps reduce misunderstanding and fear in our society.(168) This lack of honesty and understanding in our society is the perfect environment to help misogyny and the concept of gender politics grow. Gender politics is a concept that debates what is acceptable and unacceptable for the genders, as well as what role they play in society.
Misogyny, defined as prejudice or hatred against women, in the context of concealment is stemmed from the lack of understanding and judgement placed on women as they are held responsible for actions beyond their control.(Shure, N) This misogyny in our society, is the same that requires us to train our daughters to learn how to conceal the nature of her body by the use of planet-harming products.(Shure, N) Now the underlying question is how does a society move forward and what options are we presented with?To avoid harming our earth with the use of tampons and pads, one can use organic or reusable products. Another popular reusable product is DivaCup, also conveniently ran and cofounded by a female. (Chambers, F) Diva Cup is a menstrual cup that you can use wash and reuse. However, these products typically are not advertised because they would then halt the production and success of companies that produce disposable products.(Mok, K) Moving a society towards reusable feminine products is difficult because it does not the support the concept of concealment. Although reusable products come with many more health benefits, the resources and conversation surrounding these products is scarce.
However, campaigns will be needed to help address the problem of concealment. Additionally, the need to budget and provide these products in prisons, homeless shelters, public restrooms, and schools is necessary to ensure that gender politics are not affecting the wellbeing of women. By putting our selfish views and needs aside, one can achieve more overall happiness knowing that they are helping a greater group of individuals achieve their version of happiness. In order to better address these difficulties, government support is needed to be able to gain authority on how to move away from disposable feminine products.
With the installment of more educational programs in schools that surround the health and environmental effects of disposable feminine products, we can not only inform the growing generations of better options, but also create more conversation. As we come to a full circle regarding the ethical impacts of disposable feminine products, we come to the conclusions that as ethical human beings, we are still responsible for the use of an unethical product and production. The use and production of disposable feminine products though it might seem to make those in running companies happy, the workers making their income from it happy, and the women using it happy, is in total a product that demands women to feel happy after using it. The ability to conceal and avoid conversation is the happiness one seeks because society has inspired us to think that this is the happiness we want to achieve. Secondly, the intent of having society provide a product and convince them that it is only in their own benefit to buy it and use it is unethical. The true intent relies amongst the profit of companies involved and the intent is to shame women into using them.
Lastly, the overall idea of using resources that harm the planet to shame and pressure women into concealing the natural occurrences of their body, but also to refuse to pay for these products is a lot of an unethical mess. In conclusion, taking time to closely examine things in your life and their everlasting impact on others is necessary in creating a better, more ethical world. Like the Dalai Lama said, the more we aim to think and help others, the closer we get to living an ethical life, and the closer we get to living an ethical life is the closer we get to finding our happiness.