Not all women get their period and not every one who gets their period identifies as a woman.
Cass Clemmer, the genderqueer artist and menstrual health advocate behind the Toni the Tampon character, hopes that her new coloring book, The Adventures of Toni the Tampon will serve as an inclusive way to introduce the concept that menstruation is not just limited to those who identify as a female.
Toni the Tampon’s rise to fame all started with a clever Instagram post that established Toni as the “friendly neighborhood tampon.” Clemmer has used Instagram to document Toni’s adventures “outside the wrapper” ever since. The artist hopes that Toni the Tampon will allow society to address the global discomfort with periods head on and will create a safe space for people to open up conversations regarding menstrual health.
Clemmer was raised as a missionary kid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where her parents were stationed. Growing up in a deeply conservative community, she was taught to be ashamed of her period and to hide it as best she could from the rest of society. It was taboo to talk openly about sexuality, reproductive health or even sex education.
“I didn’t know what a uterus was, and I didn’t know where this blood was even coming from or why,” Clemmer said in an interview with Mashable. “The only thing I was taught was how to clean it up so the world didn’t see it — and then I was sent on my way to figure the rest out myself.”
Clemmer realizes that menstruation can be a tough topic to discuss especially with children, but she hopes that her coloring book can help to alleviate some of that stress.
All different types of menstrual products make an appearance in Clemmer’s coloring book including Marina the Menstrual Cup, Sebastian the Sponge and Patrice the Pad. Together, the characters embark on a variety of extraordinary adventures from space travel to skateboarding. By creating a coloring book that features cups, pads, sponges and tampons, Clemmer hopes to break the stigma surrounding menstruation for people of all ages.
Some people might be surprised to learn that Toni the Tampon is actually a gender-ambiguous character and that Sebastian the Sponge is in fact a male. Clemmer intended for her book’s cast of characters to represent a diverse range of gender identities so as to be inclusive for all menstruators.
“As a genderqueer human myself, it has been hard to find communities that include people like me when they market to, talk about, or provide services for menstruators,” Clemmer told the Huffington Post. “I wanted to make sure that I created art that was inclusive, not just art that appeals to those who refuse to recognize other’s lived identities.”
If you want to see more of Toni the Tampon, be sure to check out tonithetampon.com. Every #TamponTuesday, a new comic featuring Toni the Tampon is released on the website. Clemmer believes that the combination of humor and creativity that can be encapsulated in comics will help open up more conversations about menstruation.
Now is the time to reclaim pride in our periods and to show the next generation that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to menstruation.