Toni the tampon travels the infinite abyss of space as an astronaut. Marina is a skateboarding menstrual cup. Sebastian the sponge lives in the depths of the sea. Patrice the Pad is a friendly pad.
Meet the period buddies putting the “bloody” into “bloody good fun.”
The Adventures of Toni the Tampon is a world-first health educational colouring book unlike anything you’ve seen before. Released late last year, the book tackles the often shameful, awkward world of periods with quirk, positivity and humour teaching kids and adults alike it’s okay to bleed.
American-based sexual health educator and queer artist, Cass Clemmer’s interest in normalising menstruation comes from her own experience growing up as a child of missionary parents in a conservative Baptist community in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I was always ashamed of my own period and it wasn’t until I started studying menstruation [at university] at 20 years old that I realised that I had completely bought into society’s idea of what a menstruating woman was: weak, hormonal, dirty,” she tells SBS.
“I started reading everything I could on periods and tried every menstrual hygiene product I could get my hands on, and in the process of this self-exploration, I came up with the idea for Toni the Tampon, both the Instagram and colouring book.”
The Adventures of Toni the Tampon follows the adventure of the period buddies, educating readers on the different menstrual products available while travelling to far-flung places. But Toni is also a tampon with a difference: she is genderqueer. It was important to Clemmer that the book reminds others that periods aren’t just for women, and not all women have periods.
“Representation matters,” she says. “Right now, the period movement is picking up steam but most conversations and educational tools still rely on terms like ‘feminine hygiene products’ instead of ‘menstrual hygiene products’, ‘women on their periods’ instead of the more inclusive menstruators, or they focus on the idea that menarche marks ‘womanhood’.”
“These limited perspectives of the menstrual experience often exclude populations of trans and gender nonconforming menstruators who also deserve a space to learn about their cycles in an affirming, non-judgmental environment.
“As a queer menstruator myself, I wanted to make sure I provided that in my colouring book and even though it would have been much easier to just have all my characters be women than risk the backlash that I have received from some conservative communities, if I help just one menstruator feel affirmed through my period colouring book, then it's all worth it.”
Rather than keeping all things bloody kept behind bathroom doors, the positive colouring book has invited period-talk into open spaces, Clemmer has had support from parents and educators. “One mother wrote to me saying that her and her daughters all sat down as a family and went through the book, colouring and talking about the different characters represented. She told me that it was a great jumping off point to start discussing menstruation as well as puberty and development as a whole.”
“Apparently as soon as her daughters started talking about Patrice the Pad and Toni the Tampon, they couldn’t stop asking questions!
“At the end, they all ended up with a bunch of brilliantly coloured pages and a newfound awareness of their own bodies and cycles.”
The Adventures of Toni the Tampon is published by Bloody Queer Publishing.