The other day I posted a picture of my new menstrual cup over on my Facebook page and I've been tickled by the responses from some people. One comment was a series of nos and another was "this is weird." followed by a friend's response of "LMFAO". I tried to respond with questions about what made the commenters say no orwhat they found weird or what they found funny, and then I thought back to my first experiences with my period and I get it.
For as much as Always or Tampax or Kotex tries to empower women during their period they are the only options that people are familiar with when it comes to period protection. I won't get into the movement of people just bleeding freely here, but that's also an option. And for people without means or some homeless folks, that is the only option.
I'm going to take a moment here to remind folks who are immediately postpartum that they should not use a menstrual cup postpartum and should instead use pads.
For most folks your period is a time of unhappiness, discomfort, pain, embarrassment ... I could go on and on. I also won't lie and say that I love my period, because at times I don't. There are, however, some times when my period reminds me of the powerlessness that having a body with a uterus possesses; the sheer fact that uteri bleed for 5-7 days and we live is amazing (of course we're not really "bleeding" like a cut or a wound bleeds, but that's another post). My period has also, in the last few years especially when we were actively TTC, has been something that causes me great pain. Getting my period was a reminder that I wasn't pregnant and was often met with tears, anger and frustration.
One of the ways I have gained a bit of control and a bit of feminine ass-kicking is in how I chose to have my period. I won't do the work for you, but tampons and pads are crap, especially the ones that I mentioned in my second paragraph. Everything in them that makes them thinner, more absorbent, more discreet is terrible for your vagina and your vagina's health. Even organic cotton tampons are harmful as the cotton that is inside of an organ meant to be moist (your vagina), is dried out because of said cotton, but thankfully it's not full of fiberglass. And for some folks irritation and pain is often associate with putting a tampon in and taking it out. That's how it was for me, especially because I chose to use non-applicator tampons to help save the planet a bit more.
I could list the many amazing reasons for using a menstrual cup vs. tampons that are solely based on environmental factors, but there are awesome websites that do that for you. I'm going to talk about why I love using it so much and address why I think people are uncomfortable with or think using them is weird or whatever.
1. You have to put your fingers in your vagina.
There's no way around it. Your hands will get blood on them. Your fingers will be in your vagina with blood on them. And for some folks, I guess this can be off-putting. But for me, it's just a part of what my body does. My body bleeds once a month and that blood is a part of me, a part of my body. I don't think other parts of my body are weird or gross, so I suppose I don't think this part is either.
2. It's not what we're being sold.
We're being sold women who are a size two who go running in white shorts while they have their period. Women who coyly glance in the mirror on a date or whatever other crap the tampon and pad commercials are pushing. I live in a world where folks with uteri bleed, we're not all a size two, we're confident in our dating life and don't need to be told we're powerful (we belive that). I live in a reality and a world where folks who get a period aren't always women or women-identified people. I see those commercials and I don't see my people, all people represented in them. So, using a cup is part of my own personal middle finger to the hetero-normative cis-gendered bullshit that is menstruation advertising.
3. It's not what we're used to.
I'm 37 and when I got my period my mother would only let me use pads, though I desperately wanted to feel like a woman and use tampons. She told me about how when she started her period that pads came with a belt and to this day I still am not quite sure how that worked. Pads and tampons are the norm. And when it comes to tampons folks want an applicator that's discrete and small and smooth, so even folks who use non-applicator tampons are a minority.
But they are not the only options; you can use reusable/washable pads (think back to the old slang, "on the rag"). This hearkens back to that but instead of a wad of scarp materials (which would work perfectly fine) reusable pads are often fun/funky designs, absorbent and washable! So why aren't we seeing advertisements on television for reusable menstrual products in a world that loves buzz words like "compostable" or "biodegradable". (See also cloth diapers).
Want my opinion? Because it's a product that's sold for women and we've been sold the bill that our periods are shameful, horrible, awful, scourges to our free and empowered life. But as cliche as it's going to sound, my menstrual cup makes me feel empowered and free. I can use it and know that I'm not harming the environment, 'm not harming my body, and in many cases I'm supporting small, often female-owned business.
So do your own research, I recommend the website Put a Cup In It. And don't knock it 'til you try it!
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.