Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Personal is Political: Menstrual Cups

One of the cornerstones of feminism is the idea that the personal is political. So many of the things we feminists talk about are personal issues with a political perspective...and what could be more personal than feminine hygiene products?

If you aren't familiar with menstrual cups, you need to be. I got into them three years ago now. They were something I stumbled upon completely randomly while answering questions on Yahoo Answers. You see, for a good year or so I made it my personal mission to spread good information on Women's Health section of Yahoo Answers. And in doing so, I saw an ad for an odd contraption called a Diva cup*. I had to know I researched it and I found the best thing to ever happen to my menstruating life.

The benefits of cups are numerous. For one, they actually work! (For me at least.) I'm not going to go into the gruesome details of my terrible past with pads and tampons, but with a cup I don't think about my period. Not at all. Not even a little. It doesn't become a distraction in my life.

Plus, they are so much less expensive than disposable products. For example, I could easily spend $150 a year on disposables. But a Diva cup, when found on sale and with a discount code for at (which are really easy to come by) can be a low as $15-20. And cup users can frequently use them for up to 10 years. That's 20 bucks in 10 years instead of $1500. What could I do with and extra $1480? Quite, a lot, I'd imagine. Like pay 2 months of rent or 6 car payments.

The next big thing for me is the green factor. With disposables, someone like me creates a LOT of waste. I mean a lot. And with cups, not so much. Another convenience goes along with not thinking about my period...unlike tampons which needed frequent attention, I only worry about cups twice a day, and one of those times is in the shower.

And, unlike tampons, cups aren't putting a really bleached piece of cotton against your cervix. They don't cause toxic shock syndrome, and they don't leave minute pieces of cotton behind in your body. I can't help but feel that all of this is healthier.

So it's interesting to me that menstrual cups aren't more well known...that when you're in 4th grade and the nurse pulls all the girls out to talk about pads and tampons, they're never presented as an option. This is where it becomes a feminist issue for me. There are primarily two reasons I think that cups are so not well known.

1) The man: Think about it...who runs big business? And who menstruates? Two very different people, generally. And now think about this...which generates more income? Even a second grader could tell you that selling lots of little things over the year will get you more money than selling one bigger thing just once in 10 years. So basically, when you add this all up, there's no incentive to sell menstrual cups.

And in case you're thinking that it's just because cups are new and haven't had a chance to grab up their fair share of the market yet, that's not even remotely true. They've been around since the 1930's but they've never truly taken off.

2) The ick factor: I'm going to admit it, when I first heard of cups I was a little disgusted. Many of the women I tell about them are too. Menstrual cups put you in touch with your body and menstruation much more than tampons and pads do. However, this ick factor is because from a very young age women are socialized to believe that, to at least some degree, our vaginas are nasty. What is a very natural process, menstruation, is regarded with disdain. Don't believe me? Try teaching a sexuality class to middle school girls. The minute you hand out the "spread eagle" diagram someone is bound to say EW or "that's nasty." I. promise. you. And further evidence? Kotex couldn't say vagina in their recent ad campaign...ABOUT TAMPONS!!!

Well guess what. It's not nasty or gross or wrong to acknowledge that we have vulvas and vaginas! And they are natural. And so is menstruation. If more women were in touch with their bodies (literally and figuratively) then cup sales would sky rocket.

With all of this in mind, I have made it a small life mission of mine to at least spread the knowledge that cups exist. In the process, I have converted a lot of women. The simple fact of the matter is that for 90% of women who try them, and stick with it for a few months, (it can take some getting used to and figuring out how they work for your body---there's a learning curve involved that is not present with other products) you're going to be much...MUCH happier.

Don't believe me? Ask some of my friends.

Plus, you'll be forking over less money to the man. Cup companies are small businesses just trying to do good. Give them a chance.

*Diva is just one brand. I also have tried Lady Cup and like it too...there's also Mooncup, Keeper, Lilacup, Insteads, Lunette, Miacup, and many more. If you are interested in more information about cups, I recommend this community as an excellent resource:

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