GENDER | on menstrual hygiene, cups, and “well-intended” pressure
tampons and pads are toxic!
tampons and pads are unhealthy!
tampons and pads pollute the environment!
tampons and pads are expensive!
yes, yes, yes, and yes; that’s all true and most of us are already informed about that. and we’re also told what measures to take to reduce or prevent all the risks. yes, there are menstrual cups that are cheap and eco-friendly and safe and so on and so on, and there are natural alternatives to regular tampons and pads – so, how the hell, aren’t you woke yet and throwing all the harmful menstrual hygiene products out of the window? how can you be such a disgraceful beast that’s just destroying our beautiful planet?
well, as many things, it ain’t that easy.
we’re told to use menstrual cups but our physical (dis)abilities, religious views, or personal beliefs are overlooked.
we’re told to opt for natural, non-toxic products but our budgets or access to those items are not taken into account.
yet again, even though this is supposed to be an alternative to a certain oppressive mainstream way of dealing with one’s period, one’s that’s more sensible and in certain ways queerer too, it adopts the same methods of oppression in the sense that it, again, pushes one approach to everyone regardless of their different needs.
now i am talking about my own experience; even though i have been a fan of menstrual cups and bought one several years ago, only recently i really started using it. unfortunately, the first one i got was not suitable for me at all – i had problems inserting it, its size was too big (even though it was supposed to be the smallest one, “suitable for virgins”), and the material was not comfortable either. i kept on using regular tampons, and even though i would have loved to be able to buy the natural, eco-friendly ones, i had to stick to the cheapest ones from a local drugstore because of my budget. articles about the toxicity of bleached menstrual hygiene products would be popping up all around my social media, my eco-conscious friends would give me weird looks, and the never really used menstrual cup would always be laying around in my closet, making me feel strange anytime i’d stumble upon it. i’d feel angry, and embarrassed of my own body for its inability to accommodate a cup everyone seemed so ok to be using. the more i felt pushed into using it, by both people around me and the endless media pressure, the more i felt stubborn not to use it again and quite sceptical and generally opposed to the whole menstrual cup hype. i really got excited about the period panties, but again, money was the issue.
well, after quite some personal trauma, i decided to give the cup another try, as you can buy them in pretty much any DM drogerie markt in Germany. when i first saw it, i noticed it was way smaller and much softer than the one i had, and after a bit of thinking, i got it. and, surprise surprise, it was absolutely ok this time! even though, due to certain physical restrictions i have, it’s still not the easiest to insert it, it’s definitely better and i stick to my own nice and smooth cup now.
here are two morals from my own story:
no. 1: it’s better to check how the cup looks when you’re buying a new one. the first one you buy might not fit you, and you might have to invest into another one. no vagina—and no body, per se—is the same and there are hundreds of sizes to choose from. the first one might not be working for you, but one eventually will, or maybe not, and that’s fine too.
no. 2: never ever think there’s something wrong with body if it doesn’t fit a certain standard or doesn’t do all the things it is “supposed” to do.
here’s the deal:
menstrual cups might not be for everyone, and that’s ok.
not everyone can afford natural menstrual hygiene products, and that’s ok.
some people might not want to stick anything up their vags, and that’s ok.
etc. etc. etc.
menstruation is already a lot of a unpleasant hassle thanks to how our society perceives and treats menstruating people, so putting them through even more shit is, in my opinion, just plain bullshit.
so, perhaps instead of trying to persuade everyone that there is only one (or just a few) eco way(s) to deal with your menstruation with no regards to one’s limitations and boundaries, we could rather demand those big brands to go more sustainable, and encourage more research on and development of new products that would be more ecological, safer, cheaper, and suitable for all bodies, ages, and so on.
let’s not turn something that’s supposed to liberate us from the pressure of commercial brands into just another thing that uses manipulation and one-size-fits-all approach to achieve its goals.