How Menstrual Cups are a Feminist Issue
Wed Jun 1 22:51:00 2016
Periods are shameful. Dirty, even. At least, that’s what the majority of brands hawking “feminine” hygiene products to the masses would have you believe. After all, that’s what keeps you buying their tampons (the discreet packaging will keep your dirty little secret safe) and scented pads (you wouldn’t want that hot guy at the gym to notice that pungent smell coming from your lady parts, would you?). It’s not that the use of pads and tampons are inherently bad, though many of them are rife with harmful chemicals. The real damage comes in the not-so-subliminal message that menstruation is embarrassing, disgusting, and a taboo topic that should be kept to whispered tampon exchanges in the ladies room.
Many feminists agree that it’s time to tackle period-shaming (and sketchy environmental and economic practices) through education about and the use of menstrual cups. So, how exactly do little cups you insert into your vagina help? Glad you asked. From helping girls stay in school to encouraging women to connect to their bodies in a more profound way to fighting gender injustice, these small silicone cups are championing feminist issues around the globe.
They encourage users to engage with their bodies - and normalize periods
Pads and tampons are helping keep women disconnected from their bodies. While this may seem like an extreme statement, many women claim to prefer an out of sight, out of mind mentality when it comes to menstrual care. They’d rather toss the tampon into the trash than see the blood that comes out of their own body. This is a side effect of being fed the lie that menstruation is gross. The reality is that vaginas are not dirty and menstrual blood is not gross. Repeat after me: menstrual blood is not gross. Menstrual cups reinforce that monthly bleeding is a natural experience that all uterus owners have by allowing a more active participation with their cycle. When you insert a menstrual cup, you’re getting to feel the inside of your own vagina. You become more aware of your flow and begin to understand your body in a more intimate way. More people being informed about their body will lead to more open and honest conversations about menstrual and reproductive health. Using a menstrual cup allows women to be active participants in their own menstrual health, which is a key component in the destigmatization and normalization of periods.
Your body -and the Earth- deserve better
One thing that lovers of menstrual cups tout is how good they are for the environment. This is very true. Pads and tampons will end up in landfills and in the ocean, which is obviously not ideal. Medical-grade silicone cups can last for as long as 10 years. As if that isn’t enough of a motivator for eco-passionate feminists, menstrual cups are also far better for your body. When using tampons, you’re putting yourself at risk for developing TSS (toxic shock syndrome), as well as dioxin exposure. We know you take your health seriously, but because the use of chemical-filled pads and tampons is so much less taboo that a cup full of blood, it’s easy to pass up the opportunity to decrease the health risk imposed by those products. As the taboo around periods weakens and more women become conscious of the true health and environmental risks at play from disposable products, menstrual cups just make more and more sense.
You vote with your dollars
As mentioned before, many menstrual product companies use shame as a key part of their marketing strategy. By promoting pads that come in tiny, unrecognizable wrapping they are saying, “Hey! You have your period and that is bad. Don’t let anyone know. Use our products and avoid the awkwardness that comes with menstruating.” It seems like this is for your benefit but it’s not. The discretion being suggested isn’t for your comfort. It’s for the people who are disgusted by a natural, beautiful thing that has long been mired in shame. We’d go as far as to say that these are the same people who are uncomfortable seeing a breast be used to feed a baby, but are totally ok with one being used in a sexual way. When you stop purchasing products from companies that use this kind of shame-based marketing, you’re voting with your dollars and replying with, “No, having my period isn’t a bad or gross thing. I’m not ashamed and I won’t support a brand who capitalizes on making those with periods feel dirty.”
It’s not just these negative marketing ploys you’re voting against when you buy a menstrual cup instead of disposable products. Not only are pads and tampons expensive (the average woman spends over $2,000 a year), but in 40 states they are taxed as luxury goods. Last we checked, having a period isn’t a luxury and we’re not into being taxed for menstruating. Many lawmakers and menstruation activists are fighting these discriminatory laws and, slowly but surely, states and countries alike are doing away with these obscene tax laws. Using a menstrual cup will help in the fight against gender injustice because you won’t be pouring cash into the government’s pockets each month when your cycle starts.
Greater accessibility leads to better menstrual health for all
Since menstrual cups are less expensive over the long run ($40 every 5-10 years versus over $2,000 every year), they are a more feasible option for those who are low-income, homeless, or disadvantaged by location. There are many companies and nonprofits that work to provide disadvantaged girls and women with menstrual products. Providing these women with menstrual cups can alleviate the need for purchasing additional products, allow them to continue their education, and open opportunities to discuss menstrual and reproductive health in ways that will decrease the stigma that so often causes their lives to be even more difficult to navigate through.
It’s ultimately your choice
It’s important to know that when it comes to your choice in menstrual products, it’s just that - your choice. Becoming aware of why you use the products you use, their effect on your health, and the societal constructs that they further are important, but you should never feel guilt or shame. After all, your body, your choice.
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