I am a cis woman. This means that my gender pronouns match my gender identity. I prefer that when people are not referring to me by my name, Angela, that they use “she/her;” anything that I own, I want people to refer to it as “oh that essay? That’s hers- Angela’s.” Ever since I was a young girl, I wanted to be a savvy woman. This meant that I had to be initiated into the world of menstruation. When I began menstruating, I was eleven-years-old. What an exciting time that was. I had a great relationship with my menstrual cycle. I only cramped one day out of the six that I bled; my mood swings were minimal as long as I had enough physical activity. Menstrual products, however, were a bit of a nightmare. My luck quickly changed when I discovered the menstrual cup.
Now, I am sure that this is a topic of discussion that can be a little unsettling for some people, perhaps even you. The sad part is that we women and transgender men have no place to discuss menstruation. I would like to see this problem changed. I would like to see menstrual conversations normalized. When it is time for us to shift from the use of products that are unsustainable to sustainable, I want to shamelessly shout it from the rooftop “Menstrual cups will save the body and our planet!”
When I first started menstruating, my mother taught me how to use a pad. A pad is basically a streamlined version of a diaper for women who feel uneasy about the use of tampons. Tampons are little cotton suppositories that are inserted into the vagina; this product absorbs menstrual fluid while the pad would collect the fluid. Because of my mother’s puritanical ideas about sexuality, she did not even venture a conversation with me regarding the existence of tampons. One day, when I asked her how they were used, she quickly changed the subject. Needless to say, I discovered them on my own.
I later learned that my situation is not an uncommon one. There are many women who, as young girls, did not have permission from their mothers to use tampons because it was believed that tampons took one’s virginity. There is no doubt in my mind at this time that tampons are dangerous. They are not vehicles of sin that develop wanton desires in the hearts of (supposedly chaste) women. Tampons are dangerous to the human body because as they absorb, they excrete bacteria. Such bacteria when left unattended can cause life-threatening complications. Toxic Shock is a disease that some women experience in which they present sepsis-like symptoms. This is usually caused by incorrect tampon usage or vaginal sensitivity. There is a supermodel whose name escapes me, who lost her leg due to toxic shock syndrome. While pads are just physically ungraceful, bulky, and revelatory in ways I would rather not discuss, They do not pose any specific health concerns because they are not invasive.
Tampons and pads are both equally as dangerous to the environment, though. I recently read that a person who menstruates will use approximately 300 pounds of menstrual products in the form of pads or tampons. These products, whether flushed or discarded end up in landfills, water sources, and create biohazardous waste. This is very sad to me. In life, we who menstruate bleed for love. The planet should not suffer the consequences of our natural bloodshed. This is why I have become so excited about the changes in my menstrual care.
Recently, I went to the store to purchase ultra absorbency tampons. I am forty-years old and have had two children. Childbirth changed the flow of my menstrual cycle from moderate to heavy. Then, as one inches closer and closer to the very last little precious egg that could be a baby, what normal people call menopause, flows become torrential. I am getting old; I flow like the red sea. While at the store, ultra absorbency tampons were out of stock. So, I decided to purchase a menstrual cup and hope for the best.
I never looked back.
Menstrual cups are soft, sustainable, and safe for those who menstruate whether they are the 12-year-old tree climber or the woman with cramps writing an essay to place out of Syntax for Writing. While there is an insertion learning curve, there are so many benefits to using such an assistive technology.
I call menstrual cups assistive technology because they are not just one-time-use products. They help menstruators by providing safe and secure coverage with zero waste. This zero-waste alternative also allows women and transgender men to have the confidence that they will not harm their bodies or the planet. Medical grade silicone is an FDA approved material that is, by and large, free of allergens. If a menstrual cup is well cared for, it can last a couple of years.
With all of these benefits, it is not shocking that a menstrual cup regularly costs $39.99. I was able to purchase mine on sale for $6.00. That is a phenomenal bargain. It was probably the best bargain I ever received, less the labor pain-to-love ratio of bearing my sons and becoming their “Mommin.”
Angela Anderton enjoys playing the flute and is a McGill Fellow at Maryville College