I want to take some time to provide insight into a culture of menstruation many of us may not be familiar with. I myself am fairly new to the idea of sustainable menstruation and menstrual advocacy campaigns. In fact, before entering graduate school, I was not aware of the myriad of agencies and products available to the menstruating female today.
I think one of the most profound discoveries within my research was that of menstrual activism. It was incredible to know that while I was still in diapers women were fighting for my vagina’s good health.
Tampon regulations concerning chemical make-up have been a site of contestation since the 1970s. Up until then, the chemical make-up of tampons were of no concern to industry professionals. Although in the last ten years the chlorine bleaching of tampons and dioxin traces have been significantly reduced, they have not been completely eliminated. Menstrual pads are not except from this either. The white than white nature of pads also contribue to many vaginal infections.
Both the FDA and Health Canada have posed regulations on tampon safety, but chemicals continue to reside within these products. It is important to note that the feminine hygiene industry is the one who carries out the clinical trials to ensure the product is safe and submits their reports to these regulatory bodies. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time finding comfort in the fact that a few men (and probably women too) in lab coats have decided on the tolerable amount of chemicals my vagina can handle.
I understand the convenience of tampons and pads. And yes at times I have had to use them when unexpected circumstances have arisen and my Diva Cup was still sitting on my shower ledge at home. However, I want to encourage you, and encourage men to encourage the women in your life, to try an alternative. Really what is the worst that could happen? You may turn out like me, dedicating an entire year of your life to writing and researching about menstruation, but honestly its actually quite fun. Oh, you’ll also probably fall in love with your uterus.
So here are the two alternatives I think are worth trying.
While I hope we can disregard the comment about men looking away, as their discomfort with menstruation only fuels our own discomfort with our menses, the Diva Cup really is a notable product.
Canadian made and only $40 at the most, the Diva Cup is a reusable menstrual cup that is not only a healthy alternative but also a way to save about $100 a year. The Diva Cup website has a myriad of information and FAQs to help answer many of the questions you may have about the product. The best part about the Diva Cup is that it is environmentally friendly. Have we actually sat down and calculated the amount of waste incurred by the disposal of feminine hygiene products? Or really how much we ourselves have contributed to the current waste problem in North America? It is scary to think that each year more than 170,000 tampon applicators are found along ocean coasts (Bogo, 2001).
Some may not be completely comfortable with using the Diva Cup as the idea of actually seeing and touching your own blood seems a bit too far from comfort. There are other alternatives. For those of you who use pads, try Lunapads, another Canadian made reusable menstrual product. Their website is also full of insightful product information.
In closing, I do think it is important that we try to discern where our discomfort over menstrual blood resides. Do our leaky bodies make us uneasy? Snot is a fluid; yet we seem to have no problem blowing our noses or even the noses of the children in our lives. So what is it about blood that scares us? I am hoping you can help me answer this. While I know the historical and theoretical answer to this question I want to turn this over to you, my readers. I will shed light on this matter in the future, but I feel it is important for us to start a conversation about how we feel about our menstrual blood. It is a huge part of Her (our uterus) and we really shouldn’t hate Her substance as it really is a part of who we are and what makes us female.