Female Shame, Periods, and The Magic of Menstrual Cups

I grew up in a home full of women: my mother, myself and my two sisters. If ever there were an environment where open conversations surrounding sticky topics like sexuality, relationships and puberty were to take place, this should be the ideal situation. And yet, one month before my fourteenth birthday, I went to the bathroom to find, much to my horror, blood in my knickers. Instantly I felt ashamed and dirty. Now, many years on and fully into my womanhood I can’t help but wonder why that was my first reaction – why did this completely natural process that half the world’s population experience every single month make me feel inferior? After much deliberation I have come to the conclusion that women have been hurtled into the age-old narrative that periods are something to be ashamed of.

This led me to wonder, who’s responsible for this narrative? The very people that seem to offer a solution – the companies that sell sanitary products. These companies have created and thrive off of the societal ‘othering’ of women’s bodies through marketing and advertisements in order to make money. Needless to say, the impact that these companies have had on women’s’ mindsets surrounding periods has been detrimental and has been passed down from generation to generation. As the shame of women has grown, so has the production and consumption of single-use period products such as pads and tampons. Not only is this shame-spiral terrible for women, but for the environment too, hundreds-of-thousands of single-use sanitary products are used and disposed of daily without a second thought as to where that waste goes. As a result of this, our planet suffers. Not only that but so does your bank account… period products are expensive! Essentially, your shame and your mother’s shame and your mother’s-mother’s shame have caused mass pollution and have made companies millions.

Tampons and Pads have existed as early as the 1800s with little variation in products available for women to pick and choose what best suits their body, for far too long it’s been pads or tampons – take your pick! More recently a revolutionary product has been introduced to the dull period-product shelves in our local shops, a menstrual cup. A typical menstrual cup, such as the popular ‘Mooncup’ is made of non-toxic and medical grade silicone that is shaped into a dome (with a protruding stem for easy insertion). What sets the menstrual cup aside from pads and tampons is that it is reusable; therefore it is a lot more eco-friendly. A menstrual cup can hold up to 12 hours’ worth of menstrual blood before it needs to be reinserted. In that case, simply empty the cup, rinse with warm water and soap and reuse, reuse, reuse.

One of the initial cons to the menstrual cup is that it is on the pricier side of things when compared to single-use products. However, when you consider the fact that you can use the same menstrual cup for year-after-year with no issues, you will actually be saving money. The monthly costs of period-products add up, whereas a one-off payment for a miracle product is worth it in the long run. Choosing to switch from single-use pads and tampons to a reusable product such as a menstrual cup will not only benefit you, but will also benefit women all over the world. Choosing not to spend your money on expensive period products produced by multi-millionaire corporations that thrive off of women’s shame could potentially change the narrative of everything we’ve ever been told to feel about periods. Choosing not to buy into shame but rather a product that is associated with period-pride and reclaiming the right to your body’s natural process is exciting and revolutionary for women worldwide.

By Sarah Anne Griffiths