We need to change perceptions around periods. We need to stop feeling grossed-out and ashamed of our menstrual blood. Periods are a necessary and normal part of a woman’s reproductive system so what’s the big deal? It’s time to get up close and personal with your menses.
The menstrual cup has gained a lot of traction over the past year. By some it is seen as an eco-friendly hipster trend, but for women across the world it provides a cost-effective, safe way to manage periods. For those of you who haven’t heard of a menstrual cup, let me give you a breakdown…
The menstrual cup was invented in the 1920s (yes, that’s right, almost 100 years ago). It is a reusable device to collect menstrual blood during your period. It is inserted into the vagina, where it sits comfortably underneath your cervix for around 4-8 hours. It is then washed and reinserted, and this is repeated until the last day of your period. One menstrual cup lasts for ten years, so as long as you sterilise your cup at the end of every cycle you can continually use it for a decade. It’s also made from medical-grade silicon, and therefore hypoallergenic as there are no nasty chemicals.
The majority of people will argue that cups are revolutionary because they are healthier, safer and cost-effective for women – which is true. However for me, the cup’s real revolution is the closeness it creates between you and your period.
As menstruators we are taught that our period is something to be embarrassed of. We are taught to hide our sanitary products from anyone and everyone. We are constantly bombarded with adverts which detach us from the reality of menstrual blood. We are surrounded by language which makes us feel periods are unclean, and something we should be ashamed of.
The menstrual taboos of shame and uncleanliness make women squeamish about their own natural bodily process. But, the process of using a menstrual cup means you have no choice but to get down and dirty with your period.
The first time I used my menstrual cup I felt empowered. It was the first time I had properly understood my vagina, my menstrual cycle and my menstrual blood. I will admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive about being so intimate with my period-y self, but after the first try I was sold.
The cup requires more insertion than a tampon, and in order to remove and reuse, you’ve really got to get intimate with your vagina. The first few times may get a little messy. You may be confused about your downstairs anatomy. Or, you may never have been so close to that region before. Yes, it is strange at first. But, after years of feeling ashamed of and disgusted by my body during menstruation, I finally felt comfortable and intimate with my menstruating self. It was a revelation.
The cup can offer a positive alternative to women across the world. It reduces landfills and the impact of our carbon footprint. It provides a safe alternative to the leading brands of tampons which are bleached. It puts a middle finger up to the corporations who profit from shaming our bodies by telling us our periods must be discreet. And, its safer because it doesn’t absorb the vagina’s natural fluids.
Whilst all those things are great, they don’t stop girls from feeling humiliation, fear and shame when they first get their period. In order to bring about real change to girl’s experience of menstruation we must start with eradicating taboos.
The cup is the tool just for that.
When you’re comfortable with your period, you become curious and intrigued by the female anatomy. When you begin to speak frankly about menstruating you can change other people’s perceptions about their periods too. The cup is the gateway to being open and honest about your period. Being frank about menstruating may just steer girls away from those feelings of embarrassment and shame.
As an avid menstrual cup user and trainer, I can happily say that after two decades of hiding from menstruation, and of feeling dirty and ashamed, I no longer do. I want everyone who experiences menstruation to feel the same. After all, there really is no point crying over spilt blood.