Yes, we know about the menstrual cups

Thursday 12 September, 2019

If someone had told me at age fourteen that I would one day become so incensed by a sub-group of menstrual rights campaigners that I would write a blog post for everyone to read on the subject of menstruating and the right to choose which products suit you, I would have blushed and looked at you like you’d grown a second head.

But here I am, writing a blog post for everyone to see because a certain sub-group of menstrual rights campaigners have incensed me. Incensed!

Now before I get started, I know it might not sound like it, what with the straws issue and now this, I really do care about the environment. But I also really care about people and if i was to put something first, it was would be people above senseless ideals. The idea of recycling is always reduce, re-use and recycle. Nowhere does it say “Make a one size fit all solution to the detriment of a lot people”. For example, if you don’t need a plastic straw, great, don’t use one. But you don’t get to tell disabled people who do need plastic straws to find another solution… Well, unfortunately for me, you do get to tell people that because of the international bans that are happening everywhere. But this isn’t about straws, this is about menstrual cups. And the menstrual cup brigade keep coming on to posts, into the threads, on facebook, twitter, blog posts, charity articles, and vomit their hivemind all over it: “Use menstrual cups! Why not use menstrual cups! Give them menstrual cups! Take away choice and replace it with a menstrual cup!”

We get it, Martha, you love your Menstrual Cup so much you don’t just want to marry it, you want us all to marry it too. Like a cult.

For those of you don’t know what a menstrual cup is, a menstrual cup is an egg-cup shaped sillicone cup with a short funnel, which you stick up your, erm, “ladyfloo” (Look, I’ve got better with this sort of stuff over the last few years but you’re going to have to bear with me here, I’m not Jackie Collins) during your period and it collects the blood. I believe you have to empty it every 8 hours, or sooner if you have a heavy flow, but unlike tampons, there’s a low risk of toxic shock syndrome.

But the menstrual cup, however great for these people, is not the one size fits all solition they wish it to be, and I am quite frankly thoroughly sick of it being suggested every time a period-related issue comes up.

It is not going to help homeless people on their period, because not only is it still cost prohibitive to buy, there are a lot of hygiene related issues when it comes to being homeless. Even when given free ones, you have to think about cleaning it, you have to think about sterilising it, and you have to think about storing it. It is not good to just “wipe it with a bit of tissue” like I keep seeing suggested! I’m not a microbiologist, but I think the last thing a homeless person would want is to be made sick by a bit of remnant tissue fibres and dried blood being shoved back up inside them when their own hands don’t feel clean enough to even handle applicated tampons. And homeless people have their stuff stolen, confiscated, ruined and set on fire on a regular basis.

It’s not going to help girls staying off school because of period poverty, again because the cost is prohibitive, and you’re asking twelve year old girls who might not even be comfortable with tampons to handle something like a menstrual cup – by these people’s own admission, there is a “technique” to it – at a time when their bodies are changing. They might have strict parents, or strict religious parents, or helicopter parents with boundary issues who do not allow insertable period products which means they couldn’t wear them even if they wanted them.

And thirdly, it’s got to be about choice! And what I keep seeing from the menstrual cup brigade, is that they see these as all individual problems all solved with this one thing. Too poor to regularly buy period care? That’s okay, one up front cost of £20 and you’re set for 10 years! Kids can’t go to school on their period? Get them a menstrual cup! Amazon workers can’t have bathroom breaks to deal with tampons and pads? Don’t worry, the menstrual cup can be used for 8 hours! Long journey and a tendency to leak? You can’t leak with a menstrual cup (you absolutely can if it’s not inserted correctly or your flow is heavy)!Oh the environment’s suffering at all the disposable period care that makes it into the eco system? Solve it by only ever using one product for the next 10 years! Let’s ignore that you might need to clean it and use something in your underwear whilst it’s being cleaned.

That’s the menstrual cup brigade’s modus operandi. They ignore a lot of things. They ignore what they themselves know – Everybody is different, and because of that, everyone needs different things. The size and shape doesn’t work for everyone, just like tampons don’t work for everyone. On a very personal note, I have almost always exlcusively used pads because I can not use tampons. I’ve used them twice, I am not compatible with them, and cups are bigger and take more handling to insert. I’d rather freebleed than try a menstrual cup.

There’s a “technique” that some people, no matter how hard they try, can not “master the art of”. And, by the menstrual cup brigade’s own admission, sometimes you have to use a different type. Now a quick google tells me the Mooncup is £21.99, the Lily Cup is £18.99 and the Diva Cup is £24. So that’s someone, who might not have that kind of money, forking out at least £65 to try something that might just not work with their body? Bodies are so different! Why are people, in this day and age of understanding the issue with “for women” clothes sizes, and diet advice and medication is more dependent on an individual basis, so ignorant to suggest this one solution can work for all body types, all flows, all lives and all priorities? It doesn’t!

I am barely scraping the top of the issues I have with the menstrual cup brigade here!

I have seen them say charities should hand them out to every kid who starts their period and they’ll be set for all of school. As well as the issues i’ve already covered, ignoring the matter of simply choice, am I really reading that a bunch of adults think a child who could be as young as eight use a menstrual cup!? I mean we’re talking the practical sizing issues of this, and the emotional trauma of starting puberty young. At least lillets do nice small pads aimed at tweens in cute packaging. It’s inoffensive, it’s non-confrontational and it, or at least it is aiming to, convey the message “you might have started your period, but you’re still a child!”. I can’t see them being able to manage that with a menstrual cup. I’m not sure I’ve even seen tampons aimed at tweens.

And yes, at the forefront of this, is choice. It doesn’t matter if the menstrual cup brigade can bulldoze over issues such as pracitcality (Ask a cafe for some boiling water!) and hygiene (just wipe it with a tissue!) and home life situations (tell your parents you make your own decisions! Your religion is oppressive!), they can not bulldoze over the simple matter of choice.

You have the right to choose what to use with your period care. And whilst I’ve seen the menstrual cup villify anyone who explains their issues with the menstrual cup, blaming them for not doing it the right way, not using the right product, not having the right body, and downright eviscerating anyone who says it’s simply something they choose not to use, it doesn’t change the simple matter of fact that you have your own rights and your own voice. Don’t let them take away disposable pads, disposable tampons and plastic applicators like the straw brigade took away our straws.

And if you’re reading this thinking “Well I just like to suggest to people there are options”, here’s the problem, you’re not the only one making the same suggestion. If you think by now poeple don’t know about the menstrual cup, if you think your ability to use one means everyone has the ability, the practicality, the financial stability to use one (or two or three), maybe just try one thing before you barrel on with that suggestion: Ask them if they want a suggestion for an alternative first. Because I can tell you, they probably don’t. Homeless poeple don’t, school children don’t, charities working with vulnerable people don’t. They just want people to have better access to the products that they are already familiar with.

Just, stop.


The Wheelchair Accessible Hy-Pee-Thetical Universical Supposition.

Sunday 28 June, 2015

Before you even ask: Yes, I did struggle with a title for this one. But let us go forth, regardless!

Feminism, which I’m sure you will agree, is a wonderful thing. Without feminism, we women wouldn’t have the vote. We wouldn’t even be allowed to wear trousers. The worth of a woman would still be dependent on, and used in, the property contracts between male family members and would-be husbands. We would, without a doubt, be passed between father to new-husband as nothing more than a valuable object to solidify an agreement.

So, yes, feminism is good. And it is needed. Sadly, oh how it is still needed…

And it is in that regard that I also say the fight for disabled rights is needed. Now, it feels, more than anything.

And here i will use a comparison to feminism to explain why:

Let’s say you were a woman (and if you’re already are a woman, please bear with me…) and that you lived in a world where everything was controlled by a credit card-esque pass key.

That card is what opens all doors, starts cars, pays for items, flushes toilets, sharpens your pencil at work, makes fold up seats unfold, everything. You name it, this card gives you access to it. In theory.

And let’s say there was a cited capacity as to how many women could get on a bus, work in workplace, learn in a classroom and sit in a cinema, to give a few examples. Now, let’s say, to get to the crux of my comparison, that in this futuristic alternative universe of a world, you needed to use the toilet.

In theory, you swipe it over the box, the light changes, the door opens, you’re good to go (if you’ll pardon the pun). But in this world, which is very much a Man’s world, there is one toilet to every five of a Man’s. And, even worse, men will use the women’s toilets if they feel the men’s queue is too long. After all, it was empty. And hey! They’ll only be a minute!

But oh no. You’re bursting for the loo! Your card won’t give you access to the men’s, there’s a man in the women’s! The queue is going down for the men’s, and you’re just stood there like a lemon. A lemon that really, really needs to pee.

You’ve argued to the local council about the lack of women’s toilets, but the only response was from a man who told you there wasn’t enough money for any more.

He says If you’d have called ahead, an attendant could have kept it free for you. But, who schedules their peeing times? Men don’t have to schedule their peeing times! Men can just go to the loo whenever they want (bodily requirements withstanding, of course). It’s hard enough to find a woman’s toilets in the first place, and sometimes the card scanner has been broken, sometimes they toilets have not been cleaned. Because men believe they’re hardly used anyway. You, understandably, don’t want men to use the only working clean toilet you can use.

You’ve argued with men over this time and time again. They say it was empty at the time, that there’s no sign saying that they can’t use the toilet. If the card works, then Men must be allowed to use it, right?

And as for being broken and lack of cleaning, you’re met with a shrug. Who can prove who was responsible for that? And scanners are expensive to replace, and it’s not the council’s fault the general public don’t treat the facilities right.

The bottom line is, Men don’t have to put up with any of that. And they have Five times the amount of toilets.

Most men, and some women, think that if you have that much of a problem with “being a woman”, maybe you’re just not cut out for this world. Some even think that maybe you should just undergo a “sex change”.

Except in this hypothetical world, it wouldn’t be called a sex change, it’d be called a “sex correction”.

As in, the problem lies with you for being a woman, not with society and it’s attitude to women. In their men’s minds, it’s not how they treat you that’s wrong, it’s the fact you exist in the first place. So they will help you fix the problem and turn you into a man. Then you’ll be free to get the bus anytime you like, you don’t have to ask someone to open the door for you when you enter a shop, and even better you can pretty much go anywhere you like! Your card can work everywhere! What’s not to like about that?

Because of course, you’ve spent your life complaining about those things! Trains stop letting women on them passed ten o clock at night, because there’s no attendant on the station to let them through the men only doorways. Some shops won’t even sell to you unless you have a man present at the point of sale!

Instead of agreeing that these things are easy to change, that these shops could just remove or disable the card activated doorways, everywhere says it would cost too much money. Some of those doorways have been up for 200 years! They’re part of history. How selfish are you that you want to destroy a relic of history just to get home at night?
Yes, it’s a shame that you can’t use the train past ten or clock, but that’s what taxis are for. Besides, nobody else has complained! All the other women are home before 10 o’clock. The male station manager can’t conceive why a woman would even be out past ten o clock, anyway. Don’t women get tired easier and have to go to bed earlier?

So, it’s just so much easier if you became a man.

And then you can go the toilet and travel on the train whenever you like!

But of course, you don’t want to become a man. You want the world to accept you as you are. A woman. You don’t need to be fixed and corrected. You certainly don’t need the government’s suggestion that you undergo the therapy and operation to become a so called respectable member of society, or their awfully high fines for “acts of uncooperation”.

It’s society that needs to change, accept and adapt.

If society got rid of those doors and the card system, nobody would need to employ anyone extra to open the ancient Men Only doorways whenever a woman wishes to use the same service. It’s society that needs to stop saying “but this is how it’s always been”.

That alternative universe’s society clearly isn’t working. Not for the women. Just like our society is failing the disabled.
Every time we get something, after fighting and fighting, the ignorant majority think they are well within their rights to use it. Like disabled toilets and changing rooms and bus spaces.

And the reason is always “nobody was using it at the time”.

But that lies on the assumption that, like the men in that alternative universe think, nobody Will need it. The majority of able-bodied people assume, just like those men assume about the women, disabled people are so few and far between that you’re not actually going to inconvenience anyone, and if you did, it’s not that big of an inconvenience. Except that’s blatantly not true. If able bodied people registered the amount of times their misuse of disabled facilities actually inconvenienced disabled people, and how much of a negative impact that inconvenience was, just like us disabled people do, you’d (hopefully) find the regularity shocking.

There is an attitude in this world that if disabled people just underwent the right surgery, more physio, see better doctors, did this, did that, they wouldn’t live such difficult lives. Instead of accepting that disabled people exist and require equality, this society says THIS is our society and, although sympathetic to the plight, why change something when it’s needed less than the way it already is?

And as for the Listed buildings problem, which is a time honoured excuse for not even bothering with adaptations; I say this as a fan of history, does anyone think that our ancestors, who gave us language, paper, everything that came out of the industrial revolution, vaccinations, medications, democracy, would want our progress stagnated for the sake of what is an over appreciation for what has been?

There are ways to preserve things, and there are ways to adapt. These things are not mutually exclusive. I will give you an example.

I live in Liverpool, and we have The Albert Dock. Most of the Albert Dock is paved with cobblestone, and it’s absolute murder on my back. I have friends who have it worse, some not even in wheelchairs. When I asked why they couldn’t be changed, being such a health hazard, I was told that actually, the cobblestones are part of the Listed/Graded system. They are a piece of history. They are to be preserved for as long as possible. I’m not  exactly sure how that’s going to work with people walking and rolling and driving and whatever else-ing over them, but either way, the cobblestones are there to stay. For the sake of history!

And fair enough, they are a wonderful, beautiful piece of history.

But why then, can’t textured/griplined but mostly see-through plexiglass or similar covering go over them? It would serve two purposes:

  1. Assist in preserving them longer by protecting them from being walked on
  2. Give a much needed smoother service for wheelchair users like myself

I didn’t hear back from my suggestion. I have a horrible feeling they looked at my suggestion in horror and threw it straight into a fire, like the satan-worshipper they no doubt assume me to be, because nobody good and pure could possibly suggest such a thing! Cover the cobblestones with plexiglass!? How DARE I.

Society needs to stop feeling like it will lose something in return for including a large part of our society. It needs to stop seeing adapting things as a waste of time and money.

I am disabled, and whether you believe it or not, I am here to live, just like everyone else. And like many other disabled people, I will get on the train, I will go into shops, and yes, on the odd occasion, I will need the loo.

Don’t be like those Men in the Alternative Universe. Have respect, not only for the people who might potentially share your day, but also for the people who fought so hard to get the minimum we’re clinging on to. Nipping in the disabled loo for your own convenience isn’t just some sort of backwards bid for equal rights, it’s shitting on the disabled campaigners of the past who actually gave us those disabled toilets in the first place.
And, for anyone who might point out this sad fact, I am aware that what happens in my hypothetical alternative universe is a lot like how women are treated in some countries and communities today. All I can say to that is, let’s not go down a route of heirarchy here. My whole entire point is that injustices against women and injustices against disabled people are BOTH injustices that we have to fight against.