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.


Who Says No To Mentos? Sensible people, that’s who

Wednesday 30 November, 2016

I’ve been meaning to write about adverts for a while now, but I’ve struggled to pull a post together in a coherent manner. I can’t stand most adverts and some of them just make me want to rant and go off on one, and I can’t see that being a worthwhile read, so you can understand my problem.

Until now. Now a new advert has come out and this post all fell in place.

It’s about an advert for Mentos: the lovely sweeties that are not quite fruity softmints that actually had a mass recall about 10 years ago now because of import related reasons. They taste lovely and they are great to put into bottles of coke.

It starts with text on the screen saying “When did we forget how to connect with each other?” and follows up with children directing adults in conversations. It’s meant to be cute! It’s meant to remind us how easy it was to connect with strangers when we were all children!

You know, when we were all ignorant of how terrible people of the world could be.

There’s one guy going up to a woman who is sitting down, asking if he can sit down and tell her a story. There’s a woman asking another woman if she wants to go with her to her house, and it ends with one guy asking another guy for cuddle, and that same guy asking two other people if they want a mento.

The problem is, in this world of children communicating with a child’s mind with the view that adults work like children, it sort of works. In real life, these things are big No No Klaxons. These are the exact things we should be telling children “If someone says this to you, you shout as loud as you can and go to the nearest familiar face.”

This does not work out of the world of children.

In real life, women already have men sitting down when and where they are not wanted and asking if they can “tell them a story”, with the belief that they won’t be told no. If women are asked as politely as “Chris” asks his target and are turned down, the scene can change from nice stranger to Nice Guy (TM) who demands to know what is so wrong with him that he’s not allowed to sit down and be nice to someone and engage them in a Nice conversation.

In the case of the two women, where one thinks the other is hitting on her, it is no wonder considering what we can expect from people in this society today.

And the third one involves one man asking another man if he can have a cuddle. Are you kidding me!? Are we only meant to be weary of this question of it’s asked by someone wearing a trench coat!? If someone came up to me and said “can I have a cuddle” and they weren’t Tom Fletcher from McFly, I would tell them where to go and what they can do with that cuddle.

And lastly, if a random man came over to me and offered me a sweet, I have enough reasons in today’s society and social climate to be weary of such a question to just flat out turn it down and move away. I don’t know where that sweet has been, I don’t know if there is an ulterior motive at play or a catch if i except. Call me paranoid, but if women can’t even allow men to open doors without there being repercussions afterwards, and the potential blame put on them should something happen in a bad turn of events, then  nobody should be shown accepting anything from others they don’t know in this sort of context, whether it’s food or contact or otherwise.

And the very fact that this advert includes children, I can’t believe nobody has thought this through! The defence is that these adverts are on late at night when there’s less chance of children seeing them, but I don’t believe these measures truly work.

Who says no to mentos? Hopefully everyone, if it’s from someone you don’t know or can’t trust.

In other advert-related rants: For similar reasons, I really dislike the Avon advert where women get a mystery package through the post. Let’s think this through. Treating this advert in earnest, this mystery package is supposedly full of make up items but the models don’t know where it’s come from, and they don’t know what the items contain.And yet, throwing caution to the wind where the products might be filled with dangerous chemicals due to the items possibly being fakes, possibly having an allergic reaction to the new mystery products they don’t know the origins of, and forgetting the anthrax scare we had about 20 years ago (and if I’m old enough to remember it, so are the people on the advert!), they cake their faces in the stuff. And only afterwards is it revealed these are Avon products.

Again, I can’t think of any woman who would just open a mysterious box that was posted through the door if they haven’t ordered anything, and I certainly don’t know anyone who would be as careless to actually use make up that they can’t put a name and ingredients list to.

A few years ago there was that spree of “Should have gone to Specsavers” adverts which really got my goat. Specifically, the one set on a rollercoaster.

In the scene, we have two pensionrs, apparently walking down a pier and then sitting down to have a rest and eat some food. Except they’ve sat down on a rollercoaster, they still have their bags with them, they have sandwiches in their hands, and then the chest strap comes down before the rollercoaster speeds off.

I had so many problems with this advert that I couldn’t believe such glaring oversights would be ignored to save face.

First of all, you can’t just accidentally wander on to a rollercoaster! It doesn’t matter how blind you are because you don’t have glasses on or the right prescription, there’s sounds, there’s people, there’s staff members. The design of a fair ground just doesn’t allow for it.

Secondly, they’re holding their bags and their sandwiches when the chest guard comes down. I know rollercoasters and engineers have had some well deserved negative press lately, but I don’t know anyone who has ever sat on a ride without someone going down the row of seats to make sure everyone is strapped in safely and correctly and ready to go. If by some freak happenstances that led to two pensioners sitting on a rollercoaster in the belief it was a park bench, staff would see them with their sandwches and their bags, see them trapped uncomfortably by the chest guard, and (knowing of the staff that I do and not the poor quality staff who have led to terrible tragedies) sort the situation out before it went further.

And then perhaps the biggest insult to my intellect was the pensioners going from trapped by the chest guards to holding them in a safe fashion like you are meant to. How could that happen!? In real life, it certainly wouldn’t have.

It wasn’t your sandwich, mate, it was poor story boarding!

And finally, I pretty much hate every perfume advert out on the market.
Why are scantily clad women writihing on silk and satin sheets holding perfume bottles?! What have those elements of the advert got to do with perfume? These adverts are clearly for the male gaze and they tell me nothing about the product.

It’s not so much “Sex Sells” because if sex really sold, women wouldn’t have to put up with adverts for products aimed at them, aimed at men. It’s that the sexualisation of women sells… to men, and tells women that they need to be like those women on screen… for reasons I don’t understand…

Do you know what would make sense for perfume adverts? Exploring what scent can mean in the greater sense. Scent can be a great memory reminder. Imagine, instead of women draped in figure-implying sheets, glowering at the camera, we have happy smiling women spraying perfume into the air to ground a memory into their mind, and then at the end of the advert, them spraying perfume into the air and the memory being recalled.

That would be lovely. That’s what I want out of perfume adverts.

But I suppose until women are in charge of broadcasting and asexuals in charge of advertising, the television will continue to concentrate on the male gaze, people (mostly women) will continue to be sexualised, and adverts will be made which do not share themselves well to real life circumstances.