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.


Spring Cleaning Can Make You Money – As long as you had money to start with

Monday 16 April, 2018

There’s a history to Spring Cleaning, that I won’t go into because the history is long and I can only remember a small bit of it that I learnt from watching Ruth Goodman in Tales from the Green Valley, but it’s enshrined in western culture. When Spring eventually comes around, we dust the window ledges, we stack our cupboards a different way and we throw out the old curtains that did not survive yet another winter.

But lately, on the radio and on prime time TV shows for the masses, I’ve noticed there’s a bit of a fad about it this year. This happened a few years ago as well, around about the economic crash of 2008. The radio was full of top tips to make money on your unwanted goods, and the tv had shows about items you just happened to have in the attic being worth an unbelievable amount of money. This year, the fad is back and it seems to be tied to the fact we’re more conscious on the amount of household waste we produce.

In the last week alone I’ve listened to tips on how to get some of your money back from the clothes jamming up your wardrobe – Sell them to those clothing merchants you see on the high street (Cash4Clothes!), sell them back to the high street shops you bought them from (They named a place I’d never heard of, so I assume it’s expensive) or sell them on ebay or Gumtree as a joblot. If you’ve got gadgets you don’t use, sell them too! All this advice was intertwined with stories about some households who just threw things out instead of recycling, and landfills being filled with perfectly good clothes and accessories that could have gone to a good home if given the chance. Even worse, some items that say “this is not recyclable” could be recylable if you seperate the bits that aren’t recylable from the bits that are. You have to be conscious about everything you do. And I agree with that. As a minimalist on the verge of hoarding (I’ll get to that contradiction in a minute), I agree that what can be recycled, whether that means melted down and remade, or passed on to someone who could use it second hand, sent to a charity shop, or given to someone who can make something else entirely out of it- should be recycled. Unneccessary waste is wreaking havoc on our planet.

What I don’t agree with is this patronising tone it’s said in. Because it presents the idea that it’s the solution to clutter, without considering what causes the clutter in the first place, and even worse, without considering that the “make money off your unwanted shit” idea won’t benefit everyone. I’m coming at this from a personal angle. I had some unwanted clothes in my wardrobe. I recently went through my wardrobe and binned anything that couldn’t possibly be used by anyone else, and put what could be used by others in a bag for a charity shop (I have a threshold here, if they’re not fit for me to wear, they’re not fit for a charity shop).

The real problem is, is that my wardrobe is cluttered because I have very little space and I only have the necessities and some items I was given as  a gift. (Minimalist) But I had clothes that had holes in them, fraying at the seams, and the worst ones I threw out and I’ve kept some of the rest so long despite being in such a state because to me, they still serve their purpose and I can’t possibly throw them out (Hoarding tendencies) until they stop serving their purpose.

Some other advice was selling valuable jewellery, and gathering up any collectibles and finding a buyer of them to get the most money for these items. I don’t own any “valuable” jewellery that I’d be willing to part with, because the two items I do have mean a lot to me. I don’t own any collectibles, we’ve never had the space for them and my family have never inherited any from late relatives.

What I have are old clothing, some  20+ years old, some from charity shops, some from Primark, one or two items from New Look, a well worn pair of Jeans from Matalan, and a dress I bought for a wedding that will no doubt become The Wedding Dress (As in, the dress I’ll wear to people’s weddings, not my wedding dress… Although….). Nobody is going to want to buy these things off me when I am done with them. I will not make money from my unwanted goods, because the biggest reason for most of the things that are unwanted, is because I’ve worn them down. I’ve worn them down and worn them out. And that is the case for a lot of poor people, so this solution is being presented TO poor people to make some money off their stuff despite it not being practical advice for a lot of poor people. This solution also assumes that people are cramming items in because of an excess of items and a forgetful disposition, when these days it’s more a case of lack of space within the home.

Don’t get me wrong, if you can make money off spring cleaning, then all the luck to you. But you have to realise that in order for you to be making money off your unwanted, you have to have money in the first place to get them, or to store them somewhere where they’ve gone unused and untouched.