I am a ‘regular’ Indian woman… strike that… I am an Indian woman who has had a conservative upbringing and had to face all the taboos related to menstruation. I grew up knowing that I can’t talk about periods with the menfolk, couldn’t keep my pads lying around, couldn’t get into religious territory and only ask my mother for the money to buy pads, because well, had to keep my father in the dark. It seemed like it was something only women could talk about, discuss and then just keep in the corner hidden under a cloak or maybe a tablecloth.
Well, to my mother’s dismay, I turned out exactly the opposite of what is deemed appropriate. I suffer from dysmenorrhea and have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, so my periods are painful, long and often accompanied with swear words. I refuse to keep my pads hidden, refuse to say I am not well when I am menstruating and frankly, men already know all about periods.
Moving on, I have been using sanitary napkins ever since I got my first period. They are uncomfortable to say the least. I was also constantly checking for stains and sometimes got tired of the half wedgies. You wanna know why women are cranky when they are on their periods? Try stuffing your underwear with diapers and then get a wedgie most of the time. To top it all, it costs a bomb. I could use only a certain kind of pad due to my heavy flow, and most stores don’t store it. Then there was the trouble of changing pads when you are outside. With all these things to mess with me, at the end of about 8 days of wearing pads all day, the chafing was cruel and painful. I did try tampons for a while but then realized it wouldn’t work due to the clots my uterus loves throwing out. So I went back to the pads, albeit sadly.
Recently I read a lot about how much damage all the sanitary napkins are causing to the environment. There’s plastic in the pads and that is not biodegradable. Moreover I also learned about the chemicals (dioxin, pesticides from the cotton etc.) in the pads and tampons that can screw with our bodies. Did you know in some cases, using pads and tampons can cause toxic shock? Well I didn’t and I freaked. I read about the menstrual cup online, thanks to a helpful woman who had posted a picture saying that it works wonderfully. I decided to buy one and I did.
Since I’ve always been taught that menstrual blood is dirty, I wasn’t comfortable using my hands for the process at first. Then I thought, what the heck, it’s still my body. I take a bath, I clean myself, and I don’t get how Indians are okay with washing their poop but not touching the period blood. So, this month I used the cup. I don’t mean to sound like a cliché TV ad, but it changed my life. I didn’t have to sleep in one position, didn’t have to maneuver myself to sit in the optimal posture, didn’t have to worry about stains and I even danced for 3 hours straight on my third day! I couldn’t feel the cup inside me at all. You just put it in place and then forget about it till you need to empty it and put it back in.
I talked to a few female friends about how awesome it is and they said they weren’t comfortable touching the thing and their blood. My mother was worried about it getting stuck inside me. I realized how many people are ill informed about our body and about different products. All the big brands of sanitary napkins spend crores on marketing and have put it in our heads that pads are the answer. No ma’am, it’s not. I can use the menstrual cup for the next ten years. I will save thousands of rupees and also do my bit for the environment. And for the record, the cup cannot get stuck inside you unless you glue it in.
I’m assuming you haven’t stopped reading, so listen up. Menstrual cups are safe, cost effective, environment friendly, socially less awkward and perfect for the 21st century woman. You never have to ask around for a pad. You never have to worry about stains. You never have to run around looking for open medical shops. You never have to hold that stupid black plastic bag of shame again. And ladies, it’s your body, it’s clean and it’s natural. Trust me, you’ll get over it. Actually, you barely touch the blood anyway. Frankly I am tired of big brands targeting women with their overpriced products that do more harm than good. Let’s change that time of the month from uncomfortable to a lot less uncomfortable (cramps will always be a bitch).
Featured Image Credit: Outside It’s Electric
Shreyasi Bose Fickle poet, stumbling author, atheist, feminist and a fiction junkie.
The article was originally published on feminism in India and re-posted here with permission.
Join Feminism in India (@femindproject) as they host the last #periodofchange tweetchat today, on May 28, 12- 1 pm IST on the topic of Menstrual Rights and Hygiene.
This post is part of Period Of Change, a 5-week campaign organized by The Kachra Project along with Earth&us that aims to mobilize people (both men and women) around menstrual waste as a starting point to lobby for change in current practices in MH waste management.
Join us for our Menstrual Hygiene Day special panel on May 28, 4 – 5:30 pm IST as we bring experts to discuss shifting to menstrual hygiene product alternatives and related concerns.