By Maris Harmon, Columnist
Published February 10, 2015
Women are taught to be disgusted by their bodily functions. They are taught not to burp, fart or hiccup in public. When men experience natural cycles of the human body that occur throughout the day, farts are often funny, burps are loud and spitting shows a sign of true manliness. In a human body, the same two acts can be received in completely dichotomous ways depending on gender.
A more subtle yet arguably more destructive societal construction that distinguishes the sexes is the perception of personal genitalia. I began the article with the discrepancies between reaction to bodily functions because it is often much easier to conceive how these differences have been constructed by our male-dominant culture. However, the general idolization of the penis and revulsion of the vagina begins at an early age and carries all the way into adulthood.
Often, when a little boy plays with his penis, he is “adjusting it.” When a little girl touches her vagina, nearby adults laugh in discomfort and scold her to stop. Boys in middle school draw penises all over the walls and on each other’s faces. Girls in middle school pretend vaginas don’t exist. Kids in high school join the “pen15” club. Girls in high school don’t even learn about the clitoris in basic sexed.
When you or a woman you know first experienced her period, was it a moment of acceptance and peace, or was it a weird secret that people around her whispered about? Was putting in a tampon the first time you explored your own vagina? Was it the first time you felt acceptable doing so?
We are taught to be disgusted by the blood coming out of our bodies. We are told to hide our tampons on the way to the bathroom so passersbys won’t dare know we have to stick cotton up our canals to absorb the blood. We are taught to shame girls who are experiencing that time of the month by asking if their emotions are being influenced by PMS.
We are taught that we must stick a plastic applicator up our vaginas to insert a dry piece of cotton into our vaginal canals so that we don’t have to touch anything that might be “gross.”
Well, here’s the truth: your body is not gross. It is natural and real. Your vagina is not a secret. If boys can draw penises on the walls, we can create vagina sculptures to display in the art school.
It’s time for a revolution, and the revolution has arrived — DivaCups, MoonCups, Ruby Cups. They’re all the same, and they’re here to stay. Menstrual cups are a blood-catchment system that is inserted into the vagina and rests below the cervix. A person simply empties the cup of blood into the toilet when it is full, and boils the cup at the end of her cycle. The cup can be reused for up to 10 years.
Why is this so amazing? First of all, menstrual cups are much healthier for your body. They don’t have chemicals or perfumes, they avoid dryness by catching your menstrual flow rather than absorbing it, and there is no risk for toxic shock syndrome because they are made out of 100 percent medical silicone. Plastics and chemicals in pads and tampons can cause unwanted problems. The cup can be worn for up to 12 hours, and therefore allows for much more constant physical activity and traveling comfort.
Secondly, the cost savings with diva cups are incredible. In one year if you spend around $100 on tampons, then in 10 years you are saving $1000 (some simple math)!
Third, landfills are benefitting so much from the menstrual cup revolution. In one woman’s lifetime, she will use around 12,000 tampons or pads, all of which (hopefully) end up in landfills. Ruby-cup.com estimates that about four diva cups in one’s lifetime can equate to about 12,000 tampons. They also report that about 170,000 plastic tampon applicators are found along U.S. coastlines in a single year, each of which takes about 500 years to break down.
Ruby Cup is a special brand of menstrual cup that works a bit like TOMS Shoes: buy one, give one to a schoolgirl in a developing country. This means that she has more flexibility to go to school all year round, stay healthy and contribute to her society. Girl by girl, we can change the world.
The menstrual cup revolution can remodel our relationships with our vaginas, our blood, our earth and, most importantly, ourselves. We are reclaiming our rights to our bodies and our blood. The cup may seem small, but it’s changing the flow.
Maris Harmon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org