Plenty of women have sought to challenge this. I encountered the wonderful Adventures in Menstruation zine at a gig and loved it. Something in written form concerning menses and 'feminine hygiene' that sounded like the actual conversations I had with friends! No “do you ever...not feel so fresh – down there?” around here. (Not that we don't feel fresh, y'know, down there).
From my experiences I think that if you grew up gendered female and being told about menstruation, it's discussed as something that would then take up a significant portion of your life. Not to mention several conversations. Considering this the subject of periods is usually presented as a fact of life with very few options. If you take the pill continuously, have the injection, the coil or use another form of birth control you needn't even menstruate if you don't want to.
All those Just 17 and Sugar teen magazine articles and confessional letters about hilariously embarrassing mishaps don't sit well with the sanitised world of advertising, where tampons and pads are advertised with the aid of blue water and delighted roller-blading women in white jeans. And I am not sure anyone identifies with either scenario. Most of us probably fall somewhere in between the 2, discretely checking our clothing for stains (and having the sense to wear black) while getting on with whatever we have to do that day and trying not to punch anyone just for walking too slowly in front of us. Or maybe that's just me.
I'm not going to detail my years of PMS-ridden misery – it can be summed up by the words cramps, mood swings and clumsiness. I feel like a cliché when I have every symptom ever listed for PMS. It doesn't stop me doing my job (unless I'm doubled over in pain), and every woman's experience is different.
What I AM going to talk to you about is Mooncups. It's come to my attention recently that there are people out there who don't know what these are, and I think that's a crying shame. I can direct you to the website (and should point out that other cups along the same lines are available).
They're an ecologically friendly alternative to commercially-made pads and tampons. Instead of getting through several pieces of bleached cotton every month or so and then sending them to landfill, you have one piece of moulded silicon that you can re-use for a few years.
I find them easy to use, although they might not be the best thing to recommend for people who are uncomfortable inserting anything into their vagina. (There are eco-friendly options available in that case – check out this post on DIY pads.) Some people find them a little difficult to learn how to use, but once you get the hang of a Mooncup I find the comfort and practicality much better than the conventional tampon. And maybe it's psychological, but I'm sure my cramps are less bad than they were when I was using tampons...Science, care to answer this?
Mooncups come in 2 sizes, and I am reliably informed that if you've given birth vaginally, you will need the larger one. If you are unsure there are details on the Mooncup box and on the site that can tell you which size will be right for you.
So, yesterday we had volunteering, today you have me guiding you through environmentally friendly feminine hygiene products in a rare Squeamish Bikini product recommendation/ endorsement. What can I say? We're givers.