my menstruation is not a commodity
This post was sponsored by JuJu Menstrual Cups, but all opinions are held by the author. If you have a question about sponsored posts, email Zoya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, periods. They’re not the most fun are they? Even the most deeply feminist, empowered, confident, happy woman has to admit that bleeding for a week every month is generally a tad uncomfortable, inconvenient, and – let’s face it – expensive.
We’ve all heard about the tampon tax and why that’s incredibly rubbish (sanitary products aren’t a luxury item, Government – they’re a necessity). But what I find most disturbing about the modern menstruation experience is the commodification of our periods. Corporations and major brands have created a market where women not only have to purchase pads and tampons monthly – but we have to choose between any number of brands, and pay premiums for things we probably don’t need (like floral packaging, or special carry cases etc. etc.). Brands compete for our attention with advertising, and each period has to incorporate a monthly visit to the supermarket to stare at a wall of brightly coloured boxes that all claim to be different – when they’re really there to do one, mundane thing.
Somehow, a bodily function that we can’t control or escape has become an exciting marketing and sales opportunity for numerous corporations, all of which want us to believe that they’re somehow different and special – when really, what would satisfy me the most would be a cheap, standard range of products in different sizes that are convenient and don’t involve nauseating or infantilising ads featuring blue liquid or a cartoon beaver.
Society’s obsession with turning every experience into a new opportunity to sell us something is truly offensive. This is capitalism at its worst, and it certainly isn’t restricted to sanitary products alone. I mean, don’t get me started on cleaning products, pharmaceuticals or even bread. But what is upsetting about the sanitary product industry in particular is how most products and their marketing reinforce the idea of periods being something gross, or that we want to hide.
The colourful wrappers and tins that try to hide pads and tampons; the language that talks about ‘that time of the month’, or various other euphemisms; the implication that leaks or unexpected periods would be the MOST EMBARRASSING thing ever (but luckily, this new anti-leak ridge and these added wings on our pads will save us from that horror) – all of it combines to remind us that we should feel awkward and uncomfortable about our periods. And then they sell us the solution through their culturally acceptable packaging and products.
I’m tired of feeling like I have to apologise for changing my pad at work (hiding it up my sleeve as I walk to the toilet has become a habit that I can’t shake). I’m tired of having to negotiate brands and colours and prices every month for something that should be as simple as buying toilet paper or any other functional but necessary item. Although there are homebrand tampons and pads (and for that, I’m thankful), I think we should go a step further and investigate completely different options for sanitary products.
The menstrual cup is one option that rarely gets discussed, and that has benefits beyond just being a lot less expensive (you can save a minimum of $90 a year as compared to pads and tampons). Australian brand JuJu, offers menstrual cups made out of medical-grade silicon, that are reusable for up to 10 years at a time, and that have no risk of causing toxic shock syndrome or vaginal dryness the way that pads and tampons can.
The concept of a menstrual cup can seem challenging at first – the cup is inserted into your vagina, and then taken out and emptied throughout the day. The reason why it can be hard to conceptualise using a menstrual cup, in my opinion, goes back to the way that we talk about periods – as something a bit icky and gross, that we don’t want to think about let alone see too closely. Menstrual cups are quick, simple and painless to use, but because they are reusable, people get a little freaked – you might actually have to *shock* see your own blood.
Personally, I think the benefits far outweigh any momentary discomfort this might entail. For a start, think of the environmental impact of using the same item for 10 years, as opposed to the dozens of tampons and pads you would use each month that end up in landfill.
On top of that, you just step right out of the capitalist market that has become modern menstruation by no longer having to purchase more products every four weeks.
My period should be something that I control, and that I take care of each month without being inundated with advertising, brand comparisons and premium prices. From now on, I’m converting to a menstrual cup – it’s better for the environment, it’s better for my wallet, and most importantly, it’s better for me.