We do not talk about our periods enough. In fact, most of the world doesn’t talk about it at all, as though it’s this disgusting, taboo thing that only happens to a tiny population of people with bad hygiene. If men had periods, we wouldn’t even be entertaining this conversation. Frankly, body odour is a natural occurrence and that doesn’t have a quarter of the stigma around periods. With all manner of equal rights happening in our world today, we are also addressing the importance of removing stigma around a very natural occurrence and opening up a conversation about the pink tax.
Post publishing note (20/07/21) – I have since discovered these are also called Moon Cups, hence the title change.
What is the pink tax?
The pink tax, sometimes known as the feminine tax, is the additional amount that women have to pay for grooming products, sometimes the same grooming products as masculine ones. We perpetuate this narrative around feminine grooming as though it’s natural when it’s not. We don’t tell men that they have to remove all of their body hair because being anything other than a make mole rat is disgusting. Hair removal for all genders should be a personal choice. I, for one, don’t like the texture of hair on skin, but I also don’t like rough skin either. That’s a personal choice, and my skin loves me for it, because I slather myself in lotion mixed with oil daily. But, I digress… In short, women spend thousands annually on grooming products, from shampoos to lotions, on hair removal products and methods, on hair and nails, and also on periods.
I was alarmed to actually calculate how much money I spent monthly on pads, tampons and liners. It’s obscene, and I’m a minimalist, not someone who has every brand of thing imaginable. My entire makeup kit can fit into a small travelling case. I keep to the products that work, I try to remain as natural as I can (says the person with tattoo’d eyeliner and eyebrows!), and I don’t try the next best thing. I’d rather spend that money on food, to be honest. But my period was much more expensive than I’d like.
Skip this if you’re not interested, squeamish or are fragile… To give some context, I have a contraceptive implant (I promise to write a blog about this journey since this is my second one!) which means that my period has become as reliable as a mongoose. Sometimes, it will be 100 or more days of bliss, but then I’ll be stuck with 20+ days of light flow which is annoying. (Yes I’ve been to the doctor about this, and apparently it’s fine) Other times, it would be shorter cycle lengths with longer flow lengths, or vice versa, or even stoppage for a few days only to go, “just kidding I’m back.” In a nutshell, it’s massively annoying because it’s unpredictable in every possible way.
I am also very irritable, like many women are, to damp. Personally, I hate it and it leads to all sorts of post-period issues, like yeast infections. So not only did I have to deal with 20 days of frustration and hormones all over the place, I then had two weeks of feeling like I had a flea infestation in the nether regions. Tampons did not help at all, and in fact, I get so paranoid with them (toxic shock syndrome can put the fear of God in you) that I was never comfortable. I do not want to be undone by a bloody cotton on a string. Fuck that. And of course, with pads, you get all sorts of shifting… and then if you exercise, you not only have a heightened sense of paranoia, you also have the gross feeling of the Red Sea gushing out of your body. I am not proud, but I resorted to sleeping with a dark towel when I’m on a period, for fear that somehow in my sleep, it will miss the pad and two pairs of underwear and stain my sheets AND the mattress cover. I also used to get up at night to check and change.
Forget the money and hassle, the sheer volume of non-biodegradable waste was disgusting. Women can easily fill a bin in a week with how much stuff we have to use. I get that some women are blessed with minimal, regular flows and kudos to you for having a body that doesn’t hate you. But there are some of us who genuinely feel like we’re on death’s doorstep having a beer every month, or in my case, every “whenever-it-feels-like-it”. Some of us can put Jaws and Texas Chainsaw Massacre to shame. In fact, I sometimes call it Shark Week/Month…
So the volume of waste is horrendous, the money spent is obscene, the actual journey is a literal pain in the ass/legs/belly/back/everywhere… and then we have everyone’s most dreaded bit… the smell. Periods can smell like a raccoon crawled up there and died. Sometimes, it’s not so bad, other times, I wonder if that’s how I’m gonna die, and I find myself sat there wondering if I forgot a tampon at any point… and how long it was there for… and if there are any fibres that remained and my body has become a bacterial stomping ground and I’m going to die. Coroner’s report: death by period. It never is anything; my mind is very active. But yes, we all have those moments of movement, like when you uncross your legs or stand up, and you suddenly feel like you’re wearing an eau du menstruation that everyone in a stadium can smell. I hated periods so much and dreaded getting them so much that I’ve considered getting my womb removed; it’s caused me that much agony and not just the physical type.
The cup of life (and death)
But then I saw the cup on Amazon while looking at eco-friendly period undies. I first thought, absolutely hell no. How is that going to get up there? What if it gets stuck? It looks massive. How will this work anyway? But in my inquisitive nature, I googled and read for a couple hours on how they work, the risks and the benefits. I decided to roll the dice and try one. I naturally had to wait nearly three months because my body has it’s own body clock that I believe is alien to this planet. But the time came, and I couldn’t be more excited. I mean, no one is excited about getting their period, but I was.
There are a few ways to fold it, and it’s as thin as a tampon. Getting the placement right was the tricky part and the first two days took some trial and error until I cracked it. But in those two days, it did a fantastic job and the leakage was so minimal I wasn’t worried at all. I went to yoga armed with a liner and a bag of leak anxiety… but to my surprise, no hiccups or mishaps, and now I go with all the brave in the world, armed with confidence and some bloating. This is my first period itch free too, which is bloody fantastic!
But what I love the most is the ability to move around, scent free. It’s invisible now, and only I know that I’m on a period; kinda like body dysmorphia or anxiety. You can wear it for up to 12 hours, but I change it three times a day (I prefer to wash up morning, afternoon and before bed). You can also now keep track of your flow, as there are measurements on the cup itself, so you know exactly how much flow happens at what time of your period. The more data, the better understanding you’ll have for your own period.
Overall, it’s great for the environment, my wallet, my body, and my mind. I cannot recommend it more. It’s akin to muting the annoyance of periods, like getting noise cancelling headphones (which I’ve written about here). I no longer worry about people knowing I have a period, and also don’t worry about wearing white on those days either. I don’t worry about leaking when I’m asleep or sat on nice furniture (let’s face it, leaking onto an expensive fabric chair is one of the worst period nightmares ever). I can go about my day as though I don’t even have a period at all. It’s amazingly freeing…
And incredibly cost effective! The cost of one cup, that will last about ten years, is the same amount of money that I spent in a month. Let’s work out those costs… Let’s say I get 5 periods in a year, because I’m that irregular. That’s roughly £100 a year on just periods supplies, and £1000 for ten years. I know it’s more than that but that’s not bad savings, for one little life-changing cup.
If you haven’t tried one and you can relate to this story, I would highly recommend trying one. There is a little learning curve but you get the hang of it after a couple of days. I am not selling one, and not affiliated with any companies. This is just my own experience as I write a lot about my life here on Désiré Writes.
Note to men reading this:
Kudos if you read the whole thing. Also kudos if you tried to and just skimmed over the more gruesome bits, because you’re at least trying. Open up a conversation with the women around you and ask them what it’s like for them. The more we normalise periods, the more we reduce the stigmas and crippling anxieties some women feel every single month. If you have a daughter, talk to her about it. If you have a sister, girlfriend or wife, ask questions. If you’ve got female friends that you have a more open relationship with, or want to have a better relationship with, open a dialogue. Normalisation starts with us. Not with governments or greater society. So open up those conversations and let’s speak about the natural things that happen to our bodies.
As always, if you liked this article, please share it. Sharing helps it reach more people, and the more people we reach, the more we can normalise periods! Let’s change the world, one blog post at a time.