This subject seemed like a really cool idea until I sat down to write it and suddenly thought, ‘is this too TMI? What if potential employers read this? Or my grandparents?’ I almost canned the piece, because god forbid I make anyone feel uncomfortable. I mean, we are only discussing a natural bodily function that half of the earth’s population experiences.
So yeah, I had my doubts, but I realised that if I backed out for that reason, I am just perpetuating the stigma of that unmentionable word. Yes folks, today we are talking about periods – try not to scream.
*Apparently it helps if you say “period” 15 times in front of the mirror with the light off.
SHIT YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT … MENSTRUAL CUPS
A month ago, the idea of a menstrual cup simultaneously fascinated me and terrified me. How did a little cup fit up ‘there’? What if it overflowed? And what the hell would I do if it got stuck?! Menstrual cups seemed like a myth. Everybody on the internet raved about them, but in reality, I thought they were reserved for hippies or vegans. Forking out a mini fortune for packets of pads and tampons just seemed like the admittance fee for womanhood. BUT, with the discovery that as a university student I could buy a subsidised menstrual cup from Wā Collective, it seemed too rude not to. So, I paid the fee and armed myself with a new blood-hungry weapon which is cheaper, more ecologically-friendly, and from a local business. Now I just had to wait for my period (whispers) to arrive.
Ruby’s Period Diary
Beginners Tip One: remember to sterilise your little cup before your period is due so you can use it right away. This sounds obvious, but of course I forgot. As usual my period crept up and so kindly surprised me, leaving me to resort to my usual methods for the first day. That evening I got my shit together and chucked it in the pot. It’s easy, just like boiling an egg. When it had cooled down, it was ready to use. If I’m being completely honest it looked pretty big and I was seriously questioning how the hell it could be as ‘comfortable’ as Wā Collective claimed it to be. But not wanting to be a quitter I studied up on the instructions and off I went. AND GUESS WHAT… it went in second try!! All it took was a bit of manoeuvring, and me and my wā cup were one
This morning my alarm went off like a warning bell and I scrambled from my bed to the bathroom in fear that the cup was overflowing, but in the shower I discovered it was less than half full. I just gave her a wash and back up she went. And I’m not shitting you here, it is so comfortable. You feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. I was shocked at how little I even thought about the cup the whole day. Those mandatory toilet breaks to ‘check’ everything was all good seemed like a distant memory. Oh, and did you know you can keep in your menstrual cup for up to 12 hours?!
I hit my first speed bump today, discovering some minor leakage while in the bathrooms at uni. Thank god I wore a liner, or else my day of study would have been canned. I’m putting this hiccup down to my rather flippant approach to positioning the cup this morning. Due to my good run so far, I got too confident and didn’t take my time making sure it was sitting right. But no dramas, I just did a little readjustment and I was good to go again.
Beginners Tip Two: Wear a liner when you’re starting out. Just until you figure out your angles and know how to make it sit right for you.
Day Four and Five:
Neither days were that exciting. My period was slowing down but I continued to wear the cup just in case – my period loves to surprise me with a big finale every now and then. If you are like me and hate the in-between-bit of your period, when its light and wearing a tampon seems too much, but it’s too heavy to wear only a liner, and pads are just kinda icky – the cup is your answer! Honestly I can’t stress enough that you feel like NOTHING is up there at all, so it’s great to ride out the final days.
Beginners Tip Three: The shower is the easiest place to remove and wash the cup. A lot more privacy than a toilet cubicle, much more room to manoeuvre, and no fear of spillage.
So here I am, finished my first period with my now beloved cup and questioning every reason why I didn’t try it sooner. Now the problem is convincing my friends and YOU GUYS how good it was. It’s like when you discover an amazing tv show or book and try so hard to get all your friends to be into it too. But it’s hard to communicate exactly how cool it is, you can’t quite put how extremely life changing it is into words and its super frustrating because none of your friends really quite seem to understand or willing to try it out … that’s how I feel now!
But if I can’t convince you than maybe Olie Body, the Founder and Executive Menstruator of Wā Collective can. I reached out to her when I started writing this piece and she so kindly answered my questions.
I first wanted to ask her about the recent push by Labour to make sanitary products more accessible through the passing of a remit, and if she agreed this is the best way to tackle period poverty in New Zealand. Olie acknowledged the significance of this conversation entering into the mainstream media, however she thinks that simply subsiding menstrual products is still looking too narrow to be the necessary answer for New Zealand’s struggles with period poverty. According to Olie, “a tampon or pad can help, but it can never solve.” She suggests that this would only continue to contribute to harming our environment and our wallets. This is why one-off products such as a menstrual cup is how Wā Collective plans to tackle period poverty, forming the conversation around sustainable, ethical, safe and practical products.
A TAMPON OR PAD CAN HELP, BUT IT CAN NEVER SOLVE.”
One of the most refreshing things about Olie is how carefree she is in her discussion of periods. She says others can do this too by simply talking about periods like the normal thing they are. There is a somewhat shameful stigma that surrounds women’s menstrual cycles that makes the subject seem inappropriate and should be avoided at all costs. Olie stresses the falsehood of this taboo. “Vaginas are great, periods are life giving and you are powerful. End of.” She invites men into the conversation too, saying that together we should talk about periods frankly and with a splash of humour.
VAGINAS ARE GREAT, PERIODS ARE LIFE GIVING AND YOU ARE POWERFUL. END OF.”
Understanding people’s hesitation to putting a cup up ‘there’, Olie offered some words of encouragement. She explains that while it may look daunting at first, it can fold into the size of a super tampon and won’t stretch you either. Plus, you can’t feel it at all – which is a statement that through my own research I highly agree with! To sign off, Olie leaves us with a cheeky little reminder: “at the end of the day, bigger things can go up there anyway, right?”
The Facts (if you are STILL not convinced):
Menstrual cups hold three times as much as a tampon.
NZ currently sends 357 million disposable menstrual products to landfill annually. So far this year Wā Collective has saved 670000 disposable menstrual products from going to landfill.
A Wā cup can last up to 10 years.
Wā Cups are ethically made with zero waste in production and are made of 100% medical grade silicone.
A Wā cup costs $20 for a student and $49 for others. Whereas forking out for disposable menstrual items can cost around $100 – $300+ annually.
Of 1000 menstruating students, a shocking one third have skipped class because of a lack of access to menstrual products. Every standard menstrual cup sold by Wā Collective subsidises one for a student in need.
Menstrual cups pose less risk of causing Toxic Shock Syndrome than tampons.
So, go and find your new best friend at: https://wacollective.org.nz
Save yourself some money as well as the planet, it’s a win win! And let’s normalise the conversation. If vaping is socially acceptable than surely talking about your menstrual cycle should be too.
We need to end this stigma, period.
Banner Image from Wā Collective