Periods. They are a bloody inconvenience, aren’t they? Sorry. We spend so long as young girls growing up, waiting, wishing, for that day we would dash to the toilet and see that faint little mark lining our underwear: the apparent “beginning of womanhood”; the “rose-petal stain” so delicately described in The Secret Life of Bees. After the initial joy and pride, calling for a mass sleepover, movie night and story exchange, we learn to dread this monthly visit. Like the cousins you never wanted to play with, the gifts you hated receiving on your birthday. The hassle, the PMS, the bloat. Nightmare. We’re taught that we are little monsters at that time of the month; the inner brat shines through. When we are displaying the slightest of emotions – passion, anger, sadness -we learn to expect comments and jabs alluding to our current menstrual status.
This monthly cycle took on a whole new meaning when I recently – finally – embraced the menstrual cup. After much hassling and suggesting from friends, I gave in. The profound impact this small cup-shaped piece of silicone has had on my perspective of being a functioning woman was one I could never have guessed. Here, the lessons divulged –
Lesson #1 – The Cup Has Political Power
This cup has become my number one covert tool as a finger up at The Man. This strange cup and the worldwide debates regarding women’s rights have become intrinsically entwined for me; as the movement’s momentum once again grows, I was figuring out how to navigate this thing. As the fight becomes stronger, so does my appreciation of the cup. I no longer pay the outdated taxes on tampons because I no longer buy them at all (also a great money saving strategy). A minor surge of rebellion runs through me every time the cup is required. No more wealthy, white men will make me pay for being born a woman – punish me for something I should instead be grateful for and proud of. It’s a mini-step towards making a difference, but any step forward is a step in the right direction.
Lesson #2 – Appreciate the Body You’ve Been Given
Like approximately 80% of Australian women, I’ve had my highs and lowest of lows with body positivity.
It’s a rollercoaster relationship. At times, I’ve considered that being born male would be “so much better”. A simple life of sorts. Somehow, the menstrual cup has convinced me, almost immediately, that my body is amazing. I still wake up regretting my gut at times and wish for the elusive ‘tone’, but my body (your body) does this crazy thing every…single…month. The internal clock ticks and away it goes. Instead of seeing my body as the destroyer of any #bikinibody hopes and dreams, she’s proved herself as a powerful and incredible machine. The appreciation of this science has extended to other areas – maybe my butt does look OK in those jeans; maybe my swirling brain of thoughts and feelings is a useful positive.
Lesson #3 – There Is No Shame
With two sisters and multiple fiery personalities, periods have long been a dinner table topic in my family. My dad has been dragged through the worst of it. But as soon as the comfort of home is left and the tight-knit circle at school (all girls) is discarded, any mention of the menstrual cycle becomes taboo. We learn to keep it hushed. We awkwardly ask another woman for the provision of a sanitary item when we are without, internally flapping within public toilet blocks. It’s all kept behind locked doors, even when amongst other women. It’s a process to bring us out of this mind-set, but it’s a lesson becoming all the more clear. Periods are not taboo. They are life. FACT. Let’s own the discomfort and unpleasantness, support our sisters experiencing the same. Without this bodily function, none of us would even exist.
Lesson #4 – The Cup Will Bring You Together
There’s a group of us now who have all, unashamedly, openly discussed our menstrual cup appreciation. There’s a special understanding in that – the same initial fear, awkward moments, and love. If I’d known 6 months ago this would make me feel more connected to some of my fellow gals, I would’ve accepted the cup much sooner.
Aunt Flow was never meant to be our enemy, she’s more like a best friend, but the powers that be have done their job at convincing us otherwise: that we are inferior and weak for holding the greatest power a human can have. She’s a signal that things are OK; a tool to be used against gender inequalities; a topic for discussion and sharing and advice. All it took was a strange little cup to show me all this.
NB* We acknowledge that not all women have periods, or vaginas, nor are periods exclusive to the ‘female experience’. There is no homogeneous experience of ‘womanhood’ and those represented in this piece are lived by the author.