Why I Committed to A Menstrual Cup
When I got my period the summer before 8th grade, I kept it a secret. I became a tampon bandit and a toilet paper pad crafter. Growing up, my doctor mom would purchase sex-ed books for me to review every year before she gave a “sex talk” to her medical students. The sex-ed at my school was also very thorough. With this background, I believed I would ace menstruation, as if it were a test. Despite knowing the basics, like removing the plastic container from my tampon, I did not ace menstruation. I inserted my mom’s giant tampons up my 13 year old vagina and it hurt. Although I knew about TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), I still left my tampons in overnight because, uuh, I wasn’t getting up early to deal with that. Pads were uncomfortable; I bled through them, forgot about them, sometimes my dog even pulled them out of my trash can and tore them up. I hated my period and I viewed it as a gross, inconvenient spectacle.
My “secret” lasted 2 whole days, and when I finally told my mom about my period, she asked what products I’d like to use. I conjured an image of the festival of fun period products we had explored in 6th grade sex-ed and replied, “a menstrual cup.” Months later, a Diva Cup appeared on the kitchen counter. My menstrual cup request didn’t quite match the initial image in my head of a disposable disc. Despite my initial confusion, I committed to that Diva Cup! I Googled and Googled to learn more about this menstrual cup my Mom had bought. The more I learned, the more I loved my cup.
Through this experience, my relationship with my body began to transform.
I became enamored with cups and in turn, with periods. My period revelation came from reaching out to Jenny Cooper, the Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability at The Northwest School about the possibility of Northwest providing sustainable menstrual products in our bathrooms. I reread my email multiple times. I was scared to press send. My period was still my secret. Jenny’s response gave me a sense of community, though. She was excited to talk about period products and sustainability! Reaching out to Jenny ended my secret for good.
Through this experience, my relationship with my body began to transform. As a Type 1 diabetic, my body dictates much of my life and I’ve often struggled to feel in control of my body. I rely on a small pump that produces insulin for me and a Continuous Glucose Monitor to track my blood-glucose levels. I never chose for my experiences with Type 1 to influence my relationship with my body, food, and joy. Making the commitment to my menstrual cup, and to myself, was empowering -- for the first time in my life, I was understanding and collaborating with my body in a way that felt good to me. I am now at a place in my life where I look forward to my period. As I share my story and my knowledge, I continue to empower myself and hope to extend this empowerment to other menstruators in my community.
I’m not telling you that “period bliss awaits” or that menstrual cups will immediately heal your relationship with your body. In fact, I still struggle with food and body, with chronic illness, and with mental health. As I write, I am rolling around my bedroom trying to get comfortable as my uterus enjoys another evening of making productivity impossible and irritability inevitable. Committing to my cup was one step toward healing for me. There can be a steep learning curve. In my experience, it took five cycles to get the hang of inserting my cup and I found the process quite frustrating at first. It’s ok if you feel frustrated, too. Believe me when I say, things get better. Change takes time, but the transition is worth it. I am now grounded in my agency to change my relationship with my body and from there, to change the world.
To those intrigued, try a menstrual cup! But ultimately, choose the menstrual product that works for your body, your circumstances, and your values. That’s where healing can start. We can reimagine our relationship with our bodies, each other, and the places we call home. We must.
The Red SEA Collective and University of Washington’s Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design program are partnering up for a conversation on a new kind of menstrual product: FLOW, an on-the-go period cup washer. Join us as we deep dive with the co-founders of FLOW, bringing attention to sustainable period products and designing for menstruation. For more information and to RSVP, go to our Facebook or Eventbrite page!
Emma is a student organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Seattle. She’s an energetic advocate for a just, livable present and future. When she’s not in Zoom meetings, you’ll find her talking about climate justice, period products, or cuddling her dog.