The Obligatory Menstrual Post (or “The Diva Cup, Race and Blood”)

I’m cranky.  I’m horny.  I’m bloated.  And I’m fatigued.

It’s period time.

Yeah I said it.  I’m on my period.  Let the blood flow.

There’s clearly nothing very cerebral here.  Really.  I just wanted to make that announcement.  But I guess my point is why NOT make that announcement?  One-half (this is unofficial, give or take to factor in kids) of the human population goes through a week of estrogen cartwheels every month.  Sometimes two weeks.  Sometimes to the point of becoming severly depressed or having debilitating physical symptoms like intense cramps.  And yet we’re expected to walk around like everything is okay.  Like today is just another work day.

I call bullshit.  I’m not amused by the jumping jacks going on inside my body right now.  I’d like it to go back to being cool, calm and familiar.  And all I really want to do is take care of myself this week:  run, sleep, do yoga, dance, meditate, whatever.  Believe me, if you gave me a week off to do that, imagine how much more productive, happy, healthy and whole I would be once I got back to work?

In any case, the second part of my announcement is more fun.  I am not only my period…

*drumroll*

…I am also using the Diva Cup!

Yeah.  I’m a feminist.  But I have been slacking on my commitment to women’s health.  By slacking I mean that I know that abortion is a right, abstinence is a perfectly legitimate choice but not good public policy, AIDS is an epidemic and we have yet to respect or understand the psychological and sociological impact of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault on our society seeing as 1 in 3 women around us have experience it (yeah.  look around you.  count it up.  one-third of the women in the room are survivors).  Given all of the above, I thought I was pretty well-informed.

Until my housemate schooled me on a few dirty little facts about the sketchy safety of long-term use of birth control pills, how you actually GET toxic shock syndrome (friction from the cotton in tampons causes tiny cuts in the vaginal walls and the TSS comes from the infection caused when that cotton gets stuck there–wtf???), how even if you don’t get TSS the bleach used in the cotton is going right into your bloodstream…

In the meantime, I’d also heard about the Diva Cup before but I wasn’t quite primed to take the plunge [Note:  This is a link to a post on Feministe in case you are currently boycotting them for their unremitting race/class/sexuality issues.  The post is on menstrual blood but there’s a very instructive discussion in the comments on the Diva Cup and other alternatives to industrial tampons and pads].

But my housemate was taking her sister to the “crunchy store” to get her a Diva Cup so I tagged along.  It looked so tame!  It also cost 40 bucks but the cup will hold for 12 hours (compare to the 8 max of a super tampon) and the cup itself lasts several years (the saleslady let us know that you are supposed to chuck them every couple of years but they only say that so they don’t go out of business).  You just boil it for five minutes after your period and tuck it in the little sack until the next month.  You aren’t supposed to use it if you’ve delivered a child through the vaginal canal (as opposed to C-section) but they also suggested you consult your physician and there is plenty of information to sift through in the FAQs on the site

Well today is Day One on the Diva Cup so here is the real deal so far.  It was a bitch to put in and I chalk that up to my own ignorance about how my girly parts work.  Even though the instructions said to fold the cup and insert it horizontally, I kept trying insert it vertically.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the geography down there.  Which just made me feel salty because I am supposed to know how to walk around my own block!  Talk about socially constructed hang-ups.  I also expected it to be as easy as a tampon, in the sense that you just slip it in and it does what it is supposed to do.  But you also need to turn it to get the cup to unfold and “seal” around the canal.  Let me tell you, chile, just doing that–unfolding and pushing aside this, inserting a finger here, turning that, twisting my body around to figure out what was happening where, freaking out when I thought I’d “lost it” in there then realizing that this is patently impossible since it is so soft all you do is insert a finger alongside it and coax it out which made me laugh out loud at my minor panic–taught me more about my own body than I ever learned in 6th grade sex-ed.

Which was probably the best part of the damn experience.  It was a sweaty, fun, frustrating and triumphant time.

I finally got it to seal only after I gave up on th idea that I ever had any idea where things were down there and followed the damn directions.  And it felt great.  Better than a tampon because I didn’t feel that scratchy string and I don’t have to worry about counting hours before pulling it out.  I might have forgotten that it was there except that I’m writing this post. It is that comfortable.

Of course…removing it will be a new adventure.  But if I measure how much I like the Diva Cup by how much more comfortable I am (and empoweredI feel) I’d call it a win.

So why didn’t I know about it before?  Which brings me back to the beginning of this post–why NOT discuss these things?  Why isn’t this kind of information widely disseminated?  I was stunned to read on the box that the Diva Cup has been around for some 70 years.  I could have learned about this in 6th grade sex-ed or at least in high school at some point.  Of course, if I had, would I have been as comfortable with the idea of something so tactile?  Touch the cup, touch myself, touch blood–all things we are taught as little girls not to do.  We are dirty, smelly, sweaty.  Blood is dirty, smelly sweaty.  None of this makes even the idea of a Diva Cup very attractive; I mean I turned off myself when I first read about it.

I’m going to keep it Sherrod right here and just admit it:  I put the Diva Cup in the category of feminist-shit-that-only-white-women-do.

But, um, I don’t know about you, but I’m not dirty or smelly or sweaty.  Sweat isn’t even dirty or smelly.  Blood isn’t dirty or smelly or sweaty either.  Not even menstural blood.  It is just blood.  And considering the industrial strength soap we buy at CVS, believe me, it washes off the hands.

bell hooks has a great piece (I can’t find the citation, please bless me with if you know what I’m talking about) about African American women, how comfortable we are with our bodies AND our bodily fluids and systemic racism which conspiraces to make us feel dirty, sweaty and smelly regardless of how many showers a day we take.  The point being that from slavery, one of the undercurrents in our culture have been how disgusting we are even as that same sweat and dirt (the result of hours upon hours of field labor, mind you) left us vulnerable to the hyper-sexualizing gaze of white society, white men in particular.

Our own comfort with our bodies, like everything else, is political.  It is part of how we survive in this world.  Just trying the Diva Cup and seeing it as an adventure, for me, was a win on the side of righting wrongs a few centuries old.  Discussing it with you here was another.

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3 thoughts on “The Obligatory Menstrual Post (or “The Diva Cup, Race and Blood”)

  1. I have had a Diva Cup for years (originally, they said you can keep them for ten years, and that’s what I plan to do! also, I think the type 2 one is for people who have given birth, and/or are over a certain age) and I love it! You couldn’t pay me to go back!

    Also, recently, I bought myself some cloth pads and omg those are great too. I always have a few days leading up to or after my period where I just don’t really feel like using the cup but need SOMEthing and they are perfect for that. Just rinse out, wash, reuse. They’re nice! (Bought them on Etsy, if you’re curious).

    • Hey! I need to do more Etsy-ing. And I’ll start by looking into the cloth pads. I’d say I like the idea of being green and organic–and I do. But price definitely factors into it. And because sometimes I feel like I’m getting my Lauren Olamina on. #itsarecession #preparingfor2012 #readabookbyOctaviaButler

      And now that you mention it, the one I have is type 2…but I think I remember the saleswoman saying it doesn’t matter? Meh, I’m going to see if it works anyway. And considering I want to keep it for years, it may be a better investment…but this is just Day One…I’ll let you know it goes.

      Thanks for the comment :)

      • Yeah, I seem to recall that type 2 is supposed to be a touch bigger and is for a) if you’ve had kids and b) if you’re over 25. I have a type one, and am about to be 26, but unless I start having problems with it… fuck it. :P

        It took me a good two cycles before I totally got used to using it, so don’t worry if your success rate goes up and down, eventually it becomes second nature. And I totally did the same thing you did, with not at all being able to get the “no really put it in HORIZONTAL” thing. I think that took me one full cycle to wrap my brain around, lol, so you’re already doing better!

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