Those who know me may not be shocked to know that in my younger years I was a bit free-wheelin’ – I had a pretty “hippie” vibe back in high school, which has transitioned into a fairly left – some might say radical – take on most social and environmental issues even now that my hair is cut to a reasonable length.
My combined interest in conservation and lady stuff naturally led me to tampon and pad alternatives. In my early twenties, all the cool enlightened feminists I knew were talking about Diva Cups. I had already read about bleached tampons and toxic shock syndrome, and I also kinda hated the whole process of using pads and how much paper was produced, and the constant possibilities for embarrassment (come on, who hasn’t shown up for class with a pad stuck to their jeans?). So I was pretty excited for something new.
I did my research first, because $40 was a lot of money for me, an unemployed college student. I knew it would save me a lot of money in the long term, but “long term” has never really been a mainstay in my financial vocabulary. So first, to make sure it would be okay for me, I bought the disposable menstrual cup things. They look like a clear plastic bag attached to a livestrong bracelet – you sort of squeeze the rim together and shove it up until it’s sitting against your cervix.
I tried the disposable cups for two periods and I liked them. I bought the Diva Cup. And I hated it.
I tried, I really did. It was forty dollars, after all. I tried using it for three cycles, and then I gave up.
The problem was that I could never get it to feel comfortable. Now I know that I have an unusually long and narrow vaginal canal (thanks, horrible IUD insertion!) and a weirdly tilted cervix, I guess the problem was that I wasn’t getting it in far enough to sit against my cervix. When you’re putting something solid like that into your vagina you tend to get increasingly nervous the further you shove it, and I just didn’t want to push it too far. However, even now that I know that, I’m not sure I would want to try it again. When it comes to menstrual blood, I’m more on the side of flow than containment.
I couldn’t go back to disposable pads and tampons though – I felt like I was losing enough ecofeminist cred as it was. That’s when I discovered cloth pads. Wonderful, lovely cloth pads. Again, they are expensive – but you can use them for a long time, so you save money in the long run. And they can be messy, but if you are diligent about soaking them before throwing them in the wash, it’s really no biggie. I kind of love them. Also, they can be an opportunity to support independent crafters!
It wasn’t until a couple years after I gave up on the Diva Cup that I even said anything about it to anyone. One of the volunteers at the clinic asked me if I had one. Before I could answer, she started to tell me about hers – how much she hated it, how she was trying so hard to like it, how she couldn’t figure out what she was doing wrong. I was so happy to have found someone who shared this with me!
I really think that feminists have a code like any other group, silent unwritten rules that vary from chapter to chapter, and one of them (at least in the circle I was running with at the time) was that under no circumstances were you to badmouth any of the great feminist advances – the pill, the Diva Cup, etc. etc. Maybe that was just in my head, I don’t know. But I was so relieved to find there was another feminist (and presumably lots more out there) who wasn’t as stoked about this great device as everyone else.
The lesson, I guess, is that everyone is different. I would never go around badmouthing the Diva Cup (in fact, I promote it as much as I can – after all, most of the people I know who have it, love it), but I’m always careful to tell people who ask me about it that it’s ok to feel like it didn’t work out for you. The more people who are upfront about what’s not working for them, the more chance there is that something else will come along to meet those needs.
So if you are thinking about chucking pads and tampons for something earth-friendly, I recommend doing your research (either online, with friends, or if you have a local feminist sex shop or health store,ask the staff about your options), and considering what features you’re looking for (eg. how comfortable do you feel putting something inside you?, etc.) before committing. Your comfort and safety should always be at the forefront of decisions you make about your body, so don’t be afraid to take some time to choose.
Good luck and happy bleeding!