Monthly Activism: The Menstrual Cup Revolution

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PHOTO:, Wiki Commons

If we want to reverse cannabis prohibition and replace it with a common-sense policy on hemp and cannabis cultivation and use, we can’t just sit on our thumbs and keep living life as we always have. It’s imperative that we all get involved. Not everyone can be a full-time activist, but we can all choose to vote with our dollar (and of course to vote in all federal, state, and local elections for which we are legally eligible, supporting candidates with sensible policies regarding prohibition).

There are many small changes to your lifestyle that can help to erode the corporate infrastructure that maintains a powerful pro-prohibition lobby behind the scenes, and today we’re going to talk about a change our female readers can make that will help push back against prohibition and possibly help reduce your risk of serious medical conditions (and dry, itchy vaginas).

Photo: Tom Magliery

Photo: Tom Magliery

Ladies, you may not know it, but you may be sending a chunk of your hand-earned money right to two of the industries that most directly profit from cannabis and hemp prohibition. The cotton industry has long been implicated as a possible co-conspirators in the effort to maintain prohibition of cannabis and non-psychoactive hemp. Indeed, it is the illegality of hemp, not cannabis itself, that often calls cotton (and paper) companies into question, as their entire industries depend on the maintenance of hemp prohibition.

The other major player pocketing your hard-earned money and backing prohibition are the medical and chemical companies that turn the cotton into “medical devices” for your menstrual cycle, also known as tampons. These companies include Proctor & Gamble (Tampax brand), Kimberly-Clark Corporation (Kotex brand), Playtex Products, LLC (Playtex tampons and now a line of clothing), and Johnson and Johnson (o.b. Brand). Like their cotton industry suppliers, these companies offer a myriad products that would be much less in demand if cannabis and hemp were widely available for personal and industrial use.

Hemp is a superior fiber crop when compared with cotton, especially with modern processing capabilities and blends. Gone are the days of stiff, scratchy brown hemp fabric. I have a pair of hemp and bamboo blend panties that are the softest things ever made. If hemp were grown domestically, it is possible that it would already be used in the production of feminine hygiene products. As it stands, the average woman in the industrialized world will probably have to use 15,360 chemical-soaked cotton tampons during her reproductive years.

For those of you wondering, I am using a number posited by another blogger whose math is explained in the link. The exact number isn’t really what matters. What matters is that whether it’s 15,360 or just half that, you are talking about a LOT of tampons, and concordantly, a lot of your money in the pockets of the cotton industry (as well as the chemical/medical companies who make the actual tampons and also have a marked interest for sundry reasons to maintain cannabis prohibition).

Washable, organic pads from etsy seller Epicerma

Washable, organic pads from etsy seller Epicerma

Those of you who know about tampons and the issues they pose, including the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome may not know that you have an alternative, short of wearing homemade pads of flannel (which I am led to understand is not ineffective, but not ideal for a lot of modern ladies). If you are interested in re-useable pads, there are plenty of sellers on Etsy who offer them, as well as several larger reputable companies that you can find by searching for reuseable menstrual pads.

What’s a politically savvy, sustainability-minded lady to do if she doesn’t want to use pads and doesn’t want to use tampons?

I’d like to introduce you all to the menstrual cup. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The menstrual cup is a small, flexible device inserted into the vaginal canal to catch menstrual fluid. They are highly effective, discreet, and affordable when considered against the cost of regularly buying tampons (especially organic, unbleached cotton tampons). There are reuseable cups and single-use cups that are disposable. Each has its perks and its own rabid following who have sworn off all other menstrual solutions in favor of something much less irritating that the standard hunk of dry cotton.

cup2Menstrual cups, which can generally hold a fluid ounce or  30mL, are able to hold up to twice the amount of the highest absorbency tampon, which max out at 18mL. Although they should be emptied and washed every eight hours, failure to do so does not increase the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome the way a tampon left in for too long could. No one can tell when you’re wearing one, and they’re easy enough to empty and clean once you get the hang of it.

There are many brands, and I will admit I only know about one of the biggest. I personally use the DivaCup, because that was the only brand available for sale in my city when I first bought my cup in 2004, and I have not yet needed to replace it.

I should add a disclaimer here: I have chronic amenhorrea. This means that my entire adult life, my period has been sporadic, at best. I generally only menstruate 1-3 times a year (though that has changed since the birth of my beloved son). Because the primary source of degradation of the cup is use, my infrequent use (and therefore less frequent boilings, etc) of my cup mean it is still in excellent condition after nearly a decade because of how infrequently I need to use it). Most brands recommend replacing the cups annually, and most anecdotal user stories online indicate silicone cups used monthly will need to be replaced in 2-3 years, on average.

Still, at $30 a piece, that’s a bargain when compared to tampons.

Consider pulling the plug and joining those of us no longer subjecting our most tender region to rough, scratchy, dry wads of chemical-soaked cotton every month. Not only will you be helping your vagina be a healthier, happier vagina, you’ll be putting less money in the pockets of several powerful anti-cannabis lobbies.