Sorry Environment, But This One’s a NOPE


It almost seems fitting that, after talking about cool environmentally-friendly inventions I love, I’m going to talk about one that I have absolutely no interest in. While I do try to be conscientious of the environment when I make life choices, there are some things that I am not willing to sacrifice.

I became aware of these inventions because having a vagina while in possession of a social media account means that certain things are assumed about you and the products you might be interest in buying, despite your browser history not reflecting any such inclination. In the past few months, my Facebook feed has been pushing Thinx panties and moon cups on me relentlessly, with multiple videos about them in one feed.

Since ignoring them was obviously not making them slowly disappear, I finally accepted my fate and decided to read the comments under one of the videos. They were both predictable, and brought a pet peeve of mine to a boil that I finally wanted to share here.

Boys (and particularly squeamish girls) beware. What follows is going to be an unabashed, balls to the wall gorey discussion about periods. If you don’t think you can handle it, read no further.

 

I’m not going to link Thinx panties and moon cups, because I don’t need my feed to get more pushy in the advertising than it already is. You can always google them. Basically, both products are reusable menstruation-related products. Moon cups are a sort of silicone cup that you push into your vagina to collect the blood, which you then dump out when it gets full, rinse off and put back in again. Thinx panties are panties that you wear when on your period, which are super absorbant, so you don’t use tampons or pads at all, you just bleed straight into the fabric, wash and reuse.

Nope. nope nope nope.

Obviously, these products are sold as being both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Women do indeed spend tremendous amounts of money on these things, and the single-use nature of them means that tons of used feminine hygiene products end up in landfills.

Now, I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to use these alternatives, obviously. If it works for you hey, more power to you. What bugged me was the comments, and this false dichotomy that I find so many women trying to perpetuate.

The women who were inclined to promote these products were going for the narrative of “if you don’t feel comfortable wearing Thinx panties, it means that you’ve bought into the misogyny surrounding period shaming, you’re a self hating woman, you should be proud of your period, menstruation is beautiful” and all that crap. A common theme was also the claim that the belief that period blood is unhygenic is also a misogynistic construct, and that you only think it’s smelly because of the dastardly chemicals that are in your tampons, rather than the blood having any smell.

Nope. nope nope nope.

OK, it’s time for a reality check here.

Period blood contains blood, dead uterine tissue, vaginal secretions and bacteria. It is a human waste product that is potentially infectious. When you’re dealing with dead tissue, the more you leave it lying about, the more likely it’s going to smell a bit. It is biologically hardwired into our brains to not want to have potentially infectious material lying around. It is why certain smells are distasteful to us, and that is perfectly normal.

Of course social conditioning has also led to a disproportionate feeling of shame and embarassment when we’re talking about periods. Yes, it’s a waste product, but that doesn’t mean that we should be embarassed that we produce it, or that we should make such a big fucking deal about hiding the tampon up our sleeve as we go to the bathroom lest someone spots it before we get there, or that having a spot of blood on our pants should qualify as most-mortifying-moment-of-my-life/an image-removed-from-instagram-level offence. We don’t have these hang ups about people knowing we’re going to the bathroom to pee, because that particular waste product has been deemed acceptable by society to produce. Having said that, it also doesn’t mean that we should be shamed for not wanting to carry period blood-soaked panties around in our purses, or wash our clothes in the same basin of lukewarm water as a full day’s worth of period blood, or wanting to swirl a little into our tea for that matter. There is a perfectly legitimate reason to avoid prolonged contact with dead tissue and old blood, and it has nothing to do with “the man”.

For me personally, Thinx panties and moon cups are not going to be a good fit. I work, and I work long hours, and even when I’m not, I enjoy being out and about for the whole day. When my panties are fully soaked and I’m at work, what exactly am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to peel them off, stick them in a baggie, pop them in my purse and pull on a clean pair? Am I supposed to waddle out of the bathroom stall with my pants around my ankles, empty and rinse my moon cup full of chunky period globs down the sink that my colleagues use to wash their hands and brush their teeth, waddle back into the stall leaving a nice little trail of spots behind me on the floor, then stick it back in? Yeah fuck that. Fuck all that. That’s not going to work for me, and not because I’m ashamed of my period. It’s because it’s not fucking hygenic, and I don’t appreciate anyone shaming me and calling me a self hater because I don’t want to smear period blood across my cheeks like war paint.

The second part of these products used to shame women who don’t want to use them is the environmental factor. Of course, single use anything is going to have an impact on the environment, and these would not. To which I reply, why do these have to be my only two options? If tampons are so terrible for the environment, why can we not invent biodegradable ones? We managed to invent biodegradable plastic bags, this can’t be too hard. Why does it have to be either huge environmental impact or going back to the days of washing out blood soaked rags?

As a matter of fact, how long do tampons take to biodegrade?

A quick internet search made it clear to me that there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the answer to this question, given the agenda of those who push certain products. Some say it is about 6 months, other that it is 500 years. I’m guessing that they’re counting the years it takes for the plastic applicator to biodegrade. I use tampons without applicators, so score one for me on the environmental front, I guess.

Still, I think that there is still a lot that can be done on this front and that there is room for both innovation and policy. I don’t want people to get complacent and that, just because these products exist, act like this is the end of the line. Tampons and pads should still be considered necessary items, and low income women should be helped in mitigating the cost of them, unlike the US policy of claiming that disposable diapers are not a necessity and cannot be purchased with food stamps because you can always wash out a shit covered cloth. Even more environmentally friendly single-use menstrual products can still be invented, despite the existence of these panties and cups. And, of course, please stop excluding women for whom these products are not practical from the ever necessary discussion and movement to end the shame surrounding menstruation. You don’t need pseudoscience to back up your claims, you will be respected less for using it.

And finally, and the end of this long ramble, I would just like to say that I know that there are women out there who use these products and don’t shame other women for not doing so, or who believe in pseudoscientific garbage, and I thank you for that. As I said earlier, if the panties or cups fit in nicely with your daily lives, more power to you. You are reducing your environmental impact and saving money, after all. This rant was only directed towards those who pit women against each other in this debate, and reduce everything down to either you’re brainwashed by the patriarchy, or you believe that menstrual blood is a beautiful product of Mother Gaia which should be revered. Let’s just try to find the sanity again.

Comments

  1. jazzlet says

    @ thoughtsofcrys I am definitely NOT tying to change your mind about using a mooncup, but I think you may have misunderstood how they are used. I may well be wrong having had a total hysterectomy before I’d ever heard of them, but I thought one of the advantages of them is that they can’t get full, ie they essentially block the passage of blood until you remove them in a place that you can comfortably deal with the mooncup and the flow of blood that will follow it’s removal. This sounded no worse than a tampon to me in terms of possible disease, but I would really like to see some good research on the infection rates of women using different products so women could include that in their decision making about what will work best for them. It sounded better than tampons because the impression I got was that with a correctly fitting mooncup you couldn’t leak. I’d really like to know if that is the case or if your interpretation is correct. They certainly sounded a damn sight better than menstrual sponges which was what was being pushed for a reusable when I still had a womb and which seemed to me to be a recipe for disease.

    Again just to stress that I am not trying to push you or anyone to change their choice of blood control.

    @ chigau Hell yes! Menopause, even induced by a total hysterectomy, was very very welcome.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      According to a website that a colleague of mine showed me, it claimed that the moon cup could hold up to two tampons-worth of blood. I took that to mean that, at some point, they filled up. If they don’t, or rather they do but they just don’t leak, I’d hesitate to know what kind of gorey disaster would follow once you finally took it out after 12-14 hours… but at the end of the day I don’t know anyone who ever used one so I can’t say for sure.

      What I can say is that I have used a diaphagm, which is as close as I’ve ever gotten to a moon cup, though for different purposes obviously. Those are also supposed to fit snugly, but I can say from experience that they do tend to shift around and out of place if you get up and walk about. Maybe the moon cup is better designed, this I cannot say for certain.

      As for infection rates, online it says that tampons and moon cups are about the same. The thing is, there is a reason why things like tampon timer apps exist: risk of infection increases with the amount of time you keep the dead tissue inside of you, so it’s hard to say which one is “more dangerous” because it depends enormously on how it is being used. Best case scenario, if the moon cup does indeed work the way you say it does, I would still not go for it because I would worry about keeping all that stuff inside for the 12-14 hours I’m usually out of my house at a time.

      Either way, don’t worry about offending me! I hope I made clear, I don’t mind anyone talking about the benefits of moon cups or thinx panties or whatever, I only bristle at those who use shaming and pseudoscience to do so 😉

  2. sonofrojblake says

    the belief that period blood is unhygenic is also a misogynistic construct, and that you only think it’s smelly because [reasons]

    I’ve been on the receiving end of that rant from more than one woman. At the time, my response was “I bet you think your shit doesn’t stink either”. Obviously I didn’t say that. There’s no point talking out loud to people like that.

    We don’t have these hang ups about people knowing we’re going to the bathroom to pee

    Speak for yourself. I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in the UK you could fill a book with euphemisms for urination – “I have to spend a penny” and so on. And it’s not just uptight Brits. I was always baffled as a child when I heard Americans on TV or film say they needed “to go to the bathroom”, in the middle of the day when they didn’t appear to need a wash. I didn’t (initially) realise they meant the toilet, but were way too polite to actually use the word. Old joke: if Michael Jackson comes to your house and asks to go to the little boys’ room, DON’T LET HIM. “I need to pee” is something said only by small children too young to know better and the irredeemably uncouth.

    And that’s just urination. Bod forbid you let on that you intend to pass solids, or have just done so. Not in polite company at least.

  3. jazzlet says

    Hmmn I guess as with any of the products how useful it would be would depend on a variety of things like how well it fitted, an individual’s flow rate etc.. If you have the kind of flow that goes through a maxi tampon and maxi pad in an hour it would give you a bit more freedom. I’d have found it useful when I started to have really variable flow as tampons could be too drying, while I always hated pads they were the only real option on low flow days. I do not miss any of that!

  4. machintelligence says

    Before you get too concerned about biodegradability, keep in mind that undegraded plastics and carbohydrates (like cellulose) are sequestering carbon as long as they are in the landfill. If they aren’t going to a landfill, it is more of an issue.

  5. says

    Am I supposed to waddle out of the bathroom stall with my pants around my ankles, empty and rinse my moon cup full of chunky period globs down the sink that my colleagues use to wash their hands and brush their teeth, waddle back into the stall leaving a nice little trail of spots behind me on the floor, then stick it back in? Yeah fuck that. Fuck all that. That’s not going to work for me, and not because I’m ashamed of my period. It’s because it’s not fucking hygenic, and I don’t appreciate anyone shaming me and calling me a self hater because I don’t want to smear period blood across my cheeks like war paint.

    Now, I’m not trying to convince you, but as somebody who’s been using moon cups for a few years now, let me dispel some myths for others who might be interested but might be put off by your description.

    1. Can moon cups overflow?
    Yes. When they’re full you’ll just leak like with a full tampon.

    2. Infection?
    Inconclusive. TSS can still happen.
    Annectodata: Less yeast infections. I’m very prone to them. Not having one every second menstrual cycle is a relief.
    Speculation by OB Gyns is that this is because the silicone isn’t a good surface for bacterial growth unlike a tampon and also you have less surface.

    3. How long does it hold?
    There are different sizes. Information like “twice the amount of a tampon” doesn’t make sense because, what tampon?
    A medium period is about 50-70 ml of liquid. The smallest cup holds 15 ml, the biggest 43 ml.
    Depending on your period the good thing is that you probably wont have to change while at work (up to 12 hours is considered safe)

    4. How do you change while in public.
    Honestly, your scenario is so off, it gave me a good laugh.
    a) Wash your hands well
    b) Maybe take a small bottle of water with you into the stall. Or not.
    c) Remove cup, empty into the toilet. Who pours that shit into the sink?
    d) Either rinse with the water you took with you or simply pee on it.
    e) Insert again
    f) Yes, like after changing a tampon your hands might be a bit stained. Wipe clean with toilet paper or remember that water you took with you.
    g) Wash your hands well
    h) Boil that thing regularly
    This shows that while mens cups are a wonderful thing in places with clean water and sanitation, they’re probably worse than nothing in places without.

    5. What else?
    I found a couple of benefits. Honestly, I changed after my second kid was born and I never looked back, but I still don’t menstruate glitter so there’s also some downsides.
    a) Less cramps. It’s an experience many women and others have made after switching from tampons to mens cups.
    b) No more stinky garbage. Now, tampons aren’t a lot of garbage, especially not when not coming with huge plastic applicators, and our garbage is burned anyway, but I still don’t have to deal with any of it anymore.
    c) Cheap. Initial cost is higher (about 16€ for one, I’ve got two in different sizes for different stages of my period), but they last like forever.
    Downsides:
    d) Putting them in can be a nuisance, especially with the larger sizes and it takes practise. If someone starts I would recommend wearing them first at home.
    e) Related to that is the fit. If they’re uncomfortable they’re sitting wrong
    f) you still leak, better not forget your panty liner (and I’m not going to use washable ones either)

    Again, I’m not trying to convince you or anybody else, I’m just trying to give some accurate information.

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