Monday, May 2, 2011
Media, Myths, and Mess: Pollution & Women's Cycles. Men, keep reading!
I want to be these women on the beach. Or better, I too, want a mysterious secret - a mission, perhaps to the depths of the earth... The all-pink commercial shows a stylish woman in a power suit with red nails (the only red in the commercial) deftly handing another stylish woman a compact tampon with a plastic applicator. The second woman breezes off, close up on hair tossing over shoulder, Jane Bond style, with an exciting, mysterious secret - a glance between the two heroines communicates the bond of a daring friendship. I want in! But here's the secret: piles of long lasting rubbish. Its just an advertisement for menstrual pads! Darnit! I wanted this to somehow involve crashing through a window on spidey string and perhaps saving the planet. Why are women's periods something to be ashamed of and hid, and why aren't we all ashamed of the trash we're creating, and the insecurities that are behind this?
(Men, here's why you need to read this too)
The skinny: creating insecurities sells products. Selling men and women the idea that women's periods are dirty secrets to fear and hide has resulted in a massive disposable "feminine hygiene" industry that is covering the planet in something truly gross: single use, used, menstrual products. Often these products are full of toxins such as dioxins and furans - not even good for women, with risks of Toxic Shock. Also, they aren't cheap. The gender that is the poorest is spending money each month on something they don't need! Here are some stats on menstrual waste:
1.) Over 12 BILLION pads and tampons are USED ONCE and disposed of annually, adding to environmental pollution.
2.) According to the Center for Marine Conservation, over 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.
3.) Some estimates hold that 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads, PLUS their packaging, ended up in landfills or sewer systems in 1998. While The National Women’s Health Network states that twelve billion pads and 7 million tampons pollute landfills annually in the US.
THIS IS SO NOT COOL. HOW CAN THE MOST NATURAL PROCESS ON EARTH, THE CYCLE OF REPRODUCTION, NOW BE RESPONSIBLE FOR DESTROYING LIFE ON EARTH? Furthermore, imagine your own mother being ashamed of the process that later brought you into this world.
If you find this situation in any way frustrating and ridiculous, and you don't mind the site of fake blood, you'll love this song by Ani Difranco: Blood in the Boardroom.
I'm sure none of the below people stink, but if you believe these 50s-80s ads, then all women without perfumed disposables stink to high heaven on their period - so much so that they could be left by their partners and must live in secrecy - no dancing allowed!
There are great supplies out there that don't have to be thrown out. They simply need to be washed. However for the majority of women, this means that they have to risk revealing the "dirty secret" to partners and family via washing machines, or simply a menstrual cup that needs to be kept in a medicine cabinet. The fear generated by advertising keeps women using disposable products. So lets all drop this notion that a bit of blood is something to be ashamed of. If it is, I guess us and most animals will all have to just die out since its the basis of life.
So men, don't let a woman in your life believe wrongly that you think her period is disgusting! You don't have to go as far as this guy, but have a basic level of comfort. If you see a speck of blood, feel understanding instead of disgust.
Women, as of today, why not save an average of $40.00+ a year as well as all of that time going to the drug store? Below are 3 great methods for catching blood during your period that will save you time, hassle, and cash.
The Keeper/ or the Diva Cup
A truly amazing product, the menstrual cup is designed to catch blood inside of the vagina. It works just like a tampon in that it sits inside the body, but there are no harsh chemicals and dies, and no risk of toxic shock. The cup requires practice the first 1-3 times it is used, and can simply be washed with a non toxic soap after each use, and at the end of the cycle sterilized by boiling. Menstrual cups last ___ before needing to be changed and work almost better than tampons. There are 2 sizes for women under and over 30, and one amazing thing about them is that they measure in ounces the blood. This means that for those women whose periods are heavy, leading to iron deficiency, they can at least have some sense of what is going on and tell their doctors or naturopaths. When the menstrual cup needs to be emptied, it simply gets removed and poured right into the toilet, then washed. Easy! The Menstrual cup costs about $35-45 and should last up to ten years.
Here is a link to more information and various cups as there are many options. This site also has a demo using a menstrual cup and a glass. One thing it does not mention is that the cup also needs to be turned 360 degrees upon insertion. Two extremely popular brands are the keeper and diva cup. The keeper is rubber which means it will naturally biodegrade when you are done using it. You could literally bury it in your back yard. The diva cup is latex and slightly more pliable (see demo). It is not biodegradable. Both are very good, comfortable, products.
Re-usable menstrual pads:
These are just what they seem, often locally made, soft material, fun and funky pads that can simply be worn and washed. Pads can be expensive, they can cost anywhere from $5-13 each but will obviously last a long time if washed properly!
The Classic: Single Socks and Safety Pins
It sounds complicated but this option is way better than most disposable pads, socks are just more absorbent and more comfortable. Want to spend absolutely no money and reuse fabric in the process? Simply pin your single socks to your underwear with 3 safety pins. The pin should not be on top of the pad close to the body, but on the bottom of the underwear separated from your body by 3 layers of fabric. Keep a cloth bag or wrapper with you for if/when you need to change your sock. Just wash them in the washing machine. Nothing is more practical or more comfy than this than this!
What about my daughter? Helping her with her first period:
Dads, here is a great article if you are the wondering about how to help your daughter with her first cycle. This article lists a host of great ideas, including taking her out for a fun day without mentioning it too much or making a big deal about it.
One thing is is great for parents of either sex to do prior to your daughter getting her period is to provide her with a number of products that she can choose to use so that she feels ready and in control her first time, socks should be one of them! :). Include eco friendly options. If you also want to include disposable pads, go for a non-bleached ecological kind that will at least keep her free from harm.
Moms, have you heard of ways to celebrate your daughter's first period? See this great link on celebrating. There are also many more links for menarche parties. Generally, these parties involve inviting other women that your daughter feels comfortable with. Sometimes, a simple card or gift of congratulations is better. Let her know you are proud of her and happy for her.