So, my sister and I talk a lot about feminist, class, and environmental issues. It’s amazing, and by amazing I mean *not at all surprising* how often these issues converge. Just such a confluence, in my opinion, is the menstrual cup. If you don’t know, and many many people don’t, a menstrual cup is a very small cup usually about 2 inches long and made of silicone, rubber, etc. Instead of absorbing menstrual fluid a menstrual cup collects it to be disposed of later.

Now, how ’bout those issues? Tampons and pads have some of the most amazingly egregious advertisements whose sole purpose at times seems to be to limit speech and disempower women. Or, I’m totally wrong and the actual problem is that the ad company thought the commercial would only be shown to children 7 and under–7 being the age at which I was taught to use the correct words for human genitalia. As an example, enjoy this hilarious cultural artifact:

But I get it. If tampon/pad companies didn’t encourage women to think of menstruation and by extension, their bodies, as dirty and icky, they would have very little market. For those who don’t know, it takes practice–sometimes a lot of practice–to get used to using a tampon. Even after years of practice it can still be amazingly uncomfortable. Plus, you know…remember this guy?

Yeah those dioxins thingies, which may be carcinogenic, are in tampons, too. Fun! As for pads…remember wearing a diaper? No? That’s because it was so uncomfortable and gross that you quit literally as soon as you were physically able to. Unless you were born female, in which case you only quit for maybe 9 or ten years, at which point to get to wear what is marginally better, except for it gets filled with menstrual fluid and if you are one of the vast majority of women in this country, you have no choice.

A chlorinated, bleached, dioxin laden tampon, or a version of a diaper, both of which just *have* to include plastic, and have to be whiter than white since it’s everso icky down there.

Both of which you will toss in a landfill, hundreds and hundreds over the course of your life. Which brings me to the class aspect of this issue. Hey y’all, where are most chemical production facilities in any given country? The poorest areas, you say? And how about the landfills? Same? Huh. How ’bout that. Our society creates a throw away area of the country wherein we can toss all our garbage and we make sure that none of its natural resources stay in the area, and just to be really sure it stays that way we give it the crummiest schools possible. Not so crummy that the locals can’t work in the factories making the chemicals we need, but crummy enough that they never learn how to learn, and thus maybe better their community.

This has been a long walk for a product review, I know. But you’re either here near the bottom of this post because you’re interested, or you aren’t here at all, so I’ll continue.

This summer I bought a Diva Cup, one of two brands available in the US and the only one I’ve seen in a store. I finally got a chance to use it. Supply your own squeamishness if you want, because I’m all out.

The first few insertions were a little difficult, but less so than inserting a tampon the first dozen times. I used a little lube to be sure I didn’t scrape myself, but only the first time. As with a tampon it took a bit of practice–for me, about 5 insertions–to really get a feel for the right angles and so on. However, because the Diva Cup is made with medical grade silicone instead of compacted bleached cotton, it was *much* more comfortable. None of that getting stuck in a bad position because I messed up insertion and the tampon immediately hoovered in all local moisture. Even when I didn’t get it exactly right, moving around, just doing whatever I was doing, caused the cup to find the right place in my vagina. I was especially impressed with this unexpected bonus.

The packaging says that for most women, you can leave the cup in up to twelve hours, but that it really depends on how heavy your flow is. This was my first period in almost 6 years, so the first couple days I checked a lot, figuring the practice at getting the cup in and out was good for me. As far as removing it without spilling, I did not find this to be a problem at all. As long as you go slowly and pay attention, you should be fine. Also, removing was not as messy as I expected. A lot of blogs I read talked about using a backup pad in case of leaks, so I figured there would be some menstrual fluid on the outside of the cup. For me this was not at all the case. There was a bit of vaginal ooze, but no menstrual fluid–and not enough ooze to make removal slippery and difficult.

The only thing that I experienced that made the whole process less than perfectly ideal was that when I used the bathroom, the cup would be moved too, and I’d have to shift it back. Those muscles are all connected, after all. That is one thing a lot of people will warn you about with cups: letting your bladder get too full can cause the cup to shift and leak, but I didn’t have a single leakage.

Oh, and I couldn’t feel it at all for the majority of the week. I mean it. Not at all. The first couple days when I was getting used to it, I could feel it, but less than a tampon, say like a “lite” tampon. After day 3 or so, I couldn’t even tell it was there. At that point also I just emptied it in the morning and evening, and it was wonderful. I’ve had some pretty damn embarrassing accidents with pads and tampons, and it is such an relief to not worry about that anymore.

Those are the details of my experience with a menstrual cup, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough. I’m crazy about mine, and I wish I had always known of this option. But now you do, and that’s something.

Many readers may feel that I should also have mentioned cloth menstrual pads. I haven’t used one yet, and given my poverty and complete lack of facility with a sewing machine, I may never get to. Also, you have to wash pads, and a large part of why I got a menstrual cup was for the environmental reasons. Hand or machine, washing fabric takes a fair bit of energy when compared to none. So, investigate cloth pads if you want and more power to you: they are, after all, still a damn sight better than the corporate alternatives.