I was in the 6th grade when my uterine wall beckoned for the first time. I rushed to my mother to tell her about blood spots in my underpants, in anticipation that she would take it as a medical issue and hence call off the study hours for the day.
My mother made me sit down and talked to me at length about the ‘monthly blood call’ via the vagina that would happen regularly henceforth. Yes, in our home we have called the vagina as VAGINA only. There were no cheeky smiles and no pampering. After her brief and matter of fact lecture, she asked me to go complete my study hours. That was my first encounter with periods – simple, casual, normal.
As I grew up, I witnessed periods to be harrowing for some. ‘Dirty blood’, ‘Don’t touch the plants’, ‘Take rest’, ‘You are now a big girl’, ‘Don’t enter the kitchen’, ‘Don’t enter the temple’ – these were just a few of the many things I heard about periods from the world at large. Every time I would bring these concerns home, my mother would brush them off and tell me the usual – please go study (Yeah, mother took her seven vows with the word ‘study’).
I was privileged to be raised in a household where sanitary napkins were not welcomed in black poly bags, where first day period camps were not brushed away as ‘I am not feeling well’, where periods are PERIODS and not ‘down’.
In my last menstrual cycle, I tried the menstrual cup for the first time. Why the menstrual cup? Because it’s reusable for years and has a minimal impact on the environment compared to tampons and sanitary napkins. And if the last decade has taught us anything, it is that sustainable environmental goals cannot just be lessons we learn in books.
Let’s do the math. Every individual who is biologically bound to menstruate will have an average menstruating life span of 40 years, in which they will use 20 pads/tampons per month, equating to 240 per year which gives us the grand total of 9,600 menstruation products used during one individual’s lifetime. Now if we multiply that by the 3.5 billion menstruating individuals, then we have a considerable amount of potentially avoidable waste! Now the products with their packaging, lifecycle and disposal make the numbers of the ‘ecological waste’ even more magnanimous!
Let’s analyse the waste created:
Despite the sufficient self-education, my first interaction with the menstrual cup was awkward and uncomfortable so much so that I thought my inner lady parts were going to pack up their belongings and leave me due to abuse. But then, the learning curve is always a little bumpy in the start. After speaking to fellow menstrual cup users, I again tried the cup this cycle and viola, I had a remarkable session on the first day of my period with the menstrual cup and ‘all the belongings were in place’.
The thing is that if we have to normalise periods we will have to equate it to changing times – in the 90s, the feminist leadership advocated sanitary pads for the masses, in the 2000s the feminist leadership talked about periods not being impure, un-pious or shameful, in 2019 we have to talk about ecological waste created by sanitary napkins.
Let’s normalise periods. Let’s make ‘healthy bleeding of the vagina’ a happy event. Let’s make the uterus a patron of sustainable environmental goals.