Feminist Guilt: My Eco-Friendly Menstrual Product Fail

(Image via LunaPads)

It’s Shark Week and while the rest of the Internet is cooing over videos of great whites and special episodes of Mythbusters, we here at Styleite are taking this opportunity to talk about another (typically) week-long event that also culminates in blood in the water: our periods! Join us as we talk all things Aunt Menstruation, from the silver lining to shedding our uterine linings to lifespan of a pair of period panties. In today’s installment, and in honor of the release of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, resident Angry Feminist Mariella Mosthof would like to stand before you naked (not really naked) and testify her single source of feminist guilt: a failure to use eco-friendly menstrual products.

I’ve written before about my confusion over why books on puberty geared towards young girls fail to mention any menstrual products other than pads and tampons. So maybe I’m just being dense. But also: maybe the reason I fail to grasp the practical applications of eco-friendly methods is because no one tells you the surreptitious way to empty a Diva Cup in a public restroom ahead of surfing your first crimson tide.

And I obviously suffer an immense amount of guilt about this, because of course I WANT to be a Good Feminist who doesn’t pollute her Mother Earth with landfills upon landfills of plastic applicators and synthetic fibers. But seriously, how do I rinse out my sea sponge at the sink while my boss is chatting to me about traffic goals and then walk back into a stall to reinsert it? And then come BACK out and wash my hands again? I am a lady who basically only wears bras to go to the office, but even in my nipple freedom, I cannot fathom executing such a feat casually.

And let’s not forget the effects of disposable pads and tampons on women’s bodies — which is to say we have no idea what the effect is because there are literally no studies on what stuffing a wad made of bleached non-organic cotton, rayon, and other synthetic fibers inside yourself for a week a month does to your body. The US government has shot down legislation to better regulate what goes into menstrual products SIX TIMES since the issue was first brought before Congress in 1999. Literally, no one thought to raise the issue until nineteen goddamned ninety-nine. So like, I want to hate the patriarchy’s total indifference to my health and well-being by ceasing to support corporations who couldn’t care less about my vagina while selling me things to put inside of it. But what are my options?

(Image via GladRags)

Reusable pads are super cool and you can even make your own with patterns and fabrics of your choosing, but I don’t use pads, so the logistical problems here are for someone else to figure out.


Menstrual cups terrify me for a multitude of reasons. If I’m so toned that I once sent a speculum flying across my gynecologist’s office with the sheer force of my kegels, then I can’t really imagine a Diva Cup easily making a home inside me. Also, a Diva Cup doesn’t work using absorption. It just collects a cupful of your uterine lining and holds it there until you empty it out. What if I miscalculate my output in a given timeframe between checks? The risk of a literal cup that runneth over ruining every fabric in its path seems much greater than a tampon leak.

And then there’s the rinsing. Sure, I can discreetly dump my Diva Cup’s contents in a toilet in a private bathroom stall, but you’re supposed to give it a quick rinse before popping it back in. See: previous note about rinsing in public restroom sinks and just like, subjecting everyone else in the bathroom TO MY BLOOD. It doesn’t help that (thanks to those books being all “pads and tampons! pads and tampons!”) it’s a pretty obscure method of dealing with yourself. I’d be willing to bet most women I encountered in a public bathroom wouldn’t know what I was handling and would report me for doing something unsanitary. There’s an option that, theoretically, seems much better to me.

(Image via Jade and Pearl)

Sea sponges. I like pretty much everything about the idea of using a sea sponge. They’re approximately the same size, shape, and consistency of a tampon, so I don’t think my vaginal canal would be hostile to this intruder. They’re natural, were once living creatures, and come from the sea; in other words, I’d feel like a beautiful mermaid using something organic as part of the circle of life.

Also, you clean them with tea tree oil! How fucking refreshing does that sound? What better woowoo of-the-earth spa nonsense could possibly exist? “Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just deodorizing my organic menstrual sponge with tea tree oil while I sip a glass of lemon-and-cucumber-scented ice water.”

They will probably save me zillions of dollars (that I can put towards stocking lemons and cucumbers for my water on the reg), since one lasts 3-6 months, and I don’t have to worry about the possible side-effects of Dioxyn soaking through my vaginal walls on a monthly basis (which apparently no one else is worrying about anyway).

But again — the rinsing. The agony of making strangers in a public restroom deal with my blood while I rinse my little sea pet out, relieving it of its bloody burden, only to reinsert it and begin the process anew, just seems impractical. Like, I’m legitimately paranoid someone will report me to HR, security, or a business owner for assault with a deadly weapon because blood is a pathogen and I’m subjecting them all to my fluids.

And again — I think if reusable menstrual products were a less obscure method, everyone would be used to everyone rinsing out a little blood in the sink next to them and we could all be shiny, happy, ethically and environmentally responsible people. But until we start mainstreaming these options to girls when they hit puberty, I’m pretty sure Lilith Fair’s (RIP) port-o-potty sink station was the only place I ever could have publicly rinsed and reused in solidarity.

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