By Meg Crane

When I think of how people used to deal with the human body, it gives me the jeebies. My grandpa had his belly slipped open on his dining room table and his appendix taken out. While he was awake. I was put under by a team of folks and left to recover in a hospital bed for a week when mine decided it was time to peace.

I’m pretty cool with the idea of composting toilets compared to throwing buckets of shit on the streets. Flushing toilets are cool too, but kind of a waste of clean water. Still, better than shit on the street.

But when it comes to dealing with periods, it’s how we do it today that makes me squirm.

Bleeding out of your vagina is a pretty natural bodily response to not being pregnant. As such, I’m pretty uncomfortable with dealing with it by shoving a wad of cotton grown with pesticides and then bleached up my vag. Even a pad mad of non-organic, bleached cotton really isn’t cool.

Back in the good old days, sometimes folks just bled away on their clothes. Others used tampons made of natural materials. Some sound pretty alright, like wool. Others, a little scratching (like softened papyrus and wood).

Pads were sometimes made by hand, usually out of a cotton fabric, and pinned to clothes between menstruaters legs. In the late 1800s, the first commercial pads became available. Some sources say the modern-day version of the pad date back to World War I when French nurses saw how well cellulose cotton bandages absorbed blood.

Capitalizing on the Curse: The Business of Menstruation by Elizabeth Arveda Kissling takes a look at the commodification of menstruation. It’s quite interesting. One of my favourite tidbits is that pads did not become commercially successful until the 1920s when coin containers began to be placed near discreetly wrapped boxes of Kotex in drugstores so that women did not have to ask for them.

Regardless of when you look in history, most societies weren’t, and aren’t, so cool with the idea of menstruation. Look at all the commercials showing disdain for what is actually a pretty joyous time of the month for some women who aren’t interested in their uteri being inhabited (yes, the plural of uterus is uteri). Periods are seen as dirty, as are women who have theirs. In some places, women are separated from others in their society while on their period.

But that’s not the case everywhere and things are changing. Some people are stepping up and saying there’s nothing wrong with periods. The podcast Call Your Girlfriend has a “This week in menstruation” feature on each episode. Adventures in Menstruation is a comedy zine, website and show that makes fun of periods.

Plus, we’re starting to see commercial products that are safe and eco-friendly.

The DivaCup is what really changed my mind about periods. It’s a silicon cup you stick into your vagina during your period. It catches the blood. Then, you can dump the blood into your composter, into a plant or save it for art or whatever. All without fear of TSS!

Since I’ve been using a DivaCup, I actually look forward to my period. It means I’m healthy. It means I’m not pregnant. And it’s not inconvenient; the cup only needs to be emptied every 12 hours.

Realistically though, it’s not always practical. Camping trips aren’t really a sanitary location and I’m leery of getting germs out there when I don’t have a place to wash my hands well for the weekend. But who wants to create waste?

That’s when products like Lunapads are pretty rad.

If your budget is tight, reusable pads or a cup are a great solution to the cost of disposable products. It’s a hefty upfront fee, but it pays off.

That’s really not doable for everyone, but you can be like our menstruating ancestors and make your own! See our instructions on the next page.

If you’re interested in getting some cheap handmade pads while helping folks who disposable products make more sense for, check out our Stitching Hearts project.

Got Cramps?

Meds might be the way to go, but here are a few alternatives that always loosen the knots when my uterus is spazzing.

  • Soy products. Yes, including soy ice cream.
  • Potassium, such as in bananas!
  • Raspberry leaf tea—pricey in the store, cheap from the bush. Tweet at me, @MegCrane, if you’re in Winnipeg and want some.
  • Exercise

Meg Crane is the founder of Cockroach. Follow her on Twitter.

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