Everyone Talks About their Period, but Nobody Does Anything About It…

Sharon February 18th, 2008

…Except Crunchy Chicken. One of the things I like best about Crunchy’s writing is her straightforward bluntness on bodily issues. In fact, she rather puts me to shame - I was once famous for that sort of thing. When I was doing AIDS education, I used to do a “15 ways to put a condom on a banana (or a partner)” demo that managed to embarass almost everyone. But since I’ve become a staid peak oil and climate change writer, I’ve hardly even mentioned bodily fluids or the orifices from which they flow. This is a pity, and must change.

Well, Crunchy has done me one much better - she’s not only talking about menstruation, she’s making change in the world. Millions of young African women miss school because they have no menstrual supplies. Commercial makers of disposables are supplying some of them - and getting a lot of advertising credit for it, but the pads are then burnt, and the free supplies are a temporary measure, designed to create a market for disposable products many poor women and girls can ill afford. Crunchy has started a non-profit, working with aid agencies, to get women to sew or donate reusable pads to these women - and asked me if I’d help. Not only do I want to help, but I can’t say enough how much admire Crunchy’s passion - and her speed. It was less than a week before she had a project up and going.

So I strongly recommend that all of my readers read Crunchy’s posts on this matter:#2008/02/last-monday-i-posted-about-how-i-was.html and #2008/02/using-your-sewing-skills-for-good.html and visit her new website here: http://www.goods4girls.org/ and make a donation, either of your time or money. I will be.

You will also soon be able to donate through this site, but as you all know, I’m a techno-moron, and the addition of something as complex as a donation button to my blog is way, way beyond my skills. So I’m relying on a kind friend to help me.

And, as long as we’re talking bodily fluids here, may I also recommend that everyone think seriously about their own, as well as the menstrual needs of the world’s poor. Disposable menstrual products bite - they aren’t as pleasant or comfortable as the reusable ones, they cost tons more, and they add to landfill waste and used ones produce methane, an greenhouse gas with many times the warming power of carbon. While teenage girls may not yet be ready to carry around used pads (although it is perfectly possible to do so very discreetly), all us grownup women have no excuse.

You have a whole host of choices here - long lasting, very comfortable cups like the Keeper and the Diva Cup (I have a diva):http://www.gladrags.com/category/menstrual-cups, and various cloth pads that can be made: Note, the ppatterns Crunchy is using work well for ourselves too: http://www.goods4girls.org/2008/02/sewing-patterns.html or bought: http://www.moonpads.com/ or some other site - my own come from gladrags, and I’ve been very happy with them:http://www.gladrags.com/ but She Who Must Be Crunched has a list here:http://www.goods4girls.org/2008/02/how-to-donate.html.

While you are doing good in Africa, if you aren’t using reusable menstrual supplies, do good here, for us and the entire planet, and switch over.

And men, I don’t want to hear any whinging about this post. In fact, unless you are gay or celibate and never interact with women under 60, you should be reading this with some interest. Perhaps you have a daughter, a friend, a sister, or a wife who might be interested in this information. There are lots of women out there who might be nervous about doing this because they’ve been taught that menstruation is dirty or bad. It helps to have a husband or friend who deals matter of factly with your period, and who (if the relationship is intimate enough to allow for this) is gently encouraging (without pressure) to make the conversion.

And please, folks, donate to Crunchy’s project. It is such a little thing - and a huge thing - women’s education is enormously important for their political and social status, their reproductive future (education is tightly correlated with birthrates) and their economic and environmental security. It would be easy to underestimate how important this is. Fortunately, Crunchy hasn’t!

Goods for Girls

And next on the bodily fluids parade: the reusable condom, its engineering and the future of sperm (which isn’t actually a joke - I’ve written about this: http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2006/09/hey-engineers.html)

Cheers,

Sharon

13 Responses to “Everyone Talks About their Period, but Nobody Does Anything About It…”

  1. Farahon 18 Feb 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Just wanted to add in a thought here: even if you use disposables, most of us can use a lot fewer simply by being less squeamish. Towards the end of a period, most women just spot. There is no earthly reason why we need “protection” at this stage. Stop buying panty liners and simply wash the knickers.

  2. Ameliaon 18 Feb 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Last weekend my son’s girlfriend and several of her friends came to our house to ask me about a Diva Cup and Glad Rags; after about an hour of answering questions, they descended on the green store two blocks away en masse and just about bought out their supply of size ones.

    This store is staffed mostly by women, and they have the Diva Cups and Glad Rags as the primary focus of the menstrual products display: there are disposables, but they’re on lower shelves and there are posters discussing TSS and the strain they put on the local water filtration plant.

    Hanne Blank has a collection of essays coming out later this year on menstruation; if you’re not reading Hanne’s blog, I heartily recommend it.

  3. Anonymouson 19 Feb 2008 at 12:13 am

    Your post raises so many issues it is difficult to know where to stop. I was raised up in a household of women and have known a few more along the way. My wife is the only one of them all for whom the menstrual cycle and the attached issues are taboo. I once asked what she might do if disposables ceased to be available. The blank stare I got spoke volumes and I’ve not had the courage to approach the subject again. Her only comment was to suggest the her need for those things (pads etc.)had better be done with by the time they aren’t being made. I pointed out that we have two sons and that there were likely to be two not so well informed women out there who will be foolish enough to marry them. Therefore we’d probably end having to solve the problem anyway. Better to do so with experience in hand, rather then just winging it. No pun in tended. I even had the audacity to reminder her that as I’m the house husband I’d be responsible for ensuring the laundering part of the cycle. Again, no pun intended. My darling wife would have none of it. The seed was planted and I remain hopeful. We’ll see I guess.
    I also had a mad moment to suggest a toilet paper free day once. My sons rolled their eyes in disbelief. She who must be obeyed simple left the table without comment. Another brain fart that has gone a long way to suggest I should be institutionalized.
    It’s hard try to save the world all by your self.
    Regards Roy.

  4. Anonymouson 19 Feb 2008 at 12:32 am

    Wow. Roy. Your wife sounds like a peach.

  5. LisaZon 19 Feb 2008 at 1:23 am

    Roy, you sound like a great husband, but I think squeamishness on your wife’s part can’t be condemned. I grew up in that kind of culture here in Minnesota. My dh and I talk freely with our kids, but no one talked to me as a kid about any of this stuff! In fact, it was discouraged.

    My dear husband has no problems washing my pads when it happens to be him doing the laundry. I’m actually kind of amazed by this! I don’t exactly love washing his dirty underwear!!! But, I guess I do it anyway, too. It just needs to be done.

    And we have both washed enough dirty diapers that nothing makes us flinch anymore…

  6. homebrewlibrarianon 19 Feb 2008 at 6:17 am

    While I don’t use cloth pads yet, I’m on my way. Actually, I find that easier to switch to than toilet cloth but I’m getting there, too, just a lot slower.

    I suspect that never having to change a diaper has something to do with my reluctance…

    Amelia - hurray for all those young women! It’s wonderful that they have someone like you to turn to! That’s cases of disposable pads never reaching a landfill nor tampons in the sewer. Good show!

    Kerri

  7. Kation 19 Feb 2008 at 6:38 am

    I’ve seen those commercials, and they make me sick! I mean, don’t tell me that these girls haven’t had access to rags for at least the length of time since Africa was colonized by Europe. I’m in complete agreement with you that it’s simply a ploy to pull more money out of the poor & impoverished for the pockets of multi-billionair-run corporations.

    I went off my depo provera a year & a half ago when I had my tubes tied (so that _I_ would never be subjected to an unwanted pregnancy, no matter what else may be done to my body), and started immediately with reusable cotton pads. I ordered a trial batch, and sewed many more of my own using the first trial batch as a jumping off point. Only 2 times in the year & a half since I started menstruating again have I used disposables (during road-trips out of town when packing along soiled pads would be too much a nusance), and I’ve hated every minute.

    I’ve recently started talking about it with coworkers (when the topic of our periods comes up), with friends….. I’m working on getting the word out in my small corner. It’s amazing how many women go “ya know…. I never thought about it like that, but you’re right?!?! Disposables ARE uncomfortable, and why AM I paying big bucks for something so necessary to my life, making somebody else rich for a product like this?!?!” I love seeing my friends walk away from one of our conversations with their eyes opened about this.

    Thanks for reminding us how important it is to keep talking about even the most private of issues.

  8. kateon 19 Feb 2008 at 9:32 am

    I think there are really good intentions with this project. I have some reservations. Africa is a very large landmass with a huge number of cultures within it. When people from wealthy nations start talking about ‘girls from Africa’ my first concern is that this isn’t another form of cultural colonisation.

    I hope that Crunchy Chicken can put up alot more detail on the website about the countries involved and the cultures from within those countries, the agencies involved, and some analysis of the cultural issues involved.

    I also think that in many places in Africa you can’t talk about menstruation without talking about female genital mutilation.

    Another issue, for us all I think, is that traditionally across many cultures women’s bleeding has been a time of power and timeout from daily affairs. I get that the girls being discussed have huge blocks to getting education and I’m not saying this initiative is wrong, however I think we need to examine the idea that women should be going to school or work when they bleed. I see a direct correlation between many menstrual cycle problems and the fact that we are expected to hide our blood and carry on as normal (i.e. as if we are men).

    I also wish Crunchy well with the project :-)

  9. Greenpaon 19 Feb 2008 at 4:55 pm

    What I want to know is… where did you pick up the British spelling/usage for “whining”? And why?

    Just curious. Are you a Potter freak? :-)

  10. Yonaton 20 Feb 2008 at 9:07 am

    As you’re on the subject of our period, I wanted to mention something amazing I found out a few years ago: It is possible to release the menstrual blood at will! This way, you don’t need to use lots of “machinery” to protect yourself from it, just go to the bathroom every now and then and release it there.

    I use about one pad a day during my period, and I know women who don’t use anything at all. We all heard about it from the wonderful Merav Sherman, and if you read Hebrew you should definitely check out her site at http://www.veset.co.il.

  11. jewishfarmeron 20 Feb 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Greenpa, you can’t spend much of your adult life studying British literature without picking up a host of Britishisms, anachronistic constructions and all sorts of odd expressions.

    I like Harry Potter books reasonably well, although I wouldn’t call myself a “freak” on the subject. Just a freak in general ;-).

    Sharon

  12. Pollyon 21 Feb 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Cheaper than the diva cup, which still requires you to buy a “product,” is a sea sponge. Buy cheap at a paint store. Cut into chunks, boil to sterilize. Rinse in vinegar at night.

  13. Anonymouson 21 Feb 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Polly, how does buying sea sponges not require you to “buy a product?” I prefer my silicone cup because it’s easily washable and dryable, portable, reusable for much longer than a sponge, doesn’t require boiling, squeezing, waiting for drying, or any of that. I’ve also heard not-so-great things about the harvesting of sea sponges.

    And I suspect that you’ll spend close to as much, if not more, in the long run, on sponges than I did on my cup.

    –Shana in MO

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