Privilege & Periods

This article talks about privilege and periods and the well-meaning holier-than-thou zero-waste pictures including menstrual cups.

It would be very easy for me to urge you to use a menstrual cup to go zero waste. But I won’t. Here’s why.

I know better than to push my choices down someone's throat...however unknowingly and well-intentioned my opinions might be.

I’m an Indian woman and I have an insight into Indian culture.

I’m lucky because I have access to any feminine hygiene product & I do not face any stigma related to menstruation (religious or cultural) from my family, friends & community which is not the case for millions of women across India who are isolated and considered impure.

I have the freedom to choose any feminine hygiene product – regular sanitary napkins, reusable sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups, period panties, natural sea sponge etc. Culturally, women in certain regions of India are expected to use old cloth rags which aren’t clean and not even dried in the sun ("to keep ‘such items’ away from public view"). My Mom had to use cloth rags so she was shocked when I suggested that I try cloth pads - 'they're not clean' she exclaimed, 'why make yourself go through the effort of cleaning it when you can just use another sanitary pad or tampon?' Also the logistics of how you would clean it and where you would hang it to dry are still pertinent. I'm lazy and don't want to handwash thick cloth pads but throwing them directly into the washing machine doesn't seem hygienic either because I want them sanitized in hot water and my washing machine doesn't do that. They do not have access to clean water to drink, let alone to keep themselves clean. Plus, culturally there is an unsaid pressure on girls to ‘keep their flower pure’ and therefore tampons and menstrual cups are out of the question for many girls. Oh yes, this bullshit still exists in India, and many parts of the world.

India and Indian women have come a long way. But there are still those in the fringes. They struggle to gain freedom and acceptance from their communities and access to clean feminine hygiene products of any kind! Just watch the movie PadMan if you don’t believe me.

Let's not pretend that the menstrual cup is somehow the answer to our period issues and freedom from guilt related to menstruation as long as educated women continue to speak of periods in hushed tones and men continue to cringe at the mention of periods. Change, real change takes time.

The definition of acceptable have kept changing on us, making it a target thats hard to hit. First it was sanitary napkins, then the thin & dry variants, tampons and since a few decades - the menstrual cup and even a resurgence of the period panty. Is there any surprise that Indian women in far flung areas don't know what to go for? They are restricted to a few choices based on their community and lifestyle. I realize that shouldn't mean they Then who am I to tell them to switch to a menstrual cup because I suddenly woke up to my earth’s destruction? Are they not facing enough pressure without me guilting them into picking my choice? My sisters share this earth with me, and they deserve a life full of good health and freedom to choose what they know to be best for their bodies. I can provide options but I draw the line at glamorizing one choice over the other. 

-mnmlgrl publishes a new article every Friday.

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