I Refuse to Use the Menstrual Cup. Does that Make Me a Bad Feminist?


I Refuse to Use the Menstrual Cup. Does that Make Me a Bad Feminist?

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Every single person to have ever used a menstrual cup becomes the poster-person for its advertisement. The keyword to unlocking an unwanted conversation about it is to simply whisper the word “period”. You will manifest a circle of women sloganising how wonderful the experience is. The next thing you know, you have been embroiled in an hour-long conversation (supplemented by statistics) about how the menstrual cup benefits not just you but also the environment. By the end of it, you will at least be armed with data if not fully convinced to take the plunge.

There are numerous advantages to a menstrual cup such as long-term cost benefit, safety, larger capacity for blood, and so on. Some women have even gone so far as to say that they look forward to their period due to the cup. One of its most propagated features is how it reduces the carbon footprint when compared to sanitary pads. While I understand that the menstrual cup is better in the long-term with respect to the environment and general vaginal health, I find it hard to accept this imposition at the cost of my comfort.

I have been an ardent sanitary pad user ever since I was graced with my period at the age of 13. Over the past 11 years, the quality of pads has improved significantly; with respect to size, material, and user-friendliness. These features have been an important contributing factor to my not wanting to make the switch to tampons or the cup. But due to the constant propagation of the cup by ableist women, I am addled by anxiety whenever someone talks to me about making the switch. Every time that I pick up a pad, I can’t help but feel like a bad feminist. I am forced to think about the environmental repercussions of my actions. Is my selfishness justified in the pursuit of my comfort over the degeneration of the ecosystem? Time and again, I need to politely remind myself that while nature is important, so am I.

At the outset, periods come with their own set of problems for women. While the discomfort of some may extend solely to avoid wearing whites and minor changes to their lifestyle, that of others can be relatively excruciating. It takes the form of diarrhoea, regurgitation, and even fainting. I have friends who have had to take days (plural!) off from work just to lie on their beds with a heating pad, while some have even gone through as many as 10 pads a day. Periods are also accompanied by hormonal changes that directly impact one’s mental health. The reasons to be stressed and anxious while on your period are plentiful, the pressure to use appropriate sanitary products should not become one of them.

In a world that demands propriety, is it okay to not do the right thing once in a while?

My institution into the cup world began with doing my diligent research on it; the material, the maintenance, and the methods of usage. I even spoke to friends who use the cup. I replied to every Instagram story put up by women highlighting their experience with it. When I finally got around to it, I shuddered at the sheer size of it. Even the smallest available cup seemed too bulky for me. I shuddered at the thought of having to deal with the penetration pain coupled with period cramps. For me, the entire procedure was an invitation for queasiness. As someone with hypersensitive olfactory senses, periods are often a nightmare. The smell of period blood is enough to make me feel nauseous, even though I’m well-aware that the source of this blood is my own body. Thus, the last thing that I want is to have a literal first-hand experience of dealing with it. I must confess that it has made me feel like a bad woman for not wanting my blood on my hands, like I was defying the entire throng of successive feminists.

After dabbling and debating abundantly with these problems, I realised that I had internalised this pressure to be environmentally conscious so much so that I actively avoided using more pads even if mine was nearly full. In a world that demands propriety, is it okay to not do the right thing once in a while? Aren’t women burdened with enough problems socially that this must become one too?

Apart from the hurdles that I face, some women have also complained about not being able to physically accommodate the silicone cup in their vaginas. For example, women who have Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) inserted in their vaginas have spoken about how the cup has pulled on the wire causing them immense pain and in need of immediate medical attention. Additionally, the ones with vaginal conditions such as endometriosis, vaginismus, fibroids, or a low cervix have often complained about how the cup has worsened their condition. There is also a paucity in the available sizes. The mainstream cups in the market follow a traditional S, M, L size pattern which does not adequately oblige the vagina of every woman. Some have had to use panty liners or pads regardless to prevent leakage.

I agree menstrual cups help reduce the burden on the environment. While that is its most attractive and salient feature, there exist sanitary products that are environmentally conscious and promote sustainable living. With the introduction of eco-friendly pads and tampons and period underwear, the emphasis on the cup can now be diminished. There are alternatives available to supplement this lifestyle without having to compromise on one’s comfort or health.

Whenever I come across horror stories wherein the cup has been entirely lodged in vaginas without budging, or how some have had to lubricate to insert it, it has quite literally made my blood run cold. There may be a time in the future where I may be adventurous enough to try it but right now is not it. Meanwhile, I’ll let my fellow women wax poetic about the life-altering powers of the menstrual cup. As for me, I will not be pushed out of my comfort zone. Or have something pushed in it.