Saturday, September 15, 2007

Getting started...

My name is Tracy and I am 21 years old. Like most women my age, I menstruate monthly. For the majority of my fertile years I've used disposable tampons during my monthly cycle, until last December when I purchased my first package of sea sponges. Since then, I've been a die-hard advocate of reusable menstrual products.

A lot of people are pretty grossed out by the thought of using a cloth pad or a sea sponge. I was, too -- until I realized that there really isn't anything gross about it. In fact, it's actually kind of an incredible process when you think about it. But we're raised not to think about it, just like we're raised not to think about lots of things, like why girls aren't supposed to like sports or why women still make less money than men even when they have the same job.

So it's kind of subversive to get excited about your period, and it's an act of resistance to talk about your period with your friends, and if we all start discovering that menstruation is a part of what makes being a woman cause for celebration, maybe we'll start changing things up a little bit.

That said, if you're okay with the status quo and you want to keep things as is, getting in touch with your menstrual cycle can be a good thing for you, too. Knowing how your body works when it's healthy is the first step in understanding when your body isn't functioning properly. In my experience, reusable products required me to play a more active role in understanding my own menstrual cycle. Unlike a tampon that I could quickly discard, sea sponges and cloth pads have made me take notice of the color, consistency, odor, and amount of what comes out of my vagina. Which means that if there's a change, I'll know instantly that something is different.

In addition, there's the matter of all those toxins present in most disposable products. Although tampons have only trace amounts of these carcinogens, think about how many tampons you use monthly. Multiply that by 12 for every month in the year. Now multiply that amount by the number of years you'll menstruate. That's a lot of opportunity for a trace amount of something toxic to build up in your system. And that's pretty frightening.

One last argument for reusables: the environment. Remember how many tampons you figured you're going to use in your life? Quite a few, right? Picture them in a landfill or washed up on the beach. Enough said.

Now on to the point of this blog, which, amazingly, is not to convince you that reusable menstrual products are the way to go. The point is, I have my first moon cup. Yup, it's been inserted into my vagina and is resting comfortably. My goal is to post my daily experiences for the coming week so that you can make a conscious, educated decision for yourself about your own menstruation.

A note on bias: If it's not readily apparent, I'm already pretty pro-reusables. My perspective on using a moon cup will probably be rather different from someone who has never heard of reusable menstrual products before. I'm also very open about menstruation -- just ask my housemates who get to hear all the details, whether they want to or not! -- and of course, my perspective will differ from someone for whom a monthly cycle represents three to seven days of shame.

In addition, I am somewhat involved with GladRags, one of the distributors of the moon cup. Once a week, I provide support for a group of developmentally disabled workers who package many of GladRags' products and I briefly worked for GladRags as a packager myself. Throughout this blog I may choose to link to GladRags over other distributors of the same/similar products, simply because I have experience with their products as well as their customer service. For the past year I've gotten an inside look at the way GladRags operates, and I've found that their business practices are as deserving of praise as their products. While I wholeheartedly recommend GladRags, I would not discourage anyone from checking out all of the options available.

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