If you are still using mainstream disposable menstrual pads or tampons, you might as well be drinking out of non-biodegradable styrofoam cups! Tampons and disposable menstrual products are unnecessary *trash* and if you are eco-conscious, you should quit using them today! There are many reasons to stop using disposable menstrual products. There are reasons borne of environmental health, anti-consumerism, anti-corporate control of our body, health, feminism, women's body esteem, and more.
In the zine "Let's Forget Everything We Learned About Being A Girl…Bloodsisters of the World…Unite and Take Over!" (which was made as part of the Belladonna DIY Fest '04), they say, "over 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of annually, and that 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along the US coastal areas between 1998 and 1999." They also said that in Ca., it is illegal to feed the leaves, stems or short fibers of cotton to livestock due to pesticide residue, but this cotton is instead allowed to be made into tampons, mattresses, cotton balls...Those statistics give us something to think about, don't they?
In recent years, biodegradable cotton menstrual products made by companies like 7th Generation, have emerged on the market, which is definitely a move in the right direction, except they are still one-use products, and due to the price range of such products, most women are still not able to use these products. And most women are still not hip to making their own cloth pads, like their grannies did. Yet women bleed monthly, and the landfills are piled high with non-biodegradable tampons and pads full of blood. There are more conscious ways to deal with our menstrual blood and the environment.
In Anne Cameron's book, "A Child of Her People," a white girl is being raised by American Indians, after they found her dying in a covered wagon accident where her family had died. White missionaries come on the scene and "rescue" the white girl, placing her in a hospital with Catholic nuns. This is how Anne describes A Child of Her People's first menstruation with the missionaries: "When her first blood moon was on her, she told Marie-Berthe and asked where the seclusion and meditation hut was for these women. Marie-Berthe laughed and told her there was none, that the women stayed in their rooms, or pretended nothing at all was happening. "They are shamed by it," she said. "But it is the most holy of times!" Child of Her People blurted. "They do not think so, "Marie-Berthe shrugged. "I was told that before Eve tempted Adam and they both sinned, there was no blood moon time for Eve. After the Sin, their God cursed her, and every month the woman bleeds, to remind her of her sin."
"Do you believe that?" Child of Her People asked carefully. "Do I look a fool?" Marie-Berthe asked, and then they were both laughing happily, but Child of Her People knew that she would keep her secret to herself, let them think she was still a little girl. Moss was easily collected, there was no need to ask anybody for cloths or any of the other gear Marie-Berthe told her the white women used."
Before the "sanitary protection" industry was created, women used absorbent materials such as moss, sponges, and cloth for their menstrual flows, for thousands of years. Most likely, your granny used cloth pads, not corporate disposable "protection." The way the "sanitary protection" industry speaks about menstruation, they make it seem like menstruation is something women should dread, abhor, fear and hide. And they act like Big Brother is here to sell you "protection" from your own body fluids. By acting like menstrual fluids are toxic, women are degraded and belittled. Several religions have heavy dogmas around menstruating women, such as sexual taboos, food preparation taboos, etc. In American culture, we teach girls and women that their genitals should not be aggrandized or symbolized in any manner outside of the control of the porn or sanitary protection industry!
Buying disposable menses products is a form of consumerism, and most menses products come from an industry and big corporations. Why support more big corporations via your menses? Why consume when you do not have to? "Sanitary protection" corporations and industries have profited by financially exploiting women's body esteem insecurities *monthly.* Why support them doing that?
Health is a reason to give up commercially made menstrual products. Disposable tampons and pads very often are full of weird chemicals, bleach, and synthetic fibers that can actually cut up your vagina and vulva like little sharp strands of glass. Some argue menstrual fluids are supposed to flow out of us, not be blocked up inside with a tampon...thus many prefer pads. I am of this school, that feels "corking" your menstrual flow is not optimum. I feel it best to just bond with women everywhere all over the planet forever, and to honor my flow.
You can easily make your own cloth pads. I often just rip up strips of flannel, fold them into a rectangle a few folds thick, and we are good to go. In an emergency, you can fold a tube sock in half! LOL! But you can also buy really nice pre-made cloth, reusable, menstrual pads from companies such as Many Moons, Pandora Pads, Lotus Pads and more. Many Moons offers a free cloth menstrual pad pattern at http://pacificcoast.net/%7Emanymoons/howto.html. You can download a free hip little menstrual calendar (http://www.tamponcase.com/flow_refill.html) from Vinnie's site! And I have listed several menstrual pride resources at the Vulva Museum also ( http://users.resist.ca/~kirstena/pagevulvamuseum2.html).
I highly recommend the following books to empower you about your menses:
A Child of Her People by Anne Cameron
Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron
Sister Moon Lodge by Kisma K. Stepanich
Buffalo Woman Comes Singing by Brooke Medicine Eagle
Cotton menstrual pads (and a copy of "Daughters of Copper Woman") are a good gift to give young girls you know who are just beginning to menstruate. A gift like that can help start girls off in a direction of honoring the menses flow, rather than "pretending nothing at all is happening," as Anne Cameron describes the white Christian women doing in "Child of Her People." Be proud of your blood. It is not toxic. It is not shameful. You do not need protection or sanitation. You just need nice DIY washable cotton pads!
(And make sure to visit our Vulva Museum, at http://resist.ca/~kirstena/pagevulvamuseum1.html.)
Thank you to Resist.ca for hosting this website!