The least-gross menstrual product on the market

The Mooncup Ltd’sLove Your Vagina” campaign — in which women share their pet names for their vagooches, va-jay-jays, and vajimuffins — is getting a lot of attention recently.  Amy Winehouse’s has even joined in, revealing that she calls her vagina her “Va-Jew-Jew.” While I obviously support vagina-love, this campaign feels tired to me. (Or have I just been in the vagina-positive bubble for too long?) Either way, I just call mine “my vagina.”

What is interesting about this campaign, to me, is the product (and marketing campaign) behind it.  The Mooncup is an alternative menstrual product, aka, an alternative to pads and tampons. I have been a huge advocate for the Mooncup (UK company), the Diva Cup, the Keeper, and the other Mooncup (US Company), for years and it is exciting to see one of these products begin to bridge the mainstream “lady” market. The unfortunate reality is that most people fear these products because they are unfamiliar, and because in order to use them, one has to get a little more familiar with one’s own vagina.

In reporting the breaking story of Amy Winehouse’s va-jew-jew, Heeb writer “StevenM” called the Mooncup, “possibly the grossest feminine hygiene product ever created.”  This statement is absolutely, positively, supercalifragilisticexpialidociously WRONG, and I’m not sure why “StevenM” thinks he is in the position to offer judgement of the “grossness” of menstrual products.  If you would like to know about the Mooncup, Diva Cup, or the Keeper, try listening to testimonials from women who actually use them. Like me.

I use the Keeper, which is essentially the same thing as the Mooncup except it is made out of all-natural gum rubber instead of silicone. I have been using mine for almost 6 years now (they last about 10), which means I haven’t spent money on menstrual products in 6 years. It is a reusable cup that you place inside your vagina, where it collects menses during your period. (I know it looks big, but you fold it in half when you insert it.) Once or twice a day, depending on your flow, you empty it out in the toilet or shower and put it back in.  When your cycle is done, wash with soap and water and store it in a cloth bag. Is that really so scary?

I’m not one to use my blog to endorse products, but I see this as much more than that. First of all, I am not getting paid to write this, nor was I asked to by Mooncup Ltd. or any other company. I am writing this because these products offer a lot of benefits that enable and empower women to save money, be green, be active, be discrete, and be less gross while they have their periods. The Mooncup is not just another “feminine hygeine” product preying on women’s insecurities; it is a step towards liberation.

Here’s why.

  1. It’s safer. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups carry no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). This means you can leave it in for as long as you want, and only worry about it once a day or once every two days. You can even wear it when you’re not having your period. Also, the Mooncup and Diva cup are made of medical-grade silicone and do not have the bleach, scents, or other chemicals found in tampons and pads.
  2. It’s economical. Keepers and Mooncups generally cost between 20 and 35 dollars and they last for 10 YEARS. You save literally hundreds of dollars on menstrual products each year by switching.
  3. It’s green. Menstrual cups do not generate waste, whereas  tampons and pads create waste from packaging, applicators, and don’t forget the yucky used products.
  4. It’s discrete. With a menstrual cup, you will never have to awkwardly bring your purse to the bathroom with you again. Not only that, you wont have to leave a wadded up surprise in your friend’s bathroom trashcan – or risk clogging their toilet with your used tampon.
  5. You won’t be caught without a tampon. Since you can put your menstrual cup in ahead of time, you will already be wearing it when your period comes! This is perfect for camping, travelling, and all those other times when you don’t know when you’ll next have access to a bathroom.
  6. It’s comfortable. You can barely feel it in there. You will probably forget you even have your period. Also, you can say goodbye to that awful feeling of shoving dry cotton into your vagina.
  7. It doesn’t dry you out. Tampons absorb menstrual fluid and everything else, sometimes leaving you dry and uncomfortable inside.  Menstrual cups do not; they fit over the cervix where they collect menses, but the rest of your vagina is free to go about business as usual. This means that the regular, non-period fluids act just the same as always.
  8. It’s clean. When people make the “gross” argument, I would take a moment to remind them how gross using tampons can be. (How many of you have gotten blood on the toilet seat or your hands?) Menstrual cups are much cleaner than that. The menses are contained INSIDE the cup, so the part you touch (the outside) is clean! Also, since the menses are contained within the cup – which works by creating an air-tight seal against your cervix – your vagina stays clean! So clean, in fact, that you could receive oral sex while you’re on your period.  Yep. Believe it.

It’s important to realize why folks react to the idea of the menstrual cup the way they do. It’s because we are conditioned to think that it’s gross to touch our own vaginas, and to use a menstrual cup, you have to touch your own vagina. And unfortunately, that stigma is holding many women back from experiencing the physical and financial liberation offered by these products.

Mooncup Ltd. is right to recognize that their product actually is a way to “Love your vagina.” Let’s drown out the “ew, gross!” reactions with a loud chorus of vagina-loving voices.

Your Dazzling Vagina

For decades, women have been sold products for their vaginas. In the beginning there were maxi pads and other menstrual products, as well as the infamous (and unhealthy) douche.  Then came a whole array of “feminine cleansing” products – wipes and washes that apparently are “feminine,” “sensitive,” “personal,” or my favorite–“splash gentle.” (What’s wrong with regular old soap and water?) Take note that these products never say the word “vagina” on the package. Here, “feminine” becomes a euphemism for “vagina,” which is problematic on oh-so-many levels.

And then, perhaps as a backlash to the 70s, we began our descent into extreme hair removal, giving us products like the bikini razors, trimmers, and shavers,  not to mention Coochy Shave lotion and after-shave mist.  We also got home Brazillian waxing kits, depilatory creams, and for the few hairs you have left, there is Smart Bikini Pubic Hair Dye.  But all this hair removal isn’t supposed to be work.  According to the Dare to Bare – Erotic Shaving and Sexual Pleasures DVD, it’s foreplay!

Okay, so it’s not surprising that an industry developed around vagina maintenance, or, as they would like you to believe, vaginal “health.” After all, women have plenty of disposable income to burn now that they have equality in the workplace.  (Yeah, right.)  But in recent months, this industry has taken a bizarre turn.  Now, not only do our vaginas “need” special cleansing and hair removal products, they need to look young and fresh!

First, we heard about creepy vaginal rejuvenation and re-virginization surgeries.  Then it was My New Pink Button to “restore the youthful pink color back to your labia.”  For a laugh (or cry) check out the product reviews, with gems like this:

“Ladies, we all know that we are nothing unless we can catch a man and keep him. We also know that the fat, balding, underachieving, middle-aged shlub we married will ditch us in a moment for that man-stealing ho Miss Universe if we aren’t superficially perfect at all times. But what to do when we start to look like one of those “normal” women instead of an always-perfect supermodel? My New Pink Button is the answer!”  [Note: How many supermodel vaginas do you see? I think she means porn star–another telling vocab choice.]

In addition to dyeing your labia, you might also consider a facial for your vulva, otherwise known as the “vajacial.”  This spa treatment is meant to revitalize your vulva after a Brazilian, taking care of red bumps, ingrown hairs, and all the other tell-tale signs of the skin trauma caused my hair removal. But please notice the word usage here.  “Revitalize,” as in “rejuvenate,” as in “look younger.”

Okay, so an industry has developed to make your lady bits look and feel “younger.” Again, this is not surprising when you consider the American obsession with youth and beauty. (Just look at the skin-care aisle in Walgreens.) I guess it was only a matter of time before our obsession with “fresh, youthful-looking” skin traveled south. But it doesn’t stop there, folks. Oh no. Not only do our vaginas need special cleansing and hair removal products and a fresh, youthful look, they need to DAZZLE.

Or should I say, “vajazzle?”  Yes, once you have got your Brazilian wax and vajacial, it’s time to vajazzle–a process that involves gluing crystals to your vulva. Yes, with GLUE. A simple Google search of the term brings you to a number of “how to vajazzle” articles and blog posts with instructions and first-hand accounts, including this Gawker article quoting a blogger as saying it looks like “a disco ball in my crotch.”

Despite what some have termed the “sacred choice to vajazzle,” this evolution of trends is not feminist. Definitely read Amanda Hess’ breakdown at The Sexist for a well-argued explanation. The fundamental issue with these trends and products is that they pretend to provide a solution to a problem — the problem of your vagina being a vagina and doing all the things that vaginas do, including such offensive acts as growing hair and not sparkling.

Why are these insidious acts so offensive? It might have something to do with the fact that girl crotches behave similarly to men’s crotches. They both grow hair, they both need to be washed, and they both eventually age with the rest of your body.  If it weren’t for the penis, how would we ever tell man crotches and woman crotches apart?  That’s where “feminine washes,” waxing, labia dye and vajazzling come in.  These things exist to make sure everybody knows that your vagina is an expression of your femininity.  Conflating “feminine” and “vagina” has led to a pop culture nightmare where your vagina is ground zero for gender policing and control.

Let’s not forget that some of these products and treatments are not actually healthy for your vagina. In some cases, they are unhealthy or downright dangerous. (Enter the Va-J-J Visor, a vagina-shield to protect a woman’s inner vulva area while waxing, shaving, hair coloring, tanning or undergoing spa treatments.) Not only is the “feminine care” industry selling us products to meet our alleged “needs,” they are selling us products to protect ourselves from those very same products.

Vaginas do amazing things. They enable women to experience sexual pleasure and give the gift of life. They can also hide small objects. (Just kidding.) But looking at all of this crap, you forget about the incredible things vaginas can do.  Instead, the vagina is reduced to something pleasing to look at–something that exists to please others, usually men. So when us feminists say that the patriarchy is trying to control our bodies, don’t write us off. Instead, help us take the patriarchy’s hands out of our pants and let our vaginas be awesome just the way they are.

Groundbreaking tampon ads still can’t use the word “vagina”

I have been trying not to mix my work blogging and my personal blogging, but in this case they overlapped like whoa.  I even used the phrase “not a dirty word” in the post.  So here it is, a slightly Jewish-themed post about the new UbyKotex ad campaign:

A new advertising campaign by Kotex has done what no menstrual product company has done before—create an ad that is not only straightforward about menstruation, but also pokes fun at its own history of vague and sanitized ads. Both reasons make this ad campaign groundbreaking, but for some reason, you still can’t say “vagina” on TV.

The commercial (below) stars a hip, 20-something woman mocking the standard menstrual product commercials, which feature young, pretty women dancing, doing yoga, or just being smiley in tight, white clothing. She also takes a well-deserved shot at the infamous “blue liquid.”

I think it’s safe to say this ad demonstrates a victory for feminists, especially those weighing in on pop culture and advertising like Sarah Haskins and the dedicated feminist communities online and elsewhere. Social media has also allowed the voices of women to be heard–letting advertisers know that women are paying attention and are ready for a change from the same old sexist “man” ads and patronizing “lady” ads. But, as you might imagine, the battle is far from over.

According to the New York Times, the Kotex ad originally used the word “vagina,” and because of this gross breach of TV etiquette, it was rejected by three major networks. The company then shot the ad using the phrase “down there,” and it was still rejected by 2 out of 3 networks. Is the word “vagina” really too risque for the American public?

Read the rest here.