Menstruation

Jessica Biel and WomanCare Global team up for funny sex ed videos.

In response to the mostly piss-poor sex education in the states, Jessica Biel, Joy Bryant, and Whitney Cummings teamed up with WomanCare Global (a nonprofit women's sexual health service provider) and Funny or Die to produce a series of educational comedy clips that address some misconceptions related to sex. The clips have received a lot of attention, and for good reason.

From an article in Slate:

Today, Biel and WomanCare Global, an international nonprofit that works to improve access to products such as contraception and menstrual cups, released a series of videos on Funny or Die called “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will?” Named to encourage parents and other informed adults to speak honestly with the kids in their lives about reproductive health, the three clips feature Biel kibitzing with fellow actresses Joy Bryant and Whitney Cummings about hetero sex, birth control, dudes, and periods in someone’s kitchen.
The three women cite some messed-up ideas of how female bodies work—e.g., if a condom gets stuck in your vagina, it cannot travel up and out your mouth, contrary to the anatomical fantasies of one Idaho lawmaker—which work as straw men for on-screen text to bat down. “We thought the best way to encourage women to get educated and start the conversation around our bodies was to make it comically clear that people like me, and other non-experts, should not be the source for this information,” said Biel in a statement.

Read the rest here.

Check out WomanCare Global here.

And the videos:

TED talk. Robyn Stein DeLuca: The good news about PMS.

Passed along by Kirisana (thanks!). 

From the description:

Everybody knows that most women go a little crazy right before they get their period, that their reproductive hormones cause their emotions to fluctuate wildly. Except: There's very little scientific consensus about premenstrual syndrome. Says psychologist Robyn Stein DeLuca, science doesn't agree on the definition, cause, treatment or even existence of PMS. She explores what we know and don't know about it — and why the popular myth has persisted.

It's important to note that Dr. DeLuca does not deny that many women experience unpleasant physiological and psychological changes leading up to menstruation. What she does take issue with is the idea that PMS is a disorder, or is pathologized. Check it out:

Alternatives to disposable tampons and pads.

From HerCampus.com:

The Uterus Instruction Manual: Tampons, Pads and…wait, I thought that was it? By Jessica Schmidt
Why hello there, fellow uterus owner. I am sure you have had to deal with that lovely monthly gift that Mother Nature bestows upon us at some point by now. Whether you belong to the camp of pads, tampons, or both, I am sure that most of you have a box of your favourite brand stashed somewhere in your bathroom, ready for action. But what if I told you that pads and tampons aren’t the only products available? The companies that produce tampons and pads are a multimillion-dollar industry. These companies can keep their overhead low by creating cheap products, and the fact that tampons and pads are disposable means that the demand for them is constant. Beyond the money issues, there is a growing trend of health related problems stemming from the bleaches and other chemicals that go into these products to keep us and our nether-regions squeaky clean. Personally, I was tired of stuffing chemically bleached, Sahara-desert-dry wads of cotton into very sensitive areas. But what other options are there?
Cups
Okay, anyone who does not already use a cup or know what it is may be initially disgusted or simply taken aback by this suggestion, because it is exactly what it sounds like. Usually made of silicone, a cup sits inside of your vagina much like a tampon, but instead of absorbing all that shed uterine lining, it simply catches it for disposal later. This means that once every 12 hours (yeah, you read that right) you simply remove the cup, dump it in the toilet, rinse and reinsert to be on your way. The downside of this type of product is that you do actually see a cupful of the stuff upon removal. Go ahead, stick out your tongue, make some blech-ing noises.
Good? Alright, moving on. Given that all my vagina-training prior to using a cup taught me that period blood is a shameful fluid that should never been and needs to be disposed of as quickly as possible, I did find it weird at first. For myself, it is not the end of the world to witness the results of my period once every 12 hours, especially if it means I don’t have to stuff my vagina full of cotton. Because honestly, when you think about it, without the pressure of societal norms, which option is weirder?

Check out the other gear here.

Period Panties.

This is a rather controversial project, started by Anthony Hall. His Kickstarter campaign, which originally set out to raise $10,000 is currently at $278,573 and still has 13 days to go. From his Kickstarter page:

Fun underwear that high-fives you for being a woman and serves as a friendly reminder to others!

Why settle for the old ratty or granny pair that you always wear? Celebrate your womanhood by wearing Period Panties! Sure, it's not necessarily the high point of your month, but with Period Panties it doesn't have to be the low point. Half the world menstruates, so why not have some fun with it?!

Check out the promo video here.

Period-Panties-4-650x864
Period-Panties-4-650x864

There has been a strong response to this project on several websites. Here's an example from Geek System:

Personally, I think Hall’s product is well-intentioned. But goddammit, doesn’t it seem risible to anyone else that his product slogan–and in fact the entire line of underwear–implies that embracing a natural process of the female body also means you have a responsibility to warn other people of how scary your vagina is?

But once I stopped giggling/gagging, I realized I have definite reservations about wearing “Cunt” underwear designed by a dude who focuses his kickstarter video on how to tell if his girlfriend is dtf. I also worry that by wearing one of the comfy-looking pairs I would be supporting the message that vaginas are gross, scary, and a lot like that scene from the end of Carrie.

Among the underwear that gave me the most misgivings was Sour Puss–because for one, it is always a bad idea for men to bring up how vaginas smell (duh Hall, that is a body politics minefield.)

Also, the Puss in question is flipping off someone presumably trying to get a intimate with the wearer, which again ties in to Hall’s whole inspiration for the panties, i.e. sometimes his girlfriend didn’t want to have sex with him and wouldn’t explain why. So, naturally he designed underwear that could do the explaining for her, because the only possibility for a vagina not wanting to have sex with Anthony is that said vagina has been transformed into an embarrassing graveyard freak-show.

[…]

However, no matter how funny or lighthearted the spirit of Hall’s panties are, I think there’s something fundamentally gross about his campaign that shouldn’t be ignored. (And not gross like, ick, I just passed a blood clot the size of a baby’s fist. Although, yes, if you’re asking, I’m not a huge fan of that either.)

It seems to me that Hall’s female-positive message is a little skewed. Personally, I am afraid and disgusted by my body at times and perhaps reluctant to acknowledge what’s going on with it. But the solution to any negative feelings I have about my ladybits isn’t to embrace the idea that yes, my vagina is literally just a monster, periods are very scary, and when I am bleeding, it’s my responsibility to warn others away from me and explain to men why the shop isn’t open, sex-wise.

I also don’t think humor as a means of dispelling any awkwardness over the physical pain I’m in or my lack of desire to have sex will solve anything–I shouldn’t be held accountable for how my period makes other people (like Hall) feel.

Using a menstrual cup.

From Jezebel:

My Bloody Initiation Into The Diva Cup Cult By Dodai Stewart

After discovering that my favorite tampons, O.B. Ultra, had been discontinued (yes, they're still making regular and super plus), I was inundated with suggestions that I try the Diva Cup. So I did.

Last week, actually. The evening of Sunday, November 21, I got the little twinge that comes when Aunt Flow is about to arrive. I'd already ordered the Diva Cup via drugstore.com. So that night I lay in bed for an hour, reading and rereading the instructions, watching videos online, and examining the thing. Medical grade silicone, latex-free, it seems at once both too large and too small. Too big to go where it's supposed to go; too tiny to do what it's supposed to do. It took me half an hour of folding, inserting, twisting, turning, pulling out, shoving in and so on to figure out where the damn thing was supposed to be. Although once it was in, I didn't feel it at all. I slept.

Monday morning I checked on it, worried it wasn't working. But it was. Oh, it was. I stared at the mucos-y brown stuff I'd collected with fascination, then dumped it in the toilet, washed the cup and stuck it back in. I had a meeting in the Times Square area (shoutout to the online editing class at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism!) and I felt fairly secure, even though I stressed out because my train got delayed and worried that leaving the apartment while testing this thing was a bad idea. But when I got home from the meeting, I emptied the cup and felt impressed. It was working.

Monday evening around 7pm, I went to my usual bingo night and had a couple of beers. By 9:30 I was sure the thing was leaking. I was wearing a pad for backup, but as I went home I could tell that all was not well in Crotchtown. At 10:30pm there was a gory murder scene in my bathroom. Blood in my underwear, blood on my hands, blood in the toilet, blood on the floor. Most of it bright, vivid red, because it doesn't get exposed to the air with the Diva Cup. Maybe I put it in wrong, maybe my period was too heavy, maybe it migrated? In any case, it was a fucking mess, and I had some Lady Macbeth moments at the sink as I tried to scrub away all traces of blood. But I stuck it back in.

Tuesday morning it appeared to be leaking and I decided I'd been shoving it too high.

Read the rest here.

And a how-to video:


How much does having a vagina cost?

In an article from 2012, Jezebel broke down how much it costs to have a vagina. Of course, costs will vary widely depending on a woman's preferences and needs. Also, we're lucky in Canada that some of this stuff is covered by our medical plans.

This Is How Much It Costs to Own a Vagina: An Itemized List by Tracie Egan Morrissey

Given the national debate regarding birth control coverage, it's increasingly clear that many people have no idea how much it costs it to own a vagina — folks are getting up in arms about the idea that the pill could set uninsured women back about $1000 a year, but in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. Do you even know just how much you're shelling out for your clam? Were you aware of the fact that in your 20s alone, you will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance? Herewith, we do the math on just how much that cooter is costing you.

Note: Annual quantities of drugstore-type purchases and personal grooming treatments are estimates based on Jezebel staffers' personal experiences.

[…]

Tampons & Maxipads

Yes, there are reusable devices, like the Diva Cup (which has its own cult-like following), but about 70 percent of American women use tampons. And on average, a woman will, in her lifetime, use more than 11,000 tampons or pads. That's a lot of disposable cotton. And it's a necessity. Could you imagine if we just free-flowed? The entire world would look like a murder scene.

$6.79 per box at Drugstore.com, at 9 boxes of tampons per year: $61.11 $7.99 per package of maxi pads at Drugstore.com, at 7 packages a year: $59.43

[…]

Pubic Hair Removal

Recent studies indicate that most women, aged 18 - 39, engage in pubic hair removal—whether partial or total—through various methods (waxing, shaving, laser removal). A 2009 survey released by the American Laser Centers claimed that the average woman shaves 12 times a month, spending about $15.95. Women who are committed to waxing do so every 6 weeks.

$35 per waxing at 9 times per year: $315 $15.95 for shaving products per month at 12 times per year: $191.40

See the rest of the list, and the total, here.

Reusable pads.

I posted about reusable tampons and menstrual cups, but there are also reusable menstrual pads (to see a previous post on reusable tampons, click here). Gladrags sells reusable pads, menstrual cups and other non-disposable menstrual products. Here's the description of their pads:

GladRags Day Pads, Pantyliners, and Night Pads have it all­. They’re comfortable, easily washable, good for the environment, and will save you money, too! Soft and breathable, you'll never suffer through the chafing and irritation of disposable pads again. All pads are available in colored cotton and organic undyed cotton.

You can check out all their products by clicking here.

Reusable tampons.

There seems to be growing interest in non-disposable menstruation products due to a slow cultural shift towards increased sustainability. There are now several products on the market that are reusable, including menstrual cups, as described in class and a previous blog post.

This seems to be a pretty reasonable description of reusable tampons, with links, from Reusable Menstrual Products, an information site:

Reusable tampons offer the advantages of an internal product, with the advantages of a reusable one. They can be cheaper than Menstrual Cups, however they may be more likely to cause TSS and can be harder to clean.

Reusable tampons can be purchased from a few online stores or they can be handmade - in sewn, knit or crochet form. Some women purchase cotton baby socks and use these rolled up as tampons.

Making a sewn version is simply a case of cutting out a rectangle of cloth (here I've used organic cotton jersey), sewing it into a tube, filling it with something absorbent (Like bamboo fleece or cotton terry), sewing it closed and (securely) sewing on a string. The advantage of this style is that it is used much the same as a disposable tampon and needs no rolling or fiddling around with. The disadvantage is that styles that can roll up will allow for easier cleaning than an absorbent-filled tube style.

Knit or crochet versions can be done in a cotton or bamboo yarn. Knitted tampons usually use the fact that a square or rectangle knit in "stocking" stitch will naturally want to roll. This rolling action makes it easy for the knitted tampon to stay rolled for easier insertion/removal. Crochet tampons sometimes have a flat roll up section, with a curved top to give the tampon a rounded end for more comfortable insertion.

Are they safe though? Well that's hard to say. The main contributing factor for TSS seems to be the rayon fibres in regular tampons (basically the bacteria multiplies readily on the rayon fibres and can cause TSS) All-cotton tampons have not be found to breed bacteria like rayon does. So it would seem that if an all-cotton disposable tampon is safer for you than a rayon one, then an all-cotton reusable tampon might be safer for you than a rayon disposable one. Regular disposable tampons are not sterile (just because they are white, wrapped in plastic and look sterile doesn't mean they are). Other things that go into vaginas also aren't sterile (penises, vibrators, fingers etc.). You could boil or soak the tampons in a sterilising solution if you wanted to.

You can find patterns and instructions for knit/crochet tampons here:

App: Period Tracker Deluxe.

Submitted by Kelsey (thanks!):

I use a nifty iPhone App called Period Tracker Deluxe (it's also available as a free version, called Period Tracker Lite.) It's essentially genius, and lets women track the length of their periods (and the projected start dates of their next period), their symptoms, moods, cravings, weight, basal body temperature, consistency of their discharge, and through a series of charts and graphs also shows them their most fertile window and when they're due to ovulate. It also lets them keep track of when they're intimate, and, as such, when they have more reason to panic when their period is MIA. Mostly I find it useful to recognize patterns in my cycle, as way of getting to know my body overall.

This is the website for it: link.

I started out with the P-Tracker Lite version, but decided to splurge the $1.99 and upgrade. I'm sure there are billions of apps out there that do this, but I figured I'd share my success story.

Europe > America.

Via Copyranter. In class last week, someone noted how ridiculous it is that North American tampon and maxipad ads always depict menstrual discharge as blue or green, rather than red. Finally, an American ad came out that makes reference to the real colour, albeit very subtly:

Europeans, typically have a far more relaxed attitude towards sex and the body. Here are two clever ads that don't try to obfuscate the issue:

All about periods.

From Jezebel:

A Brief History of Your Period, and Why You Don’t Have to Have It

Valerie Tarico

Seattle family planning doctor Deborah Oyer routinely asks new female patients, "How often do you want to have your period? Monthly? Every three months? Or not at all?" Until she asks, some don't know they have a choice. Like every other aspect of reproductive health, menstruation is a fraught topic. A woman who is actively managing her period is in control of her fertility; in Judeo Christian folklore, she is cheating Eve's curse. Even talking about menstruation can violate taboos. Consequently, most of us are astoundingly under-informed about a facet of womanhood that affects anyone who either has a uterus or loves a person who does.

For example, did you know that:

  • Modern Western women have four times as many periods over a lifetime as our hunter gatherer ancestors and triple the number for women just a hundred years ago. In other words, what seems "natural" now is very different from what our bodies have historically supported or have evolved to support.

  • In the 19th Century there was approximately a five year gap between when females startedtheir periods and age at first marriage; now the gap is closer to fifteen years, with many girls starting in grade school.

  • Girls who start early are more likely to have painful cramps and heavy bleeding.

  • Menstrual contractions can be as severe as early labor and can trigger vomiting or blackouts.

  • Menstrual symptoms cause over 100 million lost work hours annually for American women; they are the number one reason young women miss school or work. In the developing world menstruation is a factor in adolescent girls leaving school.

  • A woman can now choose to regulate her periods using either short acting contraceptives like pills or rings or a long acting method like an IUD or injections.

  • Given an option, about one third of women would choose to keep their period; the other two thirds would prefer to ditch it.

  • There are no known long term health consequences of menstrual regulation or suppression in healthy women.

  • IUDs (which are as effective as sterilization from a contraceptive standpoint) were recently approved by the FDA to decrease menstrual symptoms and endometriosis and are rapidly becoming a first-line treatment for many menstrual problems.

  • A hormonal IUD reduces menstrual bleeding by on average 90% and many women have no period by the end of the first year –yet menstruation and fertility return within a single cycle after removal.

  • Italian researchers found that menstrual symptoms and related absenteeism accounts for approximately 15% of the wage and promotion gap between men and women.

Read much more fascinating history of periods here.

 

Bring on the apocalypse: Tampon survival uses.

From the Art of Manliness:

TAMPON Survival Use #4: Crude Survival Straw Filter

Yes, I have a tampon in my mouth — don’t laugh! As a last ditch water filter, you can make an improvised Survival Straw from the plastic housing and cotton from a tampon. As you can see in the photos below, just tear off a bit of the cotton and stuff it into the plastic housing. I find it better to leave a little bit sticking out to make the housing pieces wedge tightly together.

Again, this filter will not PURIFY your water by removing biological, chemical, or heavy metal threats, but it will filter out sediments and particulates. This would be a last ditch effort if no methods of water purification were available.

See the other 9 uses here: link.