My Menstrual Cup Is An Intersectional Feminist
“If you see inequality as a “them” problem or “unfortunate other” problem, that is a problem”- Kimberle Crenshaw (Lawyer, Intersectional feminist).
Reading about intersectional feminism was an enlightening experience, to read about how the cause that I believe in has the power to not just help women but other sections too, was empowering and hopeful. When I finally started to use a menstrual cup after ages of research, I realized that the cup was not just a silicone bell-shaped holder, but something way more than that, it was an intersectional feminist.
“I forgot that I was on my periods” is a universal statement made by menstrual cup users. The only way to find how true that was and if it will apply to me was by using a cup myself. This is what I told myself when I first saw Buzzfeed’s Ladylike video where the cast members test out different period products. The 16-year-old me thought it was impossible for a country like India to be open to menstrual cups. Three years later, while scrolling through Instagram I realized that people had started to talk about menstrual cups. That’s when I saw that sustainability in India wasn’t fucking around, menstrual cups were officially a thing in our country and menstruators were using them! There were videos and posts on my Instagram feed with menstruators talking about how a small cup was changing their lives. The thought of inserting a foreign body inside my vagina was still strange but not impossible. I researched the heck out of menstrual cups and after one year of thinking and interrogating my friends who used it, I decided to buy one. But my purchase was a little different than the Instagram influencers who swore to save the environment. I decided to try a cup to have the comfort that I wished I had, and so was the case with other menstruators who I spoke to. The reasons varied from comfort to money to the environment, this only proved how a menstrual cup fits in an array of issues that the menstruating population faces, hence, making it an intersectional feminist.
The Green Team
Let’s not delve into the fact that a menstruator can generate up to 125 kg of non-biodegradable waste through their menstruating years, this fact, although necessary, is known and discussed in conversations about plastic pollution. Instead, let’s talk about the amazing menstruators who chose to switch to a cup because they want to create a healthier planet. Every time someone chooses to switch to sustainable period products, the amount of plastic waste that could have been created reduces, the decision to think beyond self is huge, and a small menstrual cup can fit it in.
I Identify As A Menstruator For ages, menstruation was considered to be a “woman issue”. With gender activists and educators coming forward to create a gender-inclusive menstruation environment, gender-neutral pronouns have become a part of daily conversations. Menstruators who do not identify as women have low to zero representation in mainstream advertisements of period products. Thanks to gender-neutral menstrual cups (and other period products), there are a lot of options and preferences that menstruators can get online as opposed to the traditional flowery and heavily scented products that only target cis women.
But the identity crisis does not stop here. When J. K. Rowling made her controversial tweet- “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”, as a response, trans activist Kenny Ethan Jones said, “...Not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate are women.”. Basically, when someone attaches a woman’s identity to menstruation, they are not just dismissing other menstruators but are also excluding women who don’t menstruate (because of medical conditions, menopause or any other reason). Gender-neutral brands reduce this interdependency of menstruation and gender.
My Period Blood Is Normal Blood
For many years of my life, period blood was something that I was discreet about. As I spoke to a friend about how she felt after using a menstrual cup, I realized that both of us felt closer to our bodies and to our blood. No matter how messy the menstrual cup made my fingers, I didn’t feel gross or scared. The obsession of not staining a sheet or my pants now seemed unrealistic, thanks to my cup. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to bear the sight of blood, but handling it made me realize that it’s my own blood, regardless of where it comes from.
Deconstructing The Social Constructs
Virginity is a social construct. There is no medical definition of virginity, to believe it or not is completely a personal choice. But to associate one’s virginity with their purity or character is simply a restriction of that person’s freedom. You can “lose” your virginity or break your hymen due to multiple reasons apart from sexual intercourse, and the conversation around this escalated after more people started getting curious about products like menstrual cups and tampons. It was comforting and reassuring to see doctors, entrepreneurs and menstruators of all ages talking about how one shouldn’t be associating hymens with virginity. Menstruators started sharing how the cup gave them freedom of movement and how that freedom was more important to them than their hymen.
To use a menstrual cup or any sustainable period product is a personal choice, people have different comfort levels. We also need to think about the population that does not have the privilege, resources or awareness to opt for a menstrual cup. Keeping these scenarios in mind, we have to understand that amplifying and educating more menstruators on our way can be more impactful than we think. So when you happen to forget that you’re on your period, remember, that your cup is more than a cup, your cup is an intersectional feminist.
Author : Shallaki Khandare
Artwork : Khyati Patkar