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What Using A Menstrual Cup Taught Me About My Privilege

Posted: June 22, 2020

Moving over to using a mentrual cup from sanitary pads has been a revelation of sorts – that I was privileged enough to have pads in the first place, something 40% of Indian women don’t.

About eight months ago, for the first time I tried a menstrual cup. My life hasn’t been the same since then. It was a tough decision for me to switch from sanitary pads to menstrual cups, even at the age of 26, but I took that leap anyway.

My first interaction about periods was with my mother, during menarche. She explained to me what periods were and how to deal with them through menstrual products. The first product that I was given (because can you explore menstrual products by yourself that age!?) was a sanitary pad, as standard as it is for India. I have been using a pad and allowing it to give me rashes, pain, and make me uncomfortable month after month and year after year since then.

Discovering menstrual cups

Around a year ago, while watching a video on menstrual cups, I seriously considered exploring more options that were mainly less traumatic for me. I found out about menstrual cups and read more articles on it only to realise that I had no idea about this alternative because I never really talked comfortably and freely about this to a group of people.

I was still a 25-year-old Indian woman, carrying sanitary pads in black bags from the pharmacy store and never bothered to think what was wrong with it.

And then I switched to menstrual cups; as scared as I was inserting something inside of me and not wanting to end up in a hospital with a cup inside my vagina, I really wanted to get rid of pads.

Realising my privilege

But in this process, I also was on a journey to realise what privilege I had and how it put added responsibility on me.

As convenient and as entitled I felt to use plastic every day of my life, I realised the plastic of the pad was not only bad for the environment but also for the body. The plastic from the sanitary pads mostly go to landfills, and is non-biodegradable.

Managing of menstrual waste is a problem in almost all developing countries, and while I was harming the environment by using plastic almost for every other thing in my life, I was adding menstrual waste to this load of tonnes of solid waste as well. And while I felt responsible for contributing to polluting the environment, I also knew that I was lucky enough to be able to make a choice between menstrual cups, cloth pads, and sanitary pads (plastic ones).

Only around 57% of women in India can afford pads, as if a luxury. And this luxury is harming them and eventually everyone else through the environment.

Let’s choose what’s least toxic to the environment

When I got to contemplating my choices, I realised about the privilege I had. The fact that I didn’t have to use a cloth while on my period and putting my body at a greater risk only made me thankful of being born in a family that could make ends meet and buy me pads. It was this realisation that got me to thinking about what an opportunity I wasted all these years by not switching earlier and doing the bit I had the capacity of doing, for saving nature even a tad.

If you could read this article all the way till here, I would only wish that you sit today and thank god that you have had the privilege to use pads till now, because more than 40% of women in India cannot, even if they wanted to. Maybe like me, if you also realise this privilege and look at it as an opportunity to make responsible choices for menstrual products, the world may become a better place.

Happy bleeding!

Menstrual Cup. Picture by Tanisha Venkani

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When she isn't around dogs, Tanisha Venkani is a Master's student at Azim

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