Anna wrote earlier this week about some of the ridiculous ways menstruation is presented, and how women are often disillusioned in many ways about their bodies. I'm also going to address our monstrous shipment of feminine sanitary products, but from a different perspective. Upon going through all fourteen boxes, I couldn't stop thinking about the amount of cardboard that went into making each of these 8x11x1 flip-cover "magazine" boxes. All to provide a silly, pretty, marketable box for two pads. To make them more dispensable as free samples, I went through and removed every pad from its cardboard home and recycled the boxes. The sheer volume of waste was absolutely unacceptable. This was having such a powerful effect on me because of some of the values I hold as a feminist: specifically those pertaining to environmentalism. I'm talking about ecofeminism!
Ecofeminism is one of the many branches of feminism that comes about when a person holds both equality and environmentalism as central values in their life. Unfortunately, women who identify as ecofeminists face a troubling issue at this intersection. For many women, one of the most unavoidable functions of our bodies is a monthly period. Jezebel did an evaluation of the costs of owning a vagina, menstrual products being a big factor. On average, a woman will use approximately 11,000 disposable pads or tampons in her lifetime. That is hundreds of dollars spent of feminine hygiene. But the real kicker for the environmentalist is this: it takes 500-800 years for EACH cotton pad to biodegrade and return to natural elements. Currently, this is how we handle disposal of sanitary products. We throw them in the garbage and they are sent to decompose in some landfill. This would seem like a great idea for a cotton product, but because of the way pads are manufactured, the biodegrading process is unreasonably extended and far from sustainable. To me, this knowledge is enough to take a few years off my life. It's just killing the ecofeminist in me. How can I call myself an ecofeminist and yet perpetuate this horrible, horrible method of product disposal?
Why does this incredibly wasteful industry still exist? With all the developments for "new-and-improved" products across the board, feminine hygiene methods are still relatively archaic. Luckily, the menstrual cup has not only been developed and released, but within the last few years the awareness and popularity of this product has shot up! Menstrual cups are reusable collection cups that eliminate the need for pads and tampons (thereby saving us hundreds of dollars!). This is just the revolution in feminine hygiene ecofeminists have been waiting for! Many already proudly own a menstrual cup, and say that after transitioning, they would never go back to their old ways.
I leave you with this thought: the holiday season is almost upon us and this year I urge you to give the gift of ecofeminism: spread the knowledge about menstrual cups!