by Lo Denmon
Do you know what it means to have a good body image, really? What it means to be in touch with your body and be aware when something is wrong with it? Or to have the self-esteem to take care of it when something bad is happening? A significant part of having good body image is understanding your own body. It is absolutely necessary to “be in touch” with your body, or know the processes that are normal for it and normal for you, individually.
I really love BUST. They publish a lot of cool articles about interesting feminist topics and they have the nerve to ask the women on their covers about their careers. Recently, the editors at BUST posted the most disgusting (and maybe fake?) article I’ve ever read, written by a woman who had a menstrual cup in her body for a really ridiculously long time.
To preface this, I recently started using a Ruby Cup instead of tampons. A dear friend hosted a program at her intentional living community about menstrual cups and sustainable periods. I had been wanting to try a menstrual cup, and this was a really exciting opportunity to get one for free and decide if I really could commit to it. Everyone at the event discussed their love of their menstrual cups, but every one of them stated that there is a learning curve attached to using the cup. First, you have to learn how to fold it for placement. Then you have to practice how to insert it without it unfolding. After it’s in place, you have to wait to feel the -pop- as it unfolds. You have to learn what it feels like when it’s full and ready to be emptied, and finally, you must learn how to remove it. Preferably, you remove it without spilling anything, but that concern pales in comparison when you can’t reach the cup to pull out. I didn’t understand this until I had used my cup for about two months, but your body really has to get used to this object being present and being removed in a certain way. Until I learned that, I spent nearly half an hour in the bathroom each time I tried to remove it, always on the verge of tears because it was STUCK. My body did not want to release it and I feared that I needed a gyno to pull it out. But I did not leave it in for more than twelve hours.
So when I stumbled upon this article called I Had A Diva Cup Stuck Inside Me For A Long Fucking Time, I thought for sure that it was an article reassuring first time users and new converts that it might seem like your menstrual cup is stuck inside you, but it can actually be removed and there is no need to worry. And then I read the article. Well, I read part of it. I lost all hope when I arrived at the varying hues and smells of her discharge and I was embarrassed when her partner announced that he hadn’t noticed anything… odd. I am not the first person to come to this conclusion and probably not the last, but WHAT A LOAD OF CROCK!
When I ask what it means to have a positive body image, I really mean that you can’t ignore some of the symptoms of a potential illness in your body. As a pretty dedicated cup user, I cannot in good faith believe that this woman, drunk or otherwise, simply forgot, and I am angry that BUST presented it this way. As the name describes, it is a cup; it fills up and eventually overflows. Preventing a leak is high on my list of things to worry about when I have my period and I would have been concerned that this was a continuation of my period and sought to end it. Perhaps it was not of similar importance to her, just as changing colors and smells of discharge were not of concern to her. Beyond leakage, I would be further concerned that my body is expelling things that are unusual. No two bodies are the same, but the standard for judgment is not based on the difference from another’s body. It’s based on the difference from one’s own. If she had had a positive body image, she would have been terribly concerned and sought medical care immediately. (I understand that this implies access to appropriate medical care and not everyone has that privilege, but she later mentions seeking a medical professional anyway.) She would have understood that the abnormal things happening with her body could have been seriously detrimental to her health, and done something about it.
She even describes asking her partner if he had noticed anything when they were intimate. Part of the premise of a menstrual cup is that it must be removed and emptied when it is full. A short stem is worked into its design so that it can be grabbed and tugged out. Even when my cup was “stuck” as I learned to use it, I could still feel that stem. It is always there and unavoidable. What a terrible assumption to make about her partner that he either couldn’t feel the stem or his understanding of female anatomy is so lacking that he did feel the stem and thought it was meant to be there! But she didn’t trust her own conception of her body and its abnormalities
No amount of playful GIFS interspersed in her narrative can allow me to forgive this horrible representation of menstrual cups. Let’s be clear. This BUST article was an irresponsible portrayal of menstrual cups and the title was a lie. It was not stuck. She forgot it. Experiences like this are not common with appropriate use of a menstrual cup. I’m not sure how little this woman had to care about her body to ignore obvious changes to it, but I was embarrassed for her. If she had left a tampon in for a month and a half like she did her menstrual cup and proceeded to ignore signs indicating something was wrong, she could have died from toxic shock syndrome. (Some sources claim that menstrual cup use has no risk of TSS, but other brands suggest erring on the side of caution when using a cup)
If you’re interested in menstrual cups and how to use them properly, drop by the Women’s Resource Center in the Smithgall (Flag) Building on November 10th at 1PM for a conversation about Sustainable Cycles.