Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Throw away your tampons today!

Poison Skull: Camille Rose Garcia

Attention: Tampons are associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. Read and save the enclosed information.

This was the message found on the generic box of tampons I bought last week. I looked through the box for the “enclosed information" on TSS, but could not find it. I probably threw it away without realizing it. In fact, in the fourteen years I’ve been menstruating, I’ve never read that damn insert. But really, who has?

I’m not sure how I first heard about TSS. It certainly wasn’t during sex ed or from some other authority on the matter. But, I do remember as a teenager how terrified I was upon discovering I had accidentally left two super absorbency tampons in my pussy overnight. TSS was somewhat of a urban legend in the early 90’s, most young women had “heard of it”, but were far removed from it, as in “that’ll never happen to me.” Yet, in the early 80’s, it was reality women faced.

In 1975, Procter & Gamble introduced a tampon brand called Rely. The tampon brand was made from compressed polyester beads and was supposed to “catch” more blood than the average tampon by gradually forming to the vagina’s natural shape. The tampon could absorb more than twenty times its own weight in menstrual blood. However, upon removal of the tampon, it was said to dry out the vagina by eliminating its natural humidity AND creating microscopic tears in the lining of the uterus. TSS is a bacterial infection and thrives in this type of environment, thus, cases of TSS increased dramatically among women who used the Rely brand.

“It even absorbs the worry!”

Procter & Gamble chose to market their product with the slogan above for a reason. Since menstruation is a taboo topic and a source of shame for women, psychologically, they played on our fear. The message society sends women is, “Ladies, lock it up (plug it up), keep your bloody twats out of our sanitized world.”

Harsh, no?

But anyone who’s spent the night at their boyfriend’s apartment while menstruating knows what I’m talking about. Have you ever sprinted to the bathroom in the morning because blood was seeping through your underwear only to bleed all over his toilet seat, bathroom floor, and your fingers? Did you thoroughly check each tiny crevice to make sure you wiped up every spec of blood? Did you wash your finger nails meticulously so all signs of “the red” were gone? And finally, did you wrap your cardboard applicator up in a piece of tissue paper and hide it in your purse, mentally noting to remove it before work?

Been there, done that.

Although super absorbency tampons are evil, I must say, they allow me to experience my period relatively hassle free. There’s nothing worse than walking out of your office to meet a client while warm gooey Niagara Falls runs down your leg because your heavy flow is not suited for a “lite day” pad or tampon. The problem is, however, TSS has been associated with the use of super absorbent tampons. Yet, some days I would prefer death to standing in a room filled with thirty college students while my panties and inner thigh are soaked with blood. Wouldn’t you?

But, ultimately, I would like to avoid death, at least until my first lunar return, so, what are my alternatives?

1) The Diva Cup- a silicone cup that catches blood in-flow, the cup can last for 10 years and it eliminates the risk of TSS!

2) Re-usable cloth (hemp) pads (aka: crunchy granola hippy method)

3) Sponges

Since I’ve only used regular old tampons, I asked a friend, who recently purchased a Diva Cup, to expound upon the virtues of The Cup. Thanks friend! ~ Sally S

I’ve always despised pads. I find it quite horrible to have a damp (large) lump of cotton wool stuck against your pussy and have to walk around like that for hours on end. I mean, OK, I’ll put up with having my period every Eff-ing month of my life, but please let it be as comfortable as possible. As you’re all probably very aware, it’s often quite painful so if I can avoid it being messy on top of that, I’ll sign up right away.

So, I quickly switched to tampons. But, honestly, I don’t really like those either. They have a tendency to absorb every soupcon of liquid, leaving your pussy feeling like a dried up prune and it takes days before your natural lubrication is back on track.

All in all, pads are out (even though, I’m back there – read on) and tampons… well, they seemed like the only alternative.

By the way, I saw a program on TV about “flushers”. Ha, what are flushers, I hear you inquire? They are men (yup, no ladies in that line of business) who shovel poo in the bowels of the city. Honestly, they do exist!! Their main problem seems to be women’s menstrual products. I’m sure most women flush their tampons down the loo, but it seems like quite a number of us also flush the cardboard inserters down there as well. I’ll spare you the details but the flushers aren’t happy about this situation… and I’m sure mama earth ain’t too happy either.

While I was living in the US, I discovered something reminiscent of the Diva Cup, “Instead Softcups”. Like the Diva Cup you can wear them for up to 12 hours, but the difference is that they aren’t very durable. In fact, they aren’t meant to be used over and over again, like the Diva Cup which can be kept, it seems, for up to 10 years!

So after some internet searching (What, Oh what would we do without the internet, I ask you?), I finally discovered the diva cup and even though I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet – which means I have to use the dreaded pad as a security measure – it is definitely a lot more sensible in all respects. If correctly inserted, (that’s where the getting-the-hang-of-it comes in) it really is as comfortable as a tampon. Now… bear with me… by correctly inserted, I mean, not leaking. Even if you don’t insert the thing properly, it’s still comfortable, despite it being rather huge. The problem is finding the right positioning. The leaflet explains exactly how it must be done and in theory it doesn’t seem very complicated. I have been using the diva cup for two cycles now and I think I’m slowly but surely starting to understand how it’s supposed to be done. I might still have to resort to pads for a few months to avoid having a bloodstained chair at the office, but I’m sure practice makes perfect.

The part which most if us fear, is the removal of the diva cup. You’re meant to empty it in the toilet, rinse and then reinsert. So, what do you do when you’re in a public toilet or at the office? I haven’t found this to be a problem because you can safely leave it where it is all day, so you insert in the morning and remove it in the evening. It can all be done in the safety of your own home! It isn’t half as messy as you would imagine, anyway. And if you really run into an emergency, you can wipe it with toilet paper and reinsert too.

The beauty of this thing is that you can keep yours for a long, long time. Reusing it over and over again… for years on end. It’s made of surgical grade silicone. Non-irritating and very durable.

Funny thing is, it seems like the concept has been around since the thirties!! It’s the pharmaceutical industry that aggressively pushed tampons/pads into the public realm and the diva cup, or whatever it was called at the time, simply lost the battle.

I’d like to recommend this clever little device. It’s good for you, your pussy, and mama earth.

One bit of advice though. Do not leave your diva cup lying around if you have cats. I had to order a second one after my cat got hold of the first one. He thought it was a great toy, chewed it to bits and I found its remains on the living room carpet.


plain(s)feminist said...

I think Ms. Magazine did an expose on TSS - and it was caused, at least in part, by dioxin in the tampons, and perhaps by the rayon, as well. So, if you buy tampons that don't include dioxin - 100% cotton tampons - you should be ok. Unfortunately, the natural tampons don't come in mofo huge sizes, like the OB tampons (with their rayon components) do.

It is entirely possible that I am talking out of my ass, as I read that article at least ten years ago.

Anonymous said...

Diva cups, eh? All I know is, any woman that has been fitted for a diaphram cup (for birth control) knows very well that they do the same job AND your insurance might pay for it. Diaphrams are huge, hold a LOT of blood and can be very useful during menstruation.

They also are wonderful at catching menstrual blood if you are a Pagan that wants to use your blood to anoint a wand or some other magical item. I discovered this by accident and I would bet that the makers of the Diva cup and other such devices did as well and had the same idea but were smart enough patent it and market it as a menstrual product.

Cool, huh?