In the first of our ‘Making the switch’ blog posts, Eco Femme volunteer Laurie recounts her earliest experiences of menstrual education and how this shaped her experience.
Upon questioning what made me make the switch, my logical and inquisitive mind (OK, not logical but definitely inquisitive mind) started wondering about how I even started or what made my decision in the first place. I realise I never had a decision to make, as we say in England, it was my way or the highway (my way or the highway usually meant the way of my mother or teachers so the way of my mum and teachers it was).
It was a Thursday afternoon in rainy England when the whole of my year group (well the girls anyway) were squashed in a cramped classroom (ironically this was my first experience of cramp, although now I know it as an entirely different thing). I sat crossed legged next to Charlotte as we shuffled along to push more teenage girls in till the oestrogen levels nearly caused the classroom to explode.
After finally settling with a few hundred girls in close quarters our teacher starts to distribute our shiny green, A4 sized ‘period packs’. My initial thought was ‘this envelope is never going to fit in my knickers, I’m going to be walking like I’m in a wild west movie, how do women cope with this?’ I shook these thoughts out of my head and looked over at Charlotte to see if she was expressing the clear confusion written all over my face, but Charlotte didn’t look so worried as she wrapped her bubble gum around her finger.
“As we opened our period packs I felt myself getting redder and redder by the second. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed by what my body was going to do. I was embarrassed by how the media portrays periods. I was embarrassed by the jokes I hear men telling about women on their periods. I was embarrassed by the words muttered under the breath, ‘she must be due on’. I was embarrassed of my womanhood because everything I saw and heard as a young woman had only fed this embarrassment.”
Our teacher took out the different leaflets one by one and told us which sanitary towels to use and when and in turn made me petrified of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) which I was clearly going to get if I ever used even one tampon. A specific UK brand had provided our ‘period packs’ in their clearly and vibrantly marketed packs (they were green if anyone is trying to be a detective and figure the brand out).
I was not informed of any other products apart from the ones we were provided and these were what I would use till I joined the period revolution (a later revolution than I would have liked but still a revolution).
Now at the fine age of 27 (1 year post period revolution) being a woman that uses both the Mooncup and re-usable cotton pads, I can feel pride in being a woman and pride in having the choice to manage my periods in the way I choose. I choose not to place a predominantly plastic, unsanitised (yes unsantised, as sanitary towels are not for medical use, they do not have to be sanitised), non biodegradable product in my pants for a few days of every month (and by the way, not only are they not biodegradable but they take between 500-800 years to decompose).
I don’t want my contribution to my great great great great grandkids world to be lying in a landfill down the road, I want it to lie in the education and the decisions they should be allowed to make!