Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Wise Wound

The other day I was perusing books in the library and came across this book called The Wise Wound. The prologue seemed a little wtf? to me:

"This is a book of many questions and some answers. What is this menstruation that half of the world undergoes? Has it any use, or any purpose? Is it like a vestigial organ, left over from an outworn evolutionary stage, or could it be the accompaniment of some hitherto unused ability in women? If it is an illness, why is it the lot of women suffer in this way? To some women it can be like changing and return, with depths and enhancements, even enchantments. To other its return is a torment. Which is it, blessing or curse? And, if curse, why does it fall on women alone?"

At the risk of sounding cynical:
It's a biological process, not a Dungeons & Dragons quest.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mail bag!

I've started getting email/messages about my project; you cannot imagine my excitement.

Lacey writes:

Are you aware of the Always program--Protecting Futures--that provides girls in Africa with pads "so they don't have to miss school during their periods?" I'm quite ambivalent about it, and wondered if I was justified. While I understand and agree with their goal of providing a means of educational equality, I was curious about the waste management problems this might create, and how the extra trash from this program will affect the girls' home settlements. I know that many of the US's "favorite" menstruation products have dangerous chemicals in them--would these be harmful to the local soil and water, as well as possibly for the girls they're meant to help?

I thought maybe you might know some of the specifics and/or ramifications of such a program, given your research interest. It seems to me that supplying them with Luna pads, sea sponges, Keeper Cups, or other reusable protection would make more sense both practically and ecologically... even though these approaches make exactly NO money for Always.

Then I say:

Yes, I have heard of the Always program, but only though a coupon ad I found in my parents' newspaper a few weeks ago. I don't know that much about it, but my feelings seem to be similar to yours.

I do know of a similar UK-based program called Dignity! Period. that sends disposable pads to Zimbabwe. I've read that the reason why reusable pads would be unhelpful is because of the shortage of water. I guess that makes sense. I suppose that reasoning could be extended to the keeper/divacup as well.

Like I said, I don't really know that much about the program or about life in Africa or anything, but it seems to me that African women would have their own ways of coping with their cycles rather than relying on charity from the US or UK. While I appreciate the intention of help behind Protecting Futures or Dignity! Period., I can't help but think they're imperialistic/self-righteous and more focused on the money/good publicity. It seems like just another way to show how Africa needs us to help them out, that they're incapable of handling even their own bodily functions without American/British intervention. I kind of doubt that's true.

Furthermore, when American/British women see campaigns like this, it furthers the misconception that the only two options for dealing with menstrual cycles are 1)tampons or 2)pads, when of course that's simply not true.

In any case, campaigns like this do seem to be a short-term solution. Always is sending pads to the poor little African girls. Great. But what happens when Procter & Gamble no longer wishes to sustain this program? And, like you said, what will be the environmental implications? Unfortunately, I don't know how to answer these questions either, but I'm glad that at least there are others with the same things on their minds! Sorry I can't really give you any more info, but yes, I do think your concerns are justified.

P&G's press release about the program.
Comments from Red Tent Sisters

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I just got an email from one of the Vagina Monologues directors. She said that they had a lot of problems and won't be able to do the show this year.

Well that just sucks.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Today while reading a piece called "Can Tampon Safety Be Regulated?" (Esther Rome and Hill Wolhandler), I learned a new term: DEN, short for Device Experience Network. It was a public record of all the complaints the FDA received about a variety of products. Their website is a headache to try to navigate through, but I finally found some of the reports. Since the book I was reading was published in 1996, DEN must be an outdated acronym and now it's known as something called MAUDE -- Manufacturer And User Device Experience. It's pretty obscure (have you ever heard of it? I sure hadn't.), so I'm sure the reports there are just a tiny sampling of all the problems ladies have had with their tampons.

Many of the reports are pretty mundane, something along the lines of, "consumer required assistance of physician to remove tampon after string had broke," but some of them are pretty gnarly.

  • The patient initially went to a medical clinic in 2006 complaining of vaginal discharge with odor. She had no abdominal or pelvic pain and denied any fever or urinary symptoms. She was discharged with a diagnosis of yeast vaginitis and prescribed diflucan (150 mg po x one). The patient returned to the clinic fifteen days later stating that a piece of tampon without a string had been expelled from her vagina the previous day. She presented with vaginal burning and irritation, but denied any abdominal pain, fever, or chills
  • Reported that this month-swelling, itching and redness but much greater than last month - swelling, so great consumer states she was unable to walk. This month included both upper thighs and labia.
  • Consumer reported that she switched from the regular o. B. Tampons to the silk ease when she couldn't find the regular tampons. She used the silk ease and got very ill within 48 hours and was hospitalized with what the hospital described as a kidney infection. Consumer stated that the doctors eventually traced this kidney problem back to the fact she actually had tss. Consumer stated she was sick for a period of 3 weeks, but is now fine at the time of this call.
  • Consumer reported she developed a rash, broke out in hives, and went into shock after using a tampon. Saw physician and received a needle for the shock.
But for the most part, each report is a complaint about the string breaking, or one of the "pledgets" disconnecting and getting stuck in someone, or just general reports about TSS. The manufacturer narrative is almost always "We're awaiting results" or "We tested that lot and nothing was wrong."

Going out on a limb: I don't think you would want to shove any cotton in your vag after you've read about all these malfunctions.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm almost finished reading Cunt, by Inga Muscio. It rocks. Here is one of my favorite parts:

I went to Anystore USA to buy a box of tampons. I had but eleven dollars to my name. I went down the aisle where I would find "feminine hygiene" products, bitterly playing that term through my mind.

Why are words like "hygiene" and "sanitary"-- which imply that a woman's cunt is unclean-- acceptable in our society? Why are these people trying to sell me feminine deodorant spray? That's like hawking floral air freshener to a lady who lives in a rose garden.

Also, excuse me, but what's so clean about dicks?

One never hears of sanitary jock straps, deodorant condoms, perfumed Hershey-squirt protection pads or hygienic ball wipes, whereas I've heard tell of need for such products.

So anyway, with thoughts such as these playing through my mind, you can imagine my dismay on tampon-buying excursions. If I happen to be in a good mood, it's simply annoying. If I happen to be in a bad mood, I am a green monster who lives in a trash can with a grand piano. On this occassion, I was in a bad mood.

I grumbled down the aisle, openly sneering at all the products on the shelves. New Freedom this and Light Days that.

Comfort, security.

Plastic applicators.

Discreet disposal pouches printed with flowers that do not exist.

I positively fumed as I scanned the prices. Five, six, seven bucks for a box of cotton. Sixty, seventy bucks a year.

Why the flying fuck should a woman have to pay some huge corporation over and over because the lining of her uterus naturally, biologically sheds every month?


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