Owning our body and recognizing what things are good for us —that was the topic of the talk delivered by Carolina Zotta a couple of weeks ago. Carolina is an entrepreneur and educator who seeks to raise awareness on ecological products for period management. She came to our offices to talk about this because “educating on menstruation changes everything,” she claims.
Long Live the Cup
The project www.copitamenstrual.com began four years ago. People’s reaction to it evolved a lot, she says. “Back then, it was impossible to find someone who knew about the period, it wasn’t common.” Taking control over your body, abortion, contraceptives, reproductive and sexual health —these are just a few of the taboo issues we can openly discuss today, unlike many years ago. But there’s still a long way to go. Today we will talk about the period.
What Do We Know About the Period?
Owning our body has to do with enjoying the cycle women go through. “It’s magical and we need to respect it”, Caro says. However, in order to enjoy something, we have to understand it first, right? Let’s go over a few concepts:
- Some women believe that the period is disabling. Others can go about their daily activities ignoring it. The period isn’t the same every month, and women experience it differently. “It’s essential to understand what’s normal for each body and what isn’t. That’s why it’s important to observe our menstrual flow and to connect with our body, to learn from and with our body and be able to say which stage of the cycle we’re in.” Instagram post by @vivalacopita
- May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day. In average, a woman has a full cycle of 28 days, of which 5 are of effective bleeding. But recent studies show that a cycle of 28 days isn’t representative. In fact, the menstrual cycle varies a lot depending on what the woman is experiencing at the moment. Stress, for example, can have a big impact on the period. The cycle begins when the pituitary gland in the brain instructs the ovary to ovulate, and contraceptives inhibit that hormonal rhythm.
- Women have a fix number of eggs for their entire life. Most people don’t know that, but it’s information like that which helps us to take control of our body and be informed when attending an appointment with the doctor, for example. “Imagine a Matryoshka doll. Inside your grandmother’s belly there was a baby with uterus and ovaries: your mom. Inside the ovaries of your mom there were follicles, out of which came one mature egg that then turned out to be you.” Instagram post by @vivalacopita
- Last but not least: there are people who don’t perceive themselves as women who also have periods.
It’s a Fight Against Oneself
Now that we know a bit more, we can ask ourselves: why does the period continue to be taboo?, why can’t we talk openly about it?, why are there so many myths and misinformation around it? At some point in history, we don’t know when, grew this gap, “something we now have to reshape, we have to reconcile ourselves with our body,” Caro says.
Women learn first how to hide it rather than how to live it, lest people notice they’re on their period. This whole hiding effort makes us think that menstruation is like a sickness, a problem women have. The fact that many women say “I feel indisposed” when they’re in their period shows there’s a negative connotation to it. Sometimes we can’t even call it by its name: there are a lot of euphemisms to refer to the period, like a code shared by women. For example, in English we say “a visit from aunt Flo”, while in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia they say “I’m sick”. Can you still remember the myths that exist around the period?
- You can’t take a bath.
- You can’t move freely.
- You can’t ride a bike.
- Having the period means to be cursed.
- Cold water can cause the period to be interrupted.
- You can’t make mayonnaise while menstruating because it won’t curdle.
These were (rather, are) myths well rooted in habits and traditions. And the representations shown by advertising campaigns are something we could discuss at length.
1994 IbuEvanol Advertising
2014 IbuEvanol Forte Advertising
But “the problem that started with Eva” (as OB puts it) doesn’t have its origins there, really. “We learned to be in conflict with our period,” Caro explains. Like we learned about women stereotypes, the items of clothing that can and can’t be used, the fact that women need to “be ready” to be admired down the street, the need to hide the period and disguise the “hysteria” associated with it, the idea of “not being oneself” or not recognizing oneself. What happened? Are we fighting against ourselves?
Which products are we familiar with? What products do we use and why? Asking ourselves these questions helps us to knock down misconceptions, myths and taboos. Today there is a wide array of options for period management. One of them is the menstrual cup, which not only allows us to get to know our period and manage it differently and safely, without any chemicals, but is also ecological. Did you know that the first menstrual cup was created back in 1937? Can you imagine why it didn’t become popular? This is because it’s a solution that rivals the disposable sanitary towels industry, which represents a business model rejected by many people. Besides that, it has other advantages:
- It’s odorless and you can use it while sleeping.
- It’s made of different materials, it comes in different shapes and has different capacities that adapt to each one’s body.
- You can use the blood you collected for different purposes.
“The change doesn’t have to be radical, you can start by reducing the volume of pads you use, which is great,” says Caro. The idea is to try and see for oneself. “These are times to question everything: stigmatization, stereotypes, categories and labels. Not being able to talk about our bodies is the most effective form of oppression,” she observes. It’s time to put an end to this fight against ourselves and start owning our body, say out loud what we experience when we have the period (like the great Kiran Gandhi did), and make the world accept and naturalize menstruation. The first step is to learn how to manage our period differently, do a research about the methodologies and products available, and then make a choice.