Fertile Ground: Bloody Ecofeminism

an old advertisement for mesh and rubber women's undergarments

There are a lot of simple ways to try and prevent toxins from being absorbed into your body. Everything from new clothes to drugstore make-up to regular deodorant carries toxins, and your skin, which happens to be the largest eliminating organ your body has, absorbs all that it comes in contact with. But fear not; much can be done to avoid these contacts (wearing organic materials or thrift clothes that have been washed numerous times, wearing natural or no make-up, using a deodorant crystal or another homemade product are a few examples). One of the simplest things you can do (if you don't already) is to stop using conventional menstruation products.

"Feminine hygiene"-aisle standards like Tampax, Kotex, and Always have their tampons and maxi pads prominently displayed in drugstores, convenience stores, and grocery stores, and sometimes, depending on where you are, with no alternative. These disposable products are mainly a mad scientist-mixture of rayon, cotton, and the chemicals they carry from processing. Rayon is a synthetic material that is largely blamed for toxic shock syndrome (TSS) risk. Cotton, when not organic, is brimming with pesticides; twenty-five percent of all global pesticide use is used for growing cotton. (Seriously, don't even buy those cotton balls anymore!). Tampons and pads are then bleached to hell with chlorine, which create cancer-causing-and-highly-toxic-in-general dioxins. The average menstruating person in Western society disposes 10,000 to 15,000 pads or tampons. These dioxins, much like disposable diapers, then leach into landfills, eventually getting into soil, plants and water.

The billion-dollar marketers for mainstream menstrual products have convinced millions that these toxin-laden products are the only options to "have a happy period," to quote a former Always ad campaign. The truth is, it is much simpler and healthier to not use them. People have been using re-useable or biodegradable products to catch menses fluid for centuries. Absorbent materials used in olden days include mosses, seaweed, cotton scraps, wool scraps, and plant fibers. Early tampon materials varied; in parts of Southern Africa, rolls of grass could be used, and softened papyrus has been used in Egypt. 

a picture of a vintage sanitary napkin with a belt

Today, we have modern earth-friendly versions of these blood catchers, including washable pads, menstrual cups like the Keeper and the Diva cup, and sea sponges. It is also easy to make your own  washable pads out of scrap fabric, old washcloths, or old, torn clothing, and you don't need a sewing machine if you don't have one. I myself have purchased pads from Luna Pads, own a few sea sponges from Jade and Pearl, and have made pads from old flannel pajama pants, a polka-dot cloth napkin, and one of my son's cloth diapers that I took for myself (don't give me that look, they're absorbent!).

Menstruation is a huge ecofeminist umbrella of a topic, with many mini-topics that drip around it, including health and wellness. In traditional Chinese medicine, your period can tell many things about the health of your body. Acupuncture considers menstruation a gift, another way health and sickness specifics are told and revealed. This is one way we can think of our periods, too; a sign of health, an indicator of a gift, something to be thankful for. Your re-useable menstrual products can serve as those reminders. And I highly recommend at least one pad made from a polka-dot fabric.

Previously:  Children's Book Review:  The Last Wild Witch, A Witch's History Lesson

by Alison Parker
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14 Comments Have Been Posted

uterused persons come in all gender & sex & body identities

There are plenty of people with a uterus who are not women. In fact, some are not men either. I invite you to examine the persons you omitted from this post.


i just re-read this post like 4 times and, with the exception of one use of "menstruating person," the author relies solely on "you/your" to address menstruating people. there is no language that implies or states that woman=uterus, no uterus = not woman, or any variation thereof. (unless you object to the term "feminine hygiene"? the vintage ad at the top featuring drawings of women?) seriously, i don't understand what is wrong with what was written in the article. it focuses on menstruation which, yes, is not a shared experience by every woman/man/person, but i believe the author was respectful of the variations of body/gender that can and do happen.

as a non-woman who

as a non-woman who menstruates, I don't see anything problematic or even slightly cisgender-centric in this post.

it talks about menstruating people, and menstruation. I'm down with that.


I fully agree. I am only trying to give those who have uteruses who menstruate healthy, eco-conscious advice, and do not mean to start a discussion about gender/body identities. I apologize for not using more inclusive language.

Bloody Revolution!

Eco-feminism! Hell yeah! I use pearl sponges and the diva cup for my menstrual cycle. Both are eco friendly, save so much money, and the diva cup is really cool because you can wear it all day and you (usually) don't have to worry about washing it out while on the go. I also feel much more comfortable with my period now. It took me a while to realize that it's not gross, in fact, it's pretty cool what are bodies do. Unlike when we use tampons, which keep us at a "sanitized," sometimes fragranced (weird) distance from our bodies and their natural cycles, when we use something like a sponge or diva cup or luna pad we are forced to confront our periods, up close and personal. Periods - the thing that has caused women so much embarrassment, so much anxiety and grief because if we were to bleed onto our pants or even worse someone's new couch, we would be mortified. But I am no longer ashamed. I am proud of of my period. And it feels great to say that. Let's start this revolution - next time a woman feels down in the dumps for starting her period, congratulate her and make her some chocolate covered strawberries! Who's with me???

Oh wow I never knew that

Oh wow I never knew that these products existed! I am very new to eco friendly products though. (And trying my hardest to switch over to eco friendly products!) I want to get the diva cup and look into the panty liners. Do you know if these are sold in regular stores? And do you have any recommendations for cloth diapering? (Going to have my first in August)

I bought my Diva cup at a

I bought my Diva cup at a local natural food store so you might check there if there is one near you. Otherwise you can order them off line here: http://www.divacup.com/.

Lunapads.com has the fabric pads that you just throw in the washing machine. I haven't made any myself though but they seem easy/fun to make. You can also make pads from scrap material, old towels and such and Lunapads will send them to girls and teens around the world who often have to miss school because of their periods. Many families cannot afford the throw away menstrual products. You can sew them by hand. It looks easy and here is a video showing you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXZALVxDUNs&feature=relmfu

I've recently "converted" to

I've recently "converted" to a cup and cloth pads, and I love them too. They don't stink, get you comfortable with and in charge of your bodily functions. I love Lunapads too, but I wanted to add that there are MANY different options, and a lot of them cheaper. Have a look around on Etsy and Cloth Pad Shop, support the smaller businesses too.

About cups : they are all trully awesome in my opinion BUT don't stop at the Diva. There are about a dozen brands out there, and the Diva happens to be the longest model on the market (even the smaller size) ! It may not fit your particular body. So do some research before you settle on one. There's a wikihow page and a live journal community to help you make up your mind.

Cloth Diapering Recs

<p>I do have recommendations! I would either buy some organic cloth diapers online (I did a search for ours, but I can't actually remember what brand we bought! It's ok, there are lots.) Or "gently used diapers", which also, there are plenty of. (One good website for the used diapers: <a href="http://re-diaper.com/">http://re-diaper.com/</a>). &nbsp;I'd also recommend getting something called "snappis" instead of diaper pins. &nbsp;Less scary. &nbsp;Good luck with diapering your little one!</p>

I absolutely love my Diva

I absolutely love my Diva cup. I agree with a previous commentor about how it makes you confront and own your period and by extension, the rest of your body. I've had my cup since college and I really should add up how much it has saved me financially . . . What, at least $10 a month for 12 months for 10 years? Whoa, $1200!? Oh, minus the $30 it cost me, so $1170. And that's before you factor in the money saved by being healthy and avoiding toxin-laden junk!

Cannot recommend it enough. :o)

Oh, and did I mention that it because it uses a little suction, my periods tend to be two or three days shorter than when I do not use my cup?

Wins all around!

Heck-to-the-Yes! Thank you

Thank you for bringing the period truth to the people, y'all!
As always, Bitch readers get 15% off orders over $50 from Lunapads.com with discount code BITCH12. Or support your local eco-feminist pad-producer! Or make your own! Heck it's YOUR period, do it however you wanna!


I learned about the DivaCup a couple few years ago and only started using it last year. I've since learned that there are nearly 30 brands on the market! My only regret is that I didn't jump on this alternative (which I feel should be more than just an alternative) sooner, and that it wasn't presented to me as an option in high school.

Fertile ground

While the above article makes some interesting points, there are a few inaccurate generalisations that needed addressing. One, our skin does not absorb all that it comes in contact with, otherwise we wouldn't be able to live on this planet, think about it! The skin is the largest elimination organ and does absorb tiny particles from some things like cosmetics but it is incorrect to say it absorbs everything.

Its true to say that many tampons and sanitary towels, have, in the past been bleached with chlorine, the truth is now, we dont know how widely this is still practiced, and so we should be looking to using organic and reusable products. Reusables also have an added benefit of being less wasteful. There are many other additives to sanitary towels and tampons that are particularly harmful and unnecessary such as fragrances for more information on menstruation and associated products see here: http://www.wen.org.uk/general/seeing-red-sanitary-protection-and-the-env...

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