Life changing… no, really
English Teacher and Writer (extraordinaire x 2) Jazmin Hodges shares her first hand experiences of period poverty in the classroom and making the switch to the Ruby Cup!
I had heard about menstrual cups years ago from a friend who I considered to be a bit eccentric. The idea of a cup catching my period blood and having to ‘pour it out’ into the sink sounded outrageous, and something I dismissed immediately.
But now I think about it, a bullet of cotton wool that’s been wrapped up in plastic seems much weirder.
Period poverty is Real
I received my Ruby Cup from Ditch The Rag to support a cause very close to my heart. Being a secondary school teacher, I had seen first-hand the exhausting reality of young girls struggling to meet the bloody demands of their period.
Girls in my tutor group would often share that taking time off school because of a period was really normal. I noticed a lot of very strange practice within schools, too. For example, a student once (quite desperately) needed a tampon and I didn’t have one, so I asked for one from the Student Services team. They told me that staff aren’t allowed to give them to students and was sternly advised that I must not lend my own out either (which I obviously did, because why not?).
Why on earth aren’t we allowed to give them tampons? Oh… of course… because of the risk of toxic shock. The girl was sent home from school that day...
Another student shared with the class casually that she was banned from our local Morrisons because of shoplifting. After humorous responses from her peers, she later told me it was because she was stealing tampons. In quite a deprived area of the South West, and with tampons priced like they’re a luxury item, it didn’t feel surprising that she would need to resort to stealing to make it through her period hygienically. It then got me thinking, I wonder how many others had experienced similar desperation.
In a school where many students lacked funds for basic writing equipment, or evidently lacking necessities like clean clothes, I could only begin to imagine the amount of them suffering with period poverty. And this was the problem – the period Taboo means we can’t possibly know who it’s affecting, because there still exists a reluctance to talk openly about period issues. Teachers are completely oblivious, because we can’t see it like an empty pencil case or dirty blazer.
What’s more, just like forgetting a pencil for Maths class can see you punished, girls may be being punished for poor attendance, or resistance to PE classes, and they wouldn’t even tell their teachers that it’s because of something they cannot physically control. No wonder many decide to just skip the day if they know PE will be a battle… I probably would too.
We still have a long way to go before social stigma makes our young girls feel safe to share their experiences about their periods.
My period arrived and I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. Primarily, I was ready for the insertion to be a bit of an experiment that I would most likely get wrong to begin with. I knew to fold the cup to get it in, and then adjust it until it felt secure. What I did not expect was for it to go in so smoothly, and for me to nail it first time.
I walked about waiting to feel it sitting awkwardly inside me, but nothing. It was strangely comfortable and felt like I didn’t have anything up there. I actually feel a tampon more.
I then thought I would at least feel something taking it out. But I just followed the instructions to pinch the bottom very gently and used my stomach muscles to push it out. Seamless. Painless. Easy. I eased it out, poured out the contents and gave it a rinse under the tap. I was so pleasantly surprised that something so scary was so stupidly simple.
What I also didn’t expect was how the cup wasn’t overflowing. I had left it in for six hours, and normally that’s enough for me to get through at least two tampons. The cup was less than half full. I think that tampons give an illusion that you’re producing unmanageable amounts of blood, and therefore I was expecting something from a horror movie: sploshes of blood pouring from an over-spilling cup. Tampons, being made of a super-absorbent material, naturally give the impression that you’re bleeding much more than you are.
What’s more, I slept with it in for 12 hours. Again, not even half full when I normally can expect a bleed-through during the first night of a period. I also LOVE the fact that I can leave it in all day, go to the loo as much as I like without the horrible annoyance of changing tampon just because it feels uncomfortable to leave it in once you’ve been to the toilet.
I think my favourite thing about this though, is the thought that I will never ever need to spend another penny on tampons or pads ever again. Estimations range from £6-£11 per month on sanitary products. I’m around a medium flow, but even the lowest number of £6 is enough to add up over the course of a lifetime.
All of these personal benefits aside, no tampon use means no more pointless tampon plastic. I can hear Mother Nature thanking me: did you know that every tampon you’ve ever used still exists somewhere on this planet to this day? So as if we needed more incentive… we are saving the world too.
I could write about the benefits for hours. Lower risk of toxic shock syndrome; no more yanking at a pissy string; no more walking around with a saturated, sagging tampon because you didn’t bring a spare… I haven’t even experienced a holiday, festival or full-working day using the cup, but I imagine it’s going to make me love it even more.
Ditch The Rag
The whole thing makes me realise the importance of Amirah’s work, setting up Ditch The Rag to raise awareness of this massive issue. Every female student in this country should be educated about the benefits of these one-off buys, and how much comfort they offer during a time of potential stress.
More broadly, girls around the world who experience severe poverty should not be resorting to extreme coping measures during their period when the solution is so simple.
If they’ve changed my life – someone with enough means to meet the demand of a monthly period – imagine what they could do to some of the girls skipping school in the UK, or those in poverty-stricken countries who don’t know such a solution exists yet.
Amirah’s cause could not be more urgent. We cannot let simple biology stop girls from receiving their education. Donating to Ditch The Rag will make sure menstrual cups reach girls who need them most. It really will change their lives forever.
Donate today! (OR BUY A MENSTRUAL CUP, BELIEVE THE HYPE)
Author: Jazmin Hodges
English Teacher and Writer.