Last Sunday, some of the Every Month gang teamed up with Hannah from Raised by Feminists to host a letter writing workshop at Partisan in Manchester. The intention was to write to local MPs to encourage them to lead Manchester in the same direction as Aberdeen and provide free sanitary products in schools, walk in centres and food banks; making them readily available to anyone who needs them. Read more about Scotland’s scheme here.

We were well prepared with a heap of letter templates, paper, felt tips, snacks and colouring in sheets for the three hour session. Everyone who dropped in had a different story to tell about why the campaign was important to them. A common experience was the lack of availability of sanitary products in school. Nearly all of the schools we had attended could provide sanitary products if you knew who to ask but it was never common knowledge among students. Another key factor was those who had asked for sanitary products were only given one, assuming that the student would only need that one because they’d have access to more at home. However, we know for many this is not the case and could lead to further problems such as poor hygiene and illness if that one free pad/tampon was used for too long. Another letter writer shared the experience of his sister who was bullied for not being able to afford pads whilst another wrote their letter because it was unbelievable that they weren’t free in schools already. The discussions on the day only fuelled the fires for the cause and we left more inspired than ever to spread the word and get more people involved. We had a the best time meeting everyone who came and shared their enthusiasm for eradicating period poverty.

If you weren’t able to join us, it’s not too late to get involved. Visit our Campaign page to sign the petition and learn who your local MP is to write to. You can also get in touch with Martha, Political Lobbying Coordinator if you have any questions. She’s also put together a great Campaign template you can use or use for inspiration for your own letter.

We will also be announcing our next Letter Writing Workshop SOON so please watch this space and our social media accounts (IG: @everymonthmcr,  Facebook) Tell your pals, fam, colleagues, partners and join us for the next (there will be even more snacks, great chats, colouring in and a feminist playlist of dreamz from Hannah ). Together we will make Manchester a forerunner for period positivity and offering a better quality of life for everyone. YAS.

Rose x

 

by Amy, Volunteer Coordinator

Image: IG Tipsyvegan

If you are anything like me, the thought of putting in a tampon is a terrifying experience. Although they are massively convenient and make the least mess (most of the time), I still much prefer to use a pad for the sake of not having to stick a foreign object inside my flower! So, when I realised that menstrual cups were becoming a thing, a similar state of panic was instilled upon me. When people say “menstrual cup” my mind goes from thimble (what the hell is that going to hold) all the way through to mug (how the hell is that going to go in), there is no in-between in my brain.
But for the sake of science and for the Every Month blog I said I would test it out. This mini-series is going to be the journey of me trying out different menstrual products on a quest to find something that is super comfortable and healthy for me, and also better for the environment.
The first hurdle…which one?! On a Google of “menstrual cup”, I found there were actually a hell of a lot more than I thought. Panic instilled once again. Do I go for a MoonCup, Divacup or something off Amazon that I can’t pronounce?! I had heard of a Mooncup from various hip friends that are far cooler than me, so that’s the one I went for.
Hurdle number two…what size?! By this point I had been through a lot of different websites and was completely unsure whether I wanted turquoise or baby pink for my bits. Why does it matter if it’s violet?! Do they expect people to see it? Getting past this, I decided to just order one plain white one from Boots and went for the recommended Size B for ladies under 30 who hadn’t given birth (thank the lord!).
So, ordering off Boots was by no means the cheapest way of securing my new package but for some reason the blue and white tones put me a little more at ease as I added my purchase to my basket!
When my box arrived in the mail I was on Day 2 of my period and not feeling particularly motivated to test out my new collection device. But alas, I gave it a shot.
So, the box comes with quite comprehensive usage instructions. One of importance is the folding technique. After going through the different types and concluding that they all look the bloody same. I just went for a “lets make it as small as I can” approach. This is something I found quite tricky and took me right back to the image of “thimble”. However, I flattened, folded in half and then began the journey to find the right spot where it could be “worn as low as it will comfortably sit”. I found the process of getting the cup in quite fiddly and had multiple attempts where it unpopped before actually getting in as I couldn’t quite master the technique. But eventually it did sit comfortably and unfurled to create what felt like a fairly sturdy insertion.
Now, my main fear about tampons is that it will get stuck and be permanently lodged, a similar fear I had with my silicone pouch, not ideal. So despite only being in there for all of 2 minutes the first time, with some waddling around the bathroom to test it out and make sure it didn’t fall out, I then decided that was enough and tried to remove my Mooncup. The instructions detail to squeeze the bottom of the cup to release the seal (a very bizarre feeling) and the cup slides out. This was actually not as horrifying as originally thought and was relatively smooth once I had hold of the cup. I found angling one side down at a time gently helped and made it a little easier.
After having another read of the instructions and also the Mooncup website (extensively), I then read the bit about trimming the stem of my Mooncup. This is something I am not yet brave enough to try as I want to feel comfortable getting my Mooncup in and out without having to heavy breathe and take an odd squat position in my bathroom. But it states that if you are uncomfortable when sitting or walking because of the stem you can trim it a little bit at a time.

Verdict: I continued to test out my Mooncup for a couple of hours a day over my period. By day 5 I was feeling a little more comfortable using my little white device and found it relatively easy to fold and insert. The only worry I have is the removal but this just stems from me having a very nervous vagina that I swear likes to close completely at times (or at least it feels like it!).
Day 4 I think I did insert slightly too far up as it was a little more uncomfortable and I found it has risen slightly. I think this is why they emphasise placing the cup as low down as you can.

Next month I am going to be slightly more adventurous and try to incorporate using the Mooncup in daily life (rather than when I’m just sitting at home binge-watching Stalker and eating my body weight in banana bread). I’m a bit apprehensive on testing out my new pal whilst swimming or going to the gym but will report back on my progress!

This blog to some may seem slightly horrifying and have people thinking “why on earth bother with the hassle” so I’m just going to list a few reasons below why I am trying to move towards using a menstrual cup and for the same reasons why I would encourage you to do so!

1) To save money. So theoretically now I’ve purchased my Mooncup (for £21.99) once I’ve got the hang of it I shouldn’t have to purchase pads or tampons (which I probably spend around £4 on each month). The Mooncup website says that the cup can last for years with correct cleaning and storage so over 3 years this is already saving me over £100.
2) Menstrual cups can hold up to 28 grams, approximately 5 times the amount of a tampon. For someone with quite a heavy period this could make life a little easier.
3) Cups don’t contain latex, BPA, dye or other weird additives. Apparently, almost all tampons contain bleached rayon—a material that creates the possibly carcinogenic by-product dioxin. I see the word bleach and all-round panic (!!!). Cotton in tampons can also strip your vaginal walls of naturally occurring lining, making your flower (look, it’s a name I use, get over it) more susceptible to disease.
4) Health aside, tampons and pads are actually really bad for the environment. On average, omen use an estimated 16,000 pads or tampons in their lifetime. These end up in landfill and take years and years to break down.

Next month I am also going to try a reusable cotton sanitary towel! Check back on progress and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. Make sure you read up before you give it a try to make sure you understand how it works and if it’s right for you.

Hannah: Event Planner
I am solicitor and I moved to Manchester over two years ago. I love all things yoga, history, travel, smashing the patriarchy and music related. I am slightly obsessed with Twin Peaks, grunge music, Yorkshire tea and Newfoundland dogs (the most AMAZING hounds!)
1.What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?
 I am one of two Event Planners at Every Month, working alongside the lovely Charlotte. We will be organising and running all the events including our awesome packing events and others  to fund raise and help spread the Every Month word.
2. How did you find out about the campaign?
Like a lot of the rest of the team, I followed the brilliant Instagram account and thought what a great idea the whole concept was. As soon as there was a call for volunteers I knew I had to get involved! I also knew that I would meet a great bunch of people too and I wasn’t wrong!
3. What interested you about getting involved?
The campaign really hits on so many issues that I feel passionate about like women’s rights and trying to address poverty and homelessness. It was a no brainer to get involved in something which makes a real, tangible difference to the lives of people. Access to sanitary products is such a basic fundamental right that slips under the radar when considering issues which homeless people face – anything that tries to address that and raise awareness of the issue is fantastic and very much needed.
4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 
 I hope the campaign has spread far and wide and reached many more people locally and beyond Manchester. I also hope we are able to open up the discussion on menstruation and poverty and host some great speakers to help spread the message.
5. Who are you inspired by?
 I am 100% inspired by my mum. She is an absolute powerhouse of a woman! Her strength knows no bounds and she’s bloody hilarious! I am also inspired by anyone who lives their life completely unapologetically and just for them.
6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?
Everyone should read ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Film-wise, there will be always be a special place in my heart for Labyrinth and Dumb & Dumber. Not very high brow I know, but both remind me of being a kid! My favourite book is 1984 – it inspired me to study History at university and to question everything.
 7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

Adverts for sanitary products need to stop featuring girls on rollerblades and get real about what it is to have a period. It has to stop being whispered about in hushed tones and should be discussed more in school. Parents also need to take responsibility for how the topic is discussed. It’s as natural to buy sanitary products as it is to buy loo roll so why is menstruation still considered taboo?!

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?
Thankfully I grew up in a house where it was no big deal and I could freely ask any questions. I know from discussing this with friends that not everyone is so lucky. I guess I would remind my younger self and friends that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?
A good stretch and a nice cup of tea.
 10. Anything you’d like to add?
Keep your eyes peeled for some great events (and go google Newfoundlands!)

Trump’s recent announcement to reinstate the ban on transgender people joining the military has shocked communities the world over. His flimsy reasons included the medical costs of transgender people (despite only being a small percentage of all costs) and disruption (Donald, are you serious?). Whilst Trump continues to instate harmful policies and share his offensive views (many in tweeted form) the rest of us persevere in standing up for the equal treatment and acceptance of everyone.

You may have already clocked the un-gendered language that Every Month uses when discussing periods. We are committed to providing free sanitary products for everyone who needs them; not just cis women. Along with other organisations such as Lunapad and Pyramid Seven, we want to open up conversations about menstruation without gender, giving everyone the opportunity to access products and support. If we can encourage other companies and campaigns to do the same, things will change.

Theo shared their experience of identifying as non-binary and menstruating:

“I’m an enby, or a non-binary person, who bleeds once a month. I was a late-bloomer in discovering my identity, but not when it came to puberty. When I started my period aged 12 I didn’t know what to do. I think my mum had briefly mentioned it, but there was so much blood I was ashamed. I threw my underwear in the bin and when I’d bled only a little onto the next pair, I went to my mum. She told me about tampons and sanitary towels and that was the end of it. I was horrified by the idea of shoving a tampon up there. I felt ashamed every time I bled. Every time I had to change my sanitary towel, I felt horrible. In the back of my head there was a tiny voice telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed by this bodily function, but I felt ashamed anyway. I felt a lot of guilt about being a “bad woman” because I didn’t like having periods or hips or boobs, but especially the periods.

As I grew up and spent more and more time on the Internet reading articles and blogs, feeling like a hypocrite was added to the guilt and “bad woman” thoughts. I began to join in with comments about how periods are natural and okay and nothing to be ashamed of. I got mad when boys made jokes about periods and angry women or laughed at tampons. I got frustrated at sanitary towel adverts boasting discrete packaging, because God forbid someone heard you opening a sanitary towel in a public toilet. It’s not a secret – some people bleed once a month. I’d shout from the rooftops that periods were natural and not something to keep hushed up. Then I would have my own period and be ashamed and embarrassed and hate myself and my body for what was happening.

When I realised I was non-binary, the thing I felt most relieved about was that this meant I wasn’t a bad woman for hating my periods. I just wasn’t a woman. And I hated my periods because I associated them with women/being a woman. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, assessing my ideas and where they came from. The result is that I am now comfortable in declaring that I am a non-binary person who menstruates. I’m not a woman but I do have periods, and I’m allowed to dislike having my own period whilst simultaneously declaring that periods aren’t horrible or shameful.”

Menstruation should not be a stressful experience but for many it is because having periods is so heavily associated with being female.  Not everyone who is a transgender or non binary person will menstruate. Not everyone who menstruates will feel affected by it in the same way or want to take hormones to stop them.Those who do menstruate and find it distressing, may experience Gender Dysphoria which occurs when a person’s gender identity and biological sex are mismatched. Culturally rooted perceptions of gendered periods is not only an internal battle. Visiting male toilets becomes more daunting without sanitary disposal bins in place and fewer cubicles. It makes many feel more inclined to use female toilets which could put them in a potentially dangerous or unpleasant situation.

“There’s nothing female about your body throwing out some unused baby juice. It’s                              merely society that’s long since confused menstruation with being somehow female or                       feminine”.

James St James for Everyday Feminism

The packaging of sanitary products is ridiculously gendered too.

Pink and floral boxes are championed by sanitary product manufacturers along with names like ‘discreet’ ‘radiant’ and ‘pearl’  – Y’know all those super ‘feminine’ feels? Companies add scents to  tampons and design the shape of their pads to fit perfectly into delicate female underwear.

Images and TV adverts portray a very specific two dimensional person on their period. Common themes include being perfectly made up, heterosexual, female and healthy. Even the supermarkets are buying into it by bunging all sanitary products in an aisle called  ‘Feminine Products’.

          “Sometimes I ask my girlfriend to buy them for me; sometimes I make a lot of jokes                               about it in my head. I remind myself that the cashier definitely does not care what I’m                        purchasing. If I’m feeling particularly fragile about it, I avoid stores where I might run into the same cashier again.”

Wiley Reading for Everyday Feminism

Things are starting to change and the need to degender menstruation is slowly being addressed. Here are a couple of examples of great people doing great things.

Pyramid Seven

Pyramid Seven make underwear ‘for periods not for gender’. Their range of boxer briefs offer inner support to attach a pad to – something that isn’t possible with normal boxers. Jarmon (they/them), co-creator of the company talked to Bustle about their personal and frustrating experience of having to switch to feminine underwear when menstruating.

MCalc

MCalc started as an Indigogo campaign recognising the need for a gender neutral menstrual calculator app called adding an alternative to ‘the overly feminised market place’.

#Bleedingwhiletrans

Cass Clemmer (they/them) is an Artist who identifies as non-binary. They posted this picture with the aim to raise awareness. Using their Instagram account @tonithetampon and #bleedingwhiletrans, Cass has created a space for people to discuss their own experiences and read about others .

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, shoes and outdoor

Finally conversations are happening about menstruation without it being tangled in gender -although we still have a long way to go. No-one should feel excluded from conversations about bodily functions they experience and people can help by using ungendered language when discussing menstruation, speaking up when someone refers to periods as a ‘women’s issue’, sharing stories like Theo’s and Cass’ and campaigning against those TERRIBLE pink, discreet, ladylike, pearl adverts.

Martha: Political Lobbying Coordinator

My name’s Martha, originally from sunny sunny Southend! I moved to Manchester a year ago to start work as a social worker and am slowly adjusting to the northern climate. You’ll find me watching trashy TV, at the theatre or cinema, nursing a gin and tonic or hunting down a good cup of coffee and some cake.

1.What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I’m the political lobbying co-ordinator for Every Month! I’ll be working on campaigns to mobilise our people power to create some change at a local and national level. I hope to get people influencing their MPs and councillors to put period justice on their agendas so that menstrual products are finally seen as a basic need rather than a luxury!

2. How did you find out about the campaign?

I came to Rosy’s talk at the Nexus Art Café (Bloody Marvellous- both in name and content!) and learnt all about the fab work she was doing to get the project started in Manchester.

3. What interested you about getting involved?

I was completely inspired by the period positivity of the campaign and wanted to work with a group of like-minded feminists to spread the word! I think periods are still a massively taboo subject so wanted to get involved with something that was showing women and girls that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, all whilst promoting social justice at the same time, what a combo.

4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I hope the campaign will have expanded its reach across Manchester, so that fewer women are being disadvantaged and discriminated against by a basic bodily function. As part of this, I’m hoping we’ll have the vocal support of MPs across Manchester that this issue needs to be addressed!

5. Who are you inspired by?

So many wonderful women! But I’m a huge fan of Alice Walker, she writes like an absolute dream and has given voices to so many women both in her fiction and her activism. And of course, she started off as a social worker… the list goes on!

6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

Documentaries- Blackfish, The Hunting Ground, Making a Murderer, Iris, Whores’ Glory, I’ve always got a new one I’m raving about

Books- Mrs Dalloway is my absolute favourite, anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I studied a lot of Elfriede Jelinek at uni and still haven’t quite lost my obsession with her

Films- I’ve spent the past year telling anyone who hasn’t seen Moonlight to watch it immediately!

7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I’d love to take all of those tampons and pads hidden up sleeves at work and school and get them proudly held up in the air! We need to speak openly and frankly about menstruation rather than using fluffy euphemisms.

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Stop worrying about not getting your period yet- enjoy those cramp-free days because there’s more to being a woman than just starting your period!

9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

A good old-fashioned hot water bottle and my bed, the comfiest place on earth. And a thousand episodes of whatever box set I’m obsessed with at the moment…

10. Anything you’d like to add?

I hope as many people as possible want to get involved in our campaign, we need people power! If you’d like to get involved or have any ideas for campaigns, drop me a line at everymonthlobby@gmail.com