I haven't had to deal with so-called feminine hygiene products AKA blood catchers for about 20 years. I generally only take an interest when it comes to safety and environmental issues, like dioxins in tampons.
So when I was contacted by a journalist at CBC about Mensez Feminine lipstick I thought the product was a (bad) joke. This guy wants women to glue their labia shut so they can let out their blood when they pee out their urine. She sent me a few links to articles that methodically shredded this ridiculous (patented!) invention bit by unsavoury bit.
During the interview, she asked me for my first impressions. What immediately came to mind was infibulation the most dramatic form of Female Genital Cutting, where the exposed part of a woman's clitoris is removed, as well as her labia; and the remaining tissue is sewn together, leaving a small opening for urine and menses. One of the results is back-up flow which can cause infection, especially when there are clots of blood that cannot pass through the opening.
Labiaplasty also crossed my mind -- this cosmetic fiddling with women's anatomy which sometimes results in loss of sensation due to scar tissue. "Labiaplasty involves reducing or removing the labia minora -- or inner lips -- of the vulva."
The journalist also asked me about available products and potential problems with them. She wanted to know, for example, if girls were still frightened of using tampons. We talked about how some moms worried about their daughters' losing their virginity (tearing the hymen, that is, as opposed to having sex with a tampon) and toxic shock syndrome. We've known about dangers associated with tampons for nearly 40 years.
I told her that starting from the 1990s, we were bringing more environmentally friendly, reusable products into the classroom.
I started to wonder: aside from menstrual cups is there anything new in the world of blood catchers? I found several websites with information on alternative products. This one is particularly enlightening regarding "dirty" cotton.
Rachel Krantz' personalized review of some natural products is a hoot. Reading her account reminded me of my friend's injunction not to wash your menstrual cup out in a public washroom ("It looked like I had killed a chicken").
In the "old country," my mother washed out bits of cloth. I guess it was progress when I first got my period in grade eight, (1961) and we learned how to attach a pad to a sanitary belt. I still remember the sensation of walking around listing from side to side because of the giant wad between my legs.
There are many areas around the world where menstrual hygiene is still a challenge. But when I read about campaigns that help girls and women deal with their periods, I sometimes worry about the pad and tampon companies profiting through NGOs' distribution their products.
So I was pleased to come across this refreshing innovation:
"To ensure girls get the protection they need, and don't have to miss school just because they have their periods, Femme International provides kits to girls in East Africa that equip them with all the supplies they need. Each kit contains a menstrual cup or reusable pads, a bowl for washing the reusable cup, a small towel, a bar of soap and a handheld mirror."
Here in Canada, it is a struggle for women in the North as well as poor and homeless women in the South. When we make decisions about our own blood catchers, let's also be conscious of the products that we give or send to our sisters. We all have the same needs for comfort and safety. And that means, no labia lipstick, unless they are deliberately looking for some vajazzling.
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