Menstrual cups are hardly a new concept; after all, the first commercially available version dates back to the 1930s, just like the tampon. But for decades, the handy little rubber cups were left on the marketing sidelines by the white-clad, euphemism-wielding, tennis-playing Menstrual Industrial Complex. Despite a huge laundry list of benefits, menstrual cup philosophy flew in the face of the “periods are bad and gross” storyline women have been fed since the dawn of time. The cups literally and metaphorically forced women to get in touch with their bodies—a big turn-off for marketers and their proprietous consumers.
Menstrual cups saw a second commercial resurgence in the 1950s, which petered out as quickly as the first. The idea of physically inserting something into one’s vagina—and then viewing and disposing of the contents yourself—didn’t carry the air of “modesty” and ladylike discretion that was being peddled with tampon and pad advertising. For context, these same women were being told to use Lysol disinfectant as birth control. Give me a break. Clearly, science, let alone what’s best for our ladyparts, was not a part of the commercial feminine hygiene narrative.
But the story is changing.
Thanks to movements that value feminism, gender equality, sexual independence, and equal access to health care, society is getting the picture. Women are linking arms behind the ideas that periods are nothing to be ashamed of and we should all have access to healthy, affordable means of period products. Menstrual cups like V-CUPS® carry the torch for this positive change.
Never one to shy from bathroom or bedroom details, Cosmopolitan magazine has featured menstrual cups in a bevy of stories aimed at informing and entertaining its menstruating female audience. Google “Cosmopolitan menstrual cup” and the first page of search results pops up seven unique articles from the love & style women’s mag.
Women’s Health has also gotten behind the trend with a recent story listing the benefits of switching to a menstrual cup. ELLE Australia published an article investigating the pros and cons, with a definitive “pro” conclusion. Millennial pop culture zeitgeist Buzzfeed promoted a laugh-inducing, GIF-heavy article way back in January of 2014: a whopping 18 reasons why menstrual cups rock.
And the cup has jumped to primetime TV in the hit series “Orange Is The New Black.” An episode from Season 4 depicted an emergency menstrual product shortage in the prison. Inmates lined up for maxi pads were turned away, and a prison worker explained There’s a hundred new inmates, but the same budget for inessentials… You can buy tampons at commissary.” Inmates are driven to improvise their own products using eye masks, toilet paper, and disposable medicine cups. Later in the episode, prison warder Caputo brushes off a conference speaker touting the affordability of menstrual cups for female prisoners.
TVLand’s “Younger” featured menstrual cups in a mini-plotline of, erm, questionable science. Hilary Duff’s character Liza enlists the help of a co-worker to remove a “stuck” cup from her vagina. While the fictional situation provides a few laughs; menstrual cup devotees wish the show would have been more responsible in sharing the Gospel of Good Menstrual News, rather than playing on women’s fears of things getting stuck “up there.” Please note, your menstrual cup sits low in your vaginal canal and will not 'get lost' in your body.
Keep your eyes peeled for menstrual cup cameos. From magazines to TV, these flexible little rubber angels are finally enjoying some much-deserved recognition. And the next time a show like “Orange Is the New Black” features a menstrual cup, or ANY menstrual product, think of the backstory of shame-centric feminine hygiene and smile knowing that every episode, every article, that destigmatizes periods also chips away at sex inequality.