Diva, what?

As it gets closer to the time that I depart for Vietnam, I am starting to notice things in my daily life that I know will change once I arrive in Hanoi. The food that I eat, the places I visit—the list goes on. Then there are the things I am uncertain about, and if they will change or how they will change. Naturally, this got me thinking about dealing with menstruation in a foreign country. I guess this isn’t such a natural thought progression, but I rarely ever think rationally, so it’s not entirely surprising. What if I don’t have access to the same menstrual products that I have grown accustom to in Canada? How will I dispose of said menstrual products when necessary? This is enough uncertainty to give an already anxious girl something else to worry about. And then I remembered, the Diva Cup!

The Diva Cup is a non-absorbent menstrual cup that simply collects menstrual flow. It can be worn for up to 12 hours before it needs to be emptied and washed, and then it can be reinserted. It is supposed to give you the freedom of participating in all activities without having to worry about the unreliability of disposable menstrual products. PERFECT!

The Diva Cup also empowers women to make healthy choices for their bodies and the environment by giving them an alternative to traditional menstrual products. Disposable menstrual products contain dioxins as a result of chlorine bleaching or other bleaching processes. After inserting a tampon, these dioxins have the potential to leach through your skin. Not good. And of course there is also the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. No thanks.

Disposable pads and tampons are responsible for an incredible amount of waste that ends up in landfills every year. In fact it is estimated that 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of each year in North America. That’s a whole lot of waste! And then there is the problem of dioxins again. Just as they can leach into your skin, in landfills they can leach into the environment via groundwater, streams, and lakes.

And then there is the cost benefit. No more buying a box of pads or tampons every month, which can quickly add up costing you $150-200 each year. The Diva Cup can last up to ten years, and will only cost you around sixty dollars. That sounds pretty good to me.

As a bonus, the company responsible for the Diva Cup, Diva International, was started by two women (a mother and daughter in fact), making it a great way to support women entrepreneurs. And, they are manufactured locally in Kitchener. It just doesn’t get much better.

I can’t wait to go out and buy my Diva Cup and start using now, and in Vietnam.

You can also check out Sustainable Cycles for alternative menstrual products. Sustainable Cycles is a women-run collective, also based out of Kitchener, producing reusable menstrual pads made from ethical fabrics.


9 thoughts on “Diva, what?

    • That is a good point. It can be challenging to convince people to adopt a new way of doing things. Ultimately I think one of the best ways to overcome this is through women sharing their positive experiences with alternative menstrual products with other women. It can also come down to women having the discussion that they should be the ones in control of their bodies, and not let big companies producing disposable menstrual products (who often have male CEOs) control how they deal with menstruation. Hopefully preaching the environmental and economic benefits will also help women overlook the stigma and make the change to something more sustainable.

  1. In response to the stigma mentioned below, I think its up to us as individuals to start by breaking the stigma of periods in general. For once, I agree with some of the tampon commercials that are airing right now saying how women shouldn’t be ashamed of carrying a tampon around with them. In the same way that these commercials make a point, I think we should start getting rid of the idea of how “gross” having a period seems to be. I’ve discussed the diva cup with a few of my friends and they have said it seems “disgusting” having to essentially clean the cup yourself. I think the term “disgusting” comes to their minds through society where I feel having a period is sometimes portrayed as something “gross” and unwelcomed. Going back to my comment at the beginning, I think if we can start accepting our periods as women, I think we will become more open to products like this and start convincing others that its not “gross” at all. I absolutely love the idea of this product, how much money one could save by purchasing it over other products and how environmentally friendly it is. Knowing the background about the product now as well is even more encouraging to me to go and get the product asap!!!

  2. I have done quit a bit of traveling around the world but have yet to go to a developing country. You make an important point in that developing countries may not have products that we are accustom to. Also, I had never really thought about the amount of waste produced by sanitary products. The numbers are astronomical! Think of how many pads or tampons a female could save by switching to a reusable Diva Cup. Sanitary products can add up when you think about how much money you spend on a yearly basis. The Diva Cup costs a bit more but in the long run its cheaper.

    Your blog makes important argument surrounding female issues that are often overlooked. I look forward to following your blog and journey in Vietnam!

  3. This is a thought provoking blog. Society has not yet moved in the direction of promoting alternative menstrual products. For the longest time women used homemade options like cloths and were limited in their activity during their cycle. Then came pads that required women to wear a belt with clips to hold the pad in place. How uncomfortable! Now profit-hungry corporations push tampons and pads in all shapes, sizes and colours. But wait…there are alternatives that many of us have never heard of. Forget the stigma, do what works for you!

  4. I, too, love the menstrual cup! I’m currently living in Ho Chi Minh City, working in waste management, and naturally have been considering how to get women in Vietnam to adopt menstrual cups as a more hygienic option, before tampons and pads irreversibly take over. have you had any experience with Hanoi women’s perceptions of a menstrual cup or menstrual hygiene in general? Would be curious to learn more!

    Thanks for sharing this, Heather 🙂

    • Waste management in Vietnam! that is incredibly important, and I’m sure incredibly challenging, work. I was always struck by the issue of waste management and my friends and I would often hypothesize possible solutions without ever really getting anywhere haha.

      In my experience, I found the Vietnamese women I worked with to be quite shy surrounding anything to do with their bodies (despite working for a women’s organization!). English proficiency was also a challenge, so it was difficult to get their opinions on things like this that were a little more obscure/difficult to explain. I’m not sure if you have been able to get any ideas from women in Ho Chi Minh City.

      I feel like conversations surrounding menstruation and especially things like the Diva Cup are still taboo (perhaps even more so in Vietnam). I wonder if there would be concerns among Vietnamese women surrounding using a menstrual cup and virginity. I know that that is still a common misunderstanding and concern among women and young girls in countries like Canada. Am I able to use a menstrual cup if I’m a virgin? Am I still a virgin if I use a menstrual cup? These questions are not so different from conversations surrounding tampon use. High importance seems to be placed on the virginity of young Vietnamese women, and I’m wondering how that would play into perceptions about menstrual cups–a device that needs to be inserted into the vagina. I remember looking around supermarkets and small convenience stores and really the only options I saw for menstruation were pads (most of the time scented at that!). Perhaps tampons aren’t so widely used following this train of thought? just speculating!

      I guess it all comes down to increasing healthy, positive discussions around menstruation, education, and increasing the variety of options available to menstruating women.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts!

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