Menstrual Cups: The Ultimate Feminist Travel Accessory

I like to live on the edge. Which is why I decide that the day I’m wearing a string bikini on my first international holiday with PIC (and his parents) is the perfect opportunity to try out my new Diva Cup.

The Diva Cup, for those of you who don’t know, is that latest answer to the unyielding scourge of “feminine hygiene.” In a nutshell, it’s a flexible silicone cup that collects your menstrual blood at the source. Once it’s full, you just dump it out, wash it, and reinsert.


For environmental reasons, I’d been considering making the switch for some time. After reading Menstrual Cups are a Feminist Issue, though, and realizing that “feminine hygiene” is almost as stupid a phrase as “ethnic hair products,” (which is to say that it serves only to reinforce the sense that those of us requiring either—the hygiene assistance or the hair products— are somehow less than, and Lord help you if you require both) I finally decided to take the plunge.

It takes me a good three tries to get the damn thing in but once I get the hang of it, I decide to up the ante: a booze cruise. A booze cruise upon which I’ll be wearing my white linen pants.

I should perhaps pause to explain that I’ve always had some difficulties when engaging in nautical activities during “that time of the month.”

In junior high, before I learned how to use tampons, I went swimming and discovering that my maxi pad had somehow dislodged itself and was making its way up towards my shoulder blades.

A few years later, when the threat of missing a friend’s pool party provided the catalyst for me to finally stop being afraid of tampons, I spent the afternoon waddling around with half of the cardboard applicator stuck inside because I didn’t realize you were supposed to pull both parts of the tube out.

I’ve come a long way but once I got through the booze cruise with my Diva Cup and nary a leak, I decided I was ready for the ultimate challenge: an international flight and an airplane bathroom.

Up until then, my only real issue with the cup was getting it in. It requires intermediate to advanced-level origami skills (the directions provide not one but two different folding techniques) and you also have to be a bit of a ninja—at least that’s how I felt the first time when I went hopping from the toilet to the edge of the tub and finally to the floor to get the right angle.


But once you finish with the arts and crafts portion and the bathroom gymnastics, the Diva Cup is a godsend. And I’m happy to report that by the time I found myself in the bathroom of our direct flight back to Philadelphia, I was a pro: no ninja moves required.

Did this post gross you out? If so, I’m sorry to say that’s your problem.

There is nothing unhygienic about getting your period. There is nothing wrong with it, nothing unclean about it and there should be nothing embarrassing about it.

19 Responses to “Menstrual Cups: The Ultimate Feminist Travel Accessory”

  1. Catherine

    Luckily for me, I’m past that stage in life. I was also a heavy bleeder and passed clots the size of dinner dishes (caveat–the clots stopped after a DNC and childbirth)–it was horrific. Breastfeeding three kids for three years each helped in an extremely light flow. But–my choice of product during those bloody days. I wrapped the strings of two tampons together and shoved them way up there. Worked like a charm. I honestly think had I used the Menstrual cup, I would have been singing “My Cup Runneth Over”!

    • Kat Richter

      Wow! Can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything quite like that (I considered it a “bad night” when I had to switch tampons once midway through). For me the annoying bit has been the cramps, headaches, throwing up and blacking out that came with getting my period until I went on medication (first Naproxen in high school, then the pill once I was older). I am sooooo grateful for modern medicine in the regard (although I’m sure there are plenty of other natural remedies, but most of us have forgotten/ignored them).

  2. becky119

    I thought I was the only one who left in half the applicator on my first attempt using a tampon!! The absolute worst! But I got over it. I’m not sure about going for something like this though… I tried ‘the ring’ birth control and gave up after not being able to get it to fit comfortably. Probably was doing it incorrectly, but I’d rather not find that out down the line with a strip turning blue before I’m ready.

    • Ann St. Vincent

      I tried the Nuva ring as well and the darn thing wouldn’t ever stay in. Super annoying…especially the conversation with the Doctor trying to suggest I wasn’t putting it “far enough in” 🙂

  3. Kat Richter

    Tampons ARE confusing! I thought I was the only moron on the planet to leave the cardboard in too but I guess there are plenty of us 🙂 As for the ring/the cup, it did take me about 3 tries the first time, then 2 the second, but now I’m a pro. I couldn’t even feel it once I’d gotten it in correctly.

  4. KtKat

    I LOVE the menstrual cups. I actually tried a disposable (100% biodegradable) brand first, but then I found myself pregnant before I could invest in my Diva. After the postpartum stuff is out of the way, I’ll never use a pad or tampon again.

    • Kat Richter

      Hmmm, I didn’t even realize there was a biodegradable brand but it looks like you have to replace the cups every once in a while so maybe I’ll try to swap for the next time around.

      • KtKat

        The brand I had was good for one cycle before you had to replace them, and came in a two pack. The Divas definitely last quite a bit longer, but for people interested in trying them before investing I always recommend the disposables. I believe they’re called Softcups? I found them at Whole Foods.

  5. annetteuk

    Good stuff! I’m getting on quite well with my Comfy Cup although I’ll be much happier when I sort out what’s causing my menorraghia and I have normal flows again (at its worst I empty it every 2-3 hours plus use a pad to catch overflow. A super plus tampon would give me about 1.5 hours). I was working away from home for a couple weeks and decided to take my Cup since my period was due. Fortunately I was in self-catering apartment so had facilities to sterilise the Cup after use although I had to buy a new mini saucepan because I couldn’t fit one in my luggage (I was already pushing it by carrying 3 pairs of tap shoes, a foam roller and a hand blender!) So I now have a pink saucepan to match the pink stain carry case for the Cup.
    It’s a bit nerve-racking having a heavy flow when staying away from home but despite the required, carefully planned toilet trips (heavy overflows can get very tricky and messy) I prefer the Cup to tampons.

    • Kat Richter

      Hahah! I am laughing at the multiple pairs of tap shoes bit. As I type this, I am pretty surrounded by them, and two pairs are black heels (one though is getting painted and bedazzled for a gig the weekend after next). Although the directions for my cup said to just wash with non-scented soap and warm water. Am I supposed to be boiling the thing? If so, whoops. Still alive though… 🙂

  6. Heather

    Oh my goodness I was laughing so hard at the origami and gymnastics portion of your blog post my husband asked what was so funny. Um, hard to explain. Anyway, I have enough trouble with tampons, so I can’t ever see myself using one. But I should try again. My body used to push them out, but since I’ve had a kid I’m probably not likely to respond that way again. Let us know if you still like it a few months from now…

    • Kat Richter

      Yeah, there are different sizes for if you’ve had a kid vs. if you haven’t. Might be worth another try, so long as you can get it up and in correctly so it stays put?

    • Kat Richter

      Yeah, I shared the Slate article on Facebook when I first read it and with an hour, like 20 of my friends responded that they’d tried the cup and loved it so I figured, why not?

  7. The Prof

    Great post! I discovered these when I was too old to need them, but always thought they were a great idea. I too the last two paragraphs of the blog, they are just great. Why embarrassment? It is a normal human process that half of the population goes through. For me in the score of a “good’ man, was his ability to go and buy tampons as easily as loo rolls, being able to ask in which aisle they were to be found.

    • Kat Richter

      Haha, I’d forgotten the term “loo roll.” It used to crack me up whenever I heard it from my British flatmates (the second set of which never bothered to buy their own so I took to hiding mine and carrying it to and from the bathroom with me… but that’s another story for another time). But yet, I agree: it should not be embarrassing. A few years back, one of my students got her period for the first time right before a performance and she was mortified. That made me mad.

      • Kat Richter

        Not at her, I should clarify, but rather at all the damn “feminine hygiene” marketing campaigns. And of course patriarchy in general 🙂


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