This is a weekly column devoted to discussing issues related to wellness at Oberlin College.
You don’t have to go deep into Oberlin’s reproductive justice scene to hear cries of the wonders of the DivaCup. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people all over this campus who have basked in its many benefits and now want to spread word to the uninitiated. However, this little piece of silicone has a lot to it, and using one can be tricky on many different levels.
“What even is a DivaCup?” you might ask. It’s the most mainstream brand of menstrual cup, a bell-shaped item that sits inside the vagina to catch menstrual fluid during your period. They’re made of medical-grade silicone, which forms a seal with the vaginal walls so that it doesn’t leak. DivaCups come in two sizes: a smaller one and a larger one for those who are over 30 or have given birth — yes, the future is scary.
DivaCups first came to my attention at summer camp when I was 15 and a counselor gave me a zine about alternative menstrual products. Sandwiched between handsewn pads and specially treated sea sponges was the DivaCup, a shining beacon of nonconformity in my homogenous world of tampons. It was this original sense of morbid curiosity that drew me in. That first encounter struck me as a bizarrely exciting opportunity to make a change to something I’d long seen as monotonous. This somewhat countercultural little product is attractive simply because it has the capacity to change the routine and shake up the drudgery of menstruation.
Aside from novelty, it’s also a great product. Consolidating a constantly fluctuating arsenal of pads into one reusable cup feels pretty incredible, allowing users to never worry about whether they have enough tampons to make it through a cycle. DivaCups are also extremely cost-effective and a sound environmental choice because you are opting for a sustainable product in our culture of disposability. Lastly, it’s pretty cool to send your period money to a company owned by women instead of the huge corporations that are peddling tampons full of chemicals and bleach.
However, cups aren’t a miracle product. A long list of grievances includes the unfortunate reality that they can be difficult to use. There is a long and fairly distressing adjustment period where anxiety surrounding proper use can be pretty debilitating, and if they’re not inserted 100 percent correctly every time, you’re susceptible to extremely intense leak malfunctions. From my very informal polling, friends have said it can take up to six months before you truly feel comfortable using one, which for many ends up being prohibitively long. Also, once one of my friends picked it up and started playing with it, and I didn’t have the heart to edify him.
Oberlin’s campus is also especially hostile toward DivaCup use. The ideal place to use a cup is in a single-use bathroom so you can wash it off before reinserting it, but our campus is nearly devoid of such things, inspiring DivaCup users to congregate on the first floor of Mudd to exploit its structural advantages. It can be weird or embarrassing to wash a DivaCup in a public restroom, and those who live in dorms are forced to navigate that.
The name “DivaCup” is also pretty stupid. The company’s website says the cup received the name because people who menstruate “are taking center stage in their menstrual health,” but in reality it just seems like misguided use of a euphemism. The major cup provider in England is called “Mooncup,” which is a lot swankier and doesn’t force the image of a “diva” onto low-key folks who just love the environment.
Regardless of this negativity, for a huge number of users, the benefits outweigh the costs, and DivaCups have unquestionably changed their day-to-day lives for the better. Should you pick up a DivaCup? If you’re feeling ready to shake it up and can front the $29.99 to get one from the SIC, then go for it. Keep in mind that a dorm is probably the worst place on earth to get accustomed to using one, so maybe consider holding off and trying it out over the summer. You might love it, or maybe it will just renew your lifelong commitment to conventional products. Either way, good times are ahead.