More and more women seem to be embracing the zeitgeist of washable menstrual pads. You can buy them in all manner of beautiful patterns and colours. Some women put up pictures of their colourful stash on Facebook, be these rainbow, leopard print, flowery or paisley patterned. Many more women are making their own too and then enjoying the experience of flowing onto soft comfortable cotton which they have sewn themselves. How fantastic that women are using gorgeous fabrics to honour their bleeding time and heal our collective wounded feminine. Such a powerful step in the right direction.
However, I have noticed that many of us seem to be very concerned about how to remove blood stains from our precious pads. Women compare the best stain removers on Facebook groups and ask whether it is better to soak pads in cold water straightaway or rinse and then zap them with stain remover in the hope of removing these pesky stains.
We are missing the point here! The sole purpose of a menstrual pad is to absorb blood. That’s its raison d’être. We are supposed to bleed on them. Why then do we feel the need to return them to a pristine state as if they have never been used before? In order to do this effectively, strong cleaning agents have to be used. All of these are no good at all for the delicate tissues of our cunts (please substitute yoni or vulva if the reclaimed Anglo-Saxon term ‘cunt’ offends you) or for our planet. Surely a major factor in making the switch to washables is to escape the chemicals (including perfume) contained in a bog standard disposable pad? Why on earth then are we re-introducing them to what is an environmental and honouring approach to menstruation?
It all comes back to shame. We are made to feel ashamed of our blood and terrified that someone might see it or heaven forbid, even notice a faint trace of where it once was. For generations and generations we have absorbed and internalised this message to our very core – that our blood is dirty and sinful. Sisters, it is not going to be easy to fight these feelings of deep humiliation, but it is possible.
The first washable pads I bought were plain white as I really wanted to be able to see my blood flow and savour its beauty – the streaks of brilliant red and the softer autumnal browns. I didn’t want the distraction of flowers or swirls. After a few years I wanted to sew my own pretty patterned pads and looked for pale fabrics which were soft and comfortable, but could only find a dark-blue paisley in the charity shop at the time. I am happy to report that my blood can still be seen, even on a dark pad. After use, I soak my pads in cold water and then pop them in the wash with the rest of my laundry. I give my blood water ritualistically back to the Earth every month. I would be polluting it if I were to add a stain remover to the equation. My pads proudly show the stains from previous bleeding times. A physical, visible reminder of those moons gone by – a symbol of the womanly spiral wisdom I have accrued in those cycles. I love these shadowy traces of my womb-lining. They mutate, changing shape and colour as I bleed on them, time and time again.
Accepting and loving our blood stains is a feminist issue of global importance. Women living in poverty in the developing world do not have access to unrestricted amounts of water to wash pads with. They cannot afford to buy stain removers. We need to work as a unified group, to empower all women throughout the world to embrace their womb-blood, this awe-inspiring symbol of our womanhood. With pride I have included a photograph of some of my stained pads which illustrate the echo of my cyclical bleeding. Feel free to share it dear women. Together we are stronger and can change the world to a place where menstrual bleeding is valued as a health-giving experience.