PERIODS. We are living in a wonderful age where talking about your period is becoming less and less of a taboo. Women have bled freely whilst running marathons, girls are tackling MPS about period poverty and I, for one, will quite happily march to the toilet with a tampon in hand with no shame.
Like most women, I remember every little detail about getting my first period. I was the ripe old age of ten, a tall, stodgy girl who hit puberty like a high speed train. I got it when I was in school and was immediately inundated with a sense of shame and embarrassment, so much so, I didn't even tell my mother about it, I just snuck out a blue pad (which I learnt was the wrong size and type for a ten year old) and put my stained underwear in the wash and got on with my life.
Fast forward a decade later and I am now SO open when it comes to talking about periods - maybe a little too much sometimes, highlighted by one of my managers finding a hand drawn diagram of the ladies vagina and how to fit a menstrual cup. And there it is, on to the topic of today's post, the menstrual cup.
Well this post isn't really about the cup, thats a whole another topic for a different day, this post is about what the cup represents, it represents choice, it represents freedom, it represents being in tune with your body and growing to love and accept it.
I have been a cup user for over a year now, and decided to opt for one after being so bloody done with how expensive and annoying it is to buy tampons each month - especially as living alone in university meant that I didn't have my mother ensuring I was always well stocked. I began to educate myself on the limitations and negative effects that using disposable sanitary products can have on your body and the environment, and thats when I came across TOTM.
For me, alternative sanitary products are not just about having more options, its about opening a dialogue that rejects the embarrassment that comes with having a period. In recent years, we have seen mainstream sanitary product brands adopt this persona of "you can do anything whilst on your period, don't let it stop you" sort of thing, which, as we all know, is bullshit. Done, am I, with pretty adverts that show women riding bikes and winking at hot men on their way to a meeting. I want to see a slob on a sofa eating a fat bar of chocolate with a hot water bottle on her stomach because you know what, periods can be shit.
Though TOTM haven't quite taken on my marketing idea yet, they are paving the way for innovation when it comes to period care as shown on their social media accounts. I spoke to Alex from the Cardiff based brand about how important discussing feminine hygiene issues are to the promotion of their product.
"It’s part of our mission to address these issues, raise awareness and provide a choice of menstrual alternatives. Our brand communications bring this mission to life and it resonates with people for many reasons. As a marketing team, we’re deeply passionate about this mission and think honesty is so important. We’re trying to make a difference and we love it when people message us telling us they are fully onboard with what we’re trying to achieve. That’s what TOTM is all about. It’s new, exciting and it’s been well received so far."
TOTM was established in 2016, as Alex tells me, the team spotted a gap in the market for alternative period care and came up with a line of 100 % organic, biodegradable, cruelty free tampons, pads and liners. After living in Nepal for three months where I had to physically burn my tampons and pads, I have witnessed first hand the detrimental effects non biodegradable products can have on the environment. TOTM's products are not only good for the environment though, as Alex tells me "When switching to menstrual alternatives such as organic cotton period care, or menstrual cups many people notice a difference in terms of comfort, and decreased irritation (itching, rashing etc)." I was so shocked to read that so many mainstream brands aren't required by law to disclose ingredients on their products, despite the potential for some of these ingredients to have carcinogenic properties, and TOTM are keen to bring this to its customers attention.
What I find so refreshing about TOTM as a brand is their eagerness to connect with their audience by sharing stories about from their users who have used their products. When asked about how TOTM has developed a loyal following, Alex stressed the importance of engaging with them on social platforms.
"As part of our mission to raise awareness, discuss menstrual health/wellness and be an informative brand we think it’s so important to build an online community. For any brand, building a community is about engagement on both sides. It’s important to listen to your audience, respond to their messages and engage with their activity. Our community is across socials, but we do have a big focus on Instagram. It’s an active platform, that is so content driven which is great for a brand such as TOTM. It means we have multiple ways to engage our audience and get more and more people talking about periods!"
The brands commitment to raising awareness of feminine hygiene issues is so beautifully executed on their Instagram which was recently turned yellow for Endometriosis awareness week. Endometriosis is a common condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb (endometrium) is found in other parts of the body. The condition, on average, takes up to 7.5 years to diagnose as symptoms are often confused and mistaken for other diseases. One of my closest friends lives with this condition and her strength when fighting through severe bouts of pain and what will undoubtedly be multiple operations has given me a new appreciation for anyone who is willing to raise awareness of the issue and in turn help other women. Alex tells me how TOTM have chosen Endometriosis UK as their 2018 charity of the year to help aid the mission of spreading the word.
As well as supporting Endometriosis UK, TOTM have also set up a donation partner activity for 2018 which means that as a brand, they're donating products to help those who can't access them. Its so refreshing to see that a small growing business like TOTM is so dedicated to aiding and supporting people in need through this scheme. As a millennial generation, we seem to have lost the idea of brand loyalty and support of local businesses and TOTM have really inspired me, through their engaging social media content, to reconnect with the brands that I buy into. That is why I am choosing TOTM for my next menstrual cup which was launched yesterday! Since becoming a user of the menstrual cup, I have been so keen to share my experience with one by destroying the idea that they are gross and unmanageable, a stigma which TOTM are so keen on destroying themselves.
"It’s a step towards giving people more choice on how they manage their period and extending our range of more sustainable alternatives to use on your period. When it comes to the ‘cup stigma’ this is deeply linked to the ‘period stigma’ and this is something we’re constantly trying to challenge. We’re encouraging for people to be #PeriodPowerful. By talking about our periods, reproduce health, tampons, pad, cups or whatever it’s showing that there is nothing gross or disgusting about it. And the more we talk, the more we learn which can hopefully mean that education gaps and length diagnosis can be abolished in the future!"
Keep an eye out for my next post which will be all about the ins and outs of the menstrual cup x