Paper 1: Write about an Object

The Menstrual Cup: A Feminist’s Perspective

"If you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood – if it makes you sick, you've a long way to go, baby" Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch


At first glance the menstrual cup[1] seems simple, mundane, cold, and sterile. A typical menstrual cup is small, about 2” long, and fits in the palm of an adult-sized hand. It is made of white, soft, pliable silicone and is slightly transparent. It is in the shape of a funnel with a small, thin stem at the apex of the cone, and yet unlike a funnel, the cup is designed to contain liquid not let it pass through, so the stem is a handle, not a tube. The amount of liquid captured can be measured by three, thin markers that scribe the circumference of the cup as its radius increases. The first marker is about half way up the funnel, the second marker is approximately ½” further up, and the last is approximately ¼” from that. At the top of the funnel, the silicone is thick for about ¼” and flares out, forming a lip that is can be used to create suction. The menstrual cup is, in fact, utilitarian in nature, designed to be useful rather than attractive. It looks like a medical device, something one might find in an operating room. Surprisingly however, upon further inspection and analysis, one can begin to see its silent power and beauty. Just as the Holy Grail is not just a wine glass, the menstrual cup is not just an object; rather, it is a vessel that transforms its female user into a feminist activist who literally holds her power in her hands.

For most of modern history Western man has lived in a patriarchal, male dominated society. The oppression of women has been pervasive throughout our culture. One articulation of this oppression has been the social views on female menstruation. Women have been taught that their menstrual blood is shameful and something to be hidden.  A menstruating woman is considered “unclean[2]”. The propagation of these cultural views has been fueled by the nearly $30bn global feminine hygiene industry[3]. In her paper, “A Bloody Business: How the Feminine Hygiene Industry Sells Taboos[4]”, Suraya Karzai argues that the feminine hygiene industry that sells tampons and pads has systematically “exploited menstrual taboos for its own profit” and created generations of women who associate their menstrual blood with garbage— something that is without worth, to be thrown in the trash and to be discarded.

The menstrual cup, designed to capture a woman’s blood in lieu of absorbing it, offers an alternative view and opens a door for her to appreciate her blood and her body. The menstrual cup’s design allows a woman to have a sensory experience with her blood. She is reminded that a woman’s menstrual cycle is one of Mother Nature’s hidden mysteries; it is a hint that humans are fundamentally connected to all that exists. Touching, smelling, or tasting her menstrual blood gives a woman evidence of her potential for creation—that she holds in her body the link to all of humanity. The menstrual cup’s conical shape, remarkably similar to the shape of the universe itself (Figure 1), reminds her of her own power to create life. Like the Big Bang, from a single point, where there was nothing, in an instant a life begins. The menstrual cup is a portal, a time machine that takes a woman back to the beginning of all creation. Every 28 days she bleeds the essence of life because her cycle, her body’s natural rhythm, is inherently connected to the cosmos, to the moon above.

The menstrual cup empowers its user to appreciate her blood and, rather than discarding it, to elevate and value it. The menstrual cup has helped create an entire movement of menstrual art that uses blood “as a vehicle and medium[5]” for self-expression. Zanele Muholi, an artist from South Africa, uses her blood as a medium to discuss the horrific practice of “corrective rape to cure Lesbian woman” that occurs in her country, while the artist Ingrid Berthon-Moine uses menstrual blood as a commentary on the cosmetics industry. The artist May Ling Su uses “her menstrual blood and pairs it with her sexuality in a way that clashes the stigma of dirtiness and uncleanliness that menstruation has held for many for centuries.[6]

Through its design, the menstrual cup transforms its users into activists, artists, and empowered women. This seemingly ordinary object is a tool to allow women to embrace and honor their true nature. By reintroducing a direct relationship between a woman and her menstrual blood, the menstrual cup removes the shame associated with centuries of female oppression and invites a woman to celebrate her femininity. And while many women may not take Greer up on her challenge to “taste [their] own menstrual blood”, because of the menstrual cup, they certainly have the ability to. 


Figure 1: (a) Image of a menstrual cup that has the brand name Moon Cup. (b) Shows the conical shape of the universe that began with the Big Bang when all matter was contained at a single point and then exploded outward and began expanding. 


{C}[1]{C} An example of a menstrual cup is Moon Cup. “The Mooncup is a reusable menstrual cup, around two inches long and made from soft medical grade silicone. It is worn internally a lot lower than a tampon but, while tampons and pads absorb menstrual fluid, the Mooncup collects it. This means it doesn’t cause dryness or irritation, and also that it collects far more (three times as much as a tampon!). Because the Mooncup is reusable, [the user] only need[s] one so it saves money and helps the environment.”  Reference:

{C}[2]{C} In this document there are a number of sociological research references that discuss the historical cultural attitudes on female menstruation. Reference:

{C}[3]{C} Reference:

{C}[4]{C} Reference: