by Jessie Stainton
I am a strong advocate for menstrual cups. I made the switch to a cup last year and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. They’re affordable, non-toxic and leak-free for 12 hours, meaning I basically forget about my period all day. (I am currently using the Diva Cup brand and advocate to all menstruators in my life to try one out as they’re the most commonly available kind in Vancouver; this is happily changing as menstrual cups grow in popularity).
To be honest, until I came across the Keela Cup, it hadn’t occurred to me that not all menstruators can use a traditionally designed menstrual cup.
For the creator of the Keela Cup, Jane Hartman Adamé, a connective-tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome prevented her from using a traditional menstrual cup, or the ones we’re used to seeing. So she invented a new one. Adamé is currently raising money with a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Keela Cup to the next level.
Traditional menstrual cups work by creating a suction once inserted to kind of hold everything in place. When you’re ready to take the cup out, you do a pinch and pull sort of motion to release the suction and extract the cup. If you’ve ever used a cup before, you probably know that this takes some time to get used to and can be awkward even for a seasoned cup wearer. Factor in disability and using a cup becomes pretty impractical.
In a recent article she wrote for Teen Vogue, Adamé explains that for her, due to her condition, trying to take out a traditional menstrual cup can literally dislocate her shoulder, so obviously this isn’t a viable option. She quickly found that she was not alone in this and that traditional cups don’t vibe with a lot of people. With the aid of a medical device inventor, Adamé created her own accessible menstrual cup that makes traditional menstrual cups seem like old technology.*
The Keela Cup has a pretty simple design. The key feature that makes it so revolutionary, per se, is a pullstring stem. Basically, when you are ready to remove the cup, you pull on the string which releases the suction cup, drains it and then the cup comes out exactly like a tampon. By releasing the suction first and having a retractable string there is no awkward fiddling that can be difficult. Furthermore, the string can be adjusted in length ranging from a little nub like traditional cups, to a long string similar to a tampon length, so it fits with a wider variety of needs. Pretty simple, right? But it’s this small, yet key change and redesign that create a more inclusive cup.
So why is the Keela Cup so important? Because it addresses a solution to a product that covertly displays discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. This is called ableism and it is ableist thinking that has caused no one to create an accessible cup before— people assume there is no need for one.
The intersection between menstruation and disability is particularly interesting as there isn’t much information, research or general talk about it, especially amongst people (or support workers of people) with disabilities, both physical and intellectual. The subject is beyond taboo. This is largely due to the fallacy that people with disabilities aren’t sexual beings. This, of course, isn’t true and I believe the Keela Cup is a great tool to open up the conversation on ableist thinking. While not one method will work for everyone, having a menstrual cup that works for more people is really important as we move towards being a more inclusive world.
The Keela Cup currently has less than a week left on Kickstarter—you can order one or donate today!
*Fun Fact: Even though we’re just hearing a lot more about them lately, menstrual cups ARE old technology (like really old…they were invented in 1937!) we just haven’t had much period product innovation in over 80 — EIGHTY — years.
image via facebook
Jessie Stainton is menstrual, sexual health and animal rights advocate. She is passionate about empowering women to make informed and autonomous choices about their body! Find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as a member of @bloodcyclecommunity