The Diva

Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui exploded into the mainstream media recently and became an international sensation not because she’s a kick ass swimmer, but because she mentioned having her period on live television, apparently shattering a barrier into a world where women menstruate.

In China, menstruation is still very much a taboo. Women often won’t use tampons because it is said to rob them of their virginity. It’s simply not discussed. To many, having one’s period is seen as unlucky.

We’re no better in the states. Menstruation and shame go together. When I was a preteen, I was mortified by the idea, anxious about the day it would come. And the first time I tried to insert a tampon in order to go swimming, I didn’t put it in far enough and spent the day with too much of it sticking out. How uncomfortable that was. I was too embarrassed to ask someone for help. (Granted, this was the 80s and I do hope that things have changed somewhat.)

I had terrible periods when I was a teenager. I suffered from migraines and menstruation was so painful, I would often pass out. One time, I barely made it into the office at school before falling to the floor. I don’t remember how I made it onto the small cot at the nurse’s station, someone must have carried me. But by the time I came to, the principal and the nurse had already called my mom and were having a hushed discussion about the drugs I might be on. I was so out of it, so tired, and so embarrassed by the truth, I didn’t try and explain that I wasn’t high; I simply had my period.

(My mom set them straight.)

I once asked two, male running coaches on a live Facebook chat about what professional female runners do when it comes to menstruation and long races. My question was liked dozens and dozens of times by women. The coaches responded with, “Well, female elite runners have such little body fat, most of them don’t menstruate.”

Oh. Um. Thanks?

But that was my fault. What I really wanted to know was what every female runner might do to help ease the discomfort of having one’s period on the morning of a big race. Because most of us have body fat and therefore menstruate. So, I didn’t ask the right question.

Every single woman menstruates at some point. It’s the most boring thing ever. So why is it so taboo?

I have known men who wouldn’t go near me when I was “on the rag”. And I can’t imagine I’m alone in that regard. I’ve met women who won’t use a tampon that doesn’t have an applicator because she’s afraid of getting blood on her hands or “fingering herself”. (Which is simply hilarious.) And how many of us have heard the saying: “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.” Yeah. Yeah. Shuddup.

So not cool. But given how often we judge and shame women for breastfeeding in public, none of this should surprise me. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read the following comment left by a man on an article about breastfeeding in public:

“Shitting is natural too, but you don’t see me doing that in public.”

But somehow I’m still surprised. I’m surprised something so biologically normal, something mammals have done since the dawn of time, something that exists so we can, is still considered so taboo.

The many double standards between men and women are so plentiful and so engrained in our daily lives, we don’t even notice how unbalanced it is most of the time. (Well, I don’t.) And then an olympic swimmer mentions having her period, and everyone goes nuts, and I’m left scratching my head, wondering how it is we are still all the way back here and not much, much further along.

Someone writes on social media about getting her period for the THIRD time on the morning of a half marathon and it’s met with an uncomfortable silence. (OK, that was me.) Maybe it’s what they refer to as TMI, but it seems strange to me that something so much of the world’s population deals with every single day can be considered Too Much Information. If I posted about pulling a muscle the morning of a big race, no one would care. If I woke up with a stomach ache, people wouldn’t think twice. But you mention menstruation and ew.

And it’s not about the blood. Noses bleed during sporting events, no one bats and eye. Nipples bleed due to chafing. Who cares? And if you forget the vaseline, chafing can happen between your thighs, sometimes runners even bleed, no biggie.

It’s not about the blood. It’s about the dreaded vagina.

Get over it. Get over the vagina. Get over all of it. Teach your kids using an open dialogue. Overcome all the shame. Fu Yuanhui should be hailed a hero for her swimming, not the fact that she admitted to bleeding every month. I mean, I am proud of her for doing so, and I think it’s awesome so many young women in China are cheering her on for her outspokenness. But we should be so much further along than this.

In truth, I sat down this morning with a cup of coffee wishing to write a post about The Diva Cup. It was going to be about how awesome it is. My friend Corie (who I adore and respect and will basically do whatever she tells me to do) made the final push. Prior this, women all over the Internet have written, “OMG! THE DIVA CUP! GET IT!” But I was always too afraid to make the leap. Until Corie told me to. And so. I did it. This is the first month I have used one and I feel like writing a broadway musical about it. It’s absolutely wonderful. I want to go back in time to when I was 13 and in that swimming pool. I want THIS wonderful invention.

I love it so much, I’m bummed I’m facing menopause and won’t need it for too much longer. THAT’s how awesome it is.

Go buy The Diva Cup*. And if you have any questions or you want to discuss just how awesome it is in the comments, I’m your gal. NOTHING is off limits.

I’ll go first: isn’t it awesome that with The Diva Cup you no longer have to pin the string between your asscheek and the toilet seat when you pee?

(P.S. This post is the blog equivalent to Pin The Tail On The Donkey. It’s as if I was blindfolded, spun around, and then told to find the point. Forgive me.)

*NO this is not a paid post. I don’t do that shit.



  1. So much good stuff in this post. My question about the diva cup is its practicality in a public bathroom situation. You’re in the stall, I assume there’s some need to wash hands, you need to wait until you’re out of the stall… Maybe I’m not clear on how it works and this isn’t as awkward as I imagine. Otherwise I’ve been intrigued for a while but haven’t done anything about it.

    Loved that the swimming world speaks out, specifically the lovely Chinese swimmer. Good for her. I have always dealt with painful and sometimes incapacitating periods. Because no one talks about periods I have always felt weird, like I was the only broken one who couldn’t just function as normal when I got my period.

    BC pills finally gave me some relief and control but my body no longer tolerates them so I’m left with an iud (this is esp ironic because I am infertile). It has made a huge difference but I’m still left to deal with periods that show up at inopportune times. Most recently the morning of a 5k. I was disappointed to say the least.

    Anyway all this rambling is to say thanks. You’re right. I hope my daughters grow up to know periods aren’t shameful and that we all deal with them.


    1. OH! Ok, so I have thought about the traveling/public restroom thing, which I haven’t done yet. I think, if there isn’t a sink in the stall, what I would likely do is use toilet paper to wipe my fingers (after emptying the cup into the toilet and reinserting it. It only needs to be washed twice a day, fwiw. I wash it every time I use it because I’m near a sink, but you don’t have to.) You really only get two fingers messy, so you can easily open the stall with the other hand. And then properly wash your hands once you’re out of the stall. So, quick wipe down with toilet paper, then wash properly outside the stall.

      The actual device, again, doesn’t need to be cleaned every time if you don’t have a sink with you.

      It’s really truly remarkable and I love not having to buy tampons ever again. Also: I love not adding to a landfill. :]

      I hope this helps! And ramble away!


      1. Thanks for the info. Makes perfect sense – and only needing to be washed twice a day is good to know too. :)

  2. Yaaay diva. If people have questions, is a great resource! I’ve been using mine for 7ish, maybe 8 years, with no leaking or issues until my nexplanon implant gave me Periods From Hell. Before that, I almost never had to empty mid day, and when I did in college I would just scope out the single-person bathrooms on campus so I could rinse it out.

    I’ve probably saved HUNDREDS of dollars bc of my diva, and I love telling people about it!!


  3. I have followed you silently for years and I just wanted to say that I am SO HAPPY that you are writing again. Great post as usual, thank you Michele.


  4. I really wanted to love the Diva Cup, I did, but it was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve experienced in my vagina other than my doctor checking my cervix and breaking my water. I don’t know if it’s because my vagina is shaped funny, or because I generally have an issue with vaginal dryness, but it was really uncomfortable for me. I bought one after my first child, but before my second, and I bought the larger size as indicated. It was really painful for me to insert, and I felt like it wasn’t in correctly and that it was sticking out of me. I went back to tampons, and I haven’t tried the Diva Cup or any other brand since baby #2.

    I understand that there are different brands that fit differently, but who wants to keep buying cups at $30 a pop until you find the right one, especially since there is no legitimate use for your rejects? It would be nice if you could donate them to a women’s shelter, especially since the silicone cups can be reboiled to sterilize them, but I doubt anyone would accept them because of the ick factor.


  5. I LOVE my diva cup. I got one in 2008 after the birth of my first child and tried it out but just couldn’t get a hang of it. So I only used it when I had to swim (because I hate hate hate tampons). My flow was super light when I was on birth control. Third kids comes, I’m done with birth control because the hubs got a vasectomy. My period is much heavier so now I use the DIVA cup and it is so very very wonderful. I recommend it but the idea makes a lot of women uncomfortable.Sometimes I forget I have my period with that thing in!


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