I’m a Feminist and I Hate My Diva Cup

Imaiya Ravichandran | December 9, 2016

It just isn’t my cup of tea.

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My good friend Rachel is the kind of hippie you can’t help but love while you simultaneously roll your eyes. She once begged me to purchase a $45 water bottle with an “ergonomically designed” mouth opening. So it was hard to mask my skepticism when she waxed poetic about the Diva Cup.

“Honestly, every woman should have one,” she exalted. “I actually look forward to my periods now!”

After some preliminary research, I warmed to the idea. The Diva Cup was eco-friendly, body-positive and economical. Even better, it seemed to be a general “fuck you” to the stigma associated with such a natural process. I was intrigued. Maybe she was right. Maybe there was no greater assertion of womanly power than to shove a silicon goblet up one’s vagina.

A few weeks later, I was seated outside a courtroom, waiting to contest an unjust speeding ticket (a further assertion of said womanly power), when I felt an unpleasant warmth between my legs. First flustered, then panicked, I rushed to the nearest drugstore and was faced with my first opportunity to forgo the outdated, oppressive tampon for the silicone Holy Grail. Duty called.

Twenty minutes and some Olympic-style acrobatics in a Panera Bread bathroom later, it was in. I waited patiently for feminist self-enlightenment to wash over me.

Only, it didn’t.

In it’s place: gross discomfort. A response for which my inner voice harshly punished me. I took my frustrations to Google, as one does. Here, I gleaned my first piece of Diva advice: “Try cutting the stem off.” Determined to be a convert, I grabbed a pair of scissors and got to work. But still, it felt like a pair of vintage Levi’s – it fit only technically.

“Have a low-set cervix? Turn your cup inside out,” another message board suggested. Again, I gave it a try and, much to my delight, it fit like a glove! #TeamLowSetCervix! But two hours later, my underwear turned a shocking crimson. I’d sacrificed Diva discomfort for…well, its entire utility.

I spent the rest of the week trying to make things work, to no avail. Admitting defeat emboldened the gnawing feeling that this made me a “bad feminist.” Further, maybe it suggested that my save-the-dolphins brand of social justice was not as resolute as I’d previously thought.

But then another idea snuck in: Shouldn’t the goal be to simplify my period? To make the choice that feels right for me? To make me appreciate my body for the miracle of nature that it is? Sure, practicing what I preached to a T was nice (at least psychologically), but I soon realized that trusting myself ultimately produced a higher pay-off.

Since that ill-fated experiment, I haven’t touched my Diva Cup. Maybe someday I’ll give one another try (perhaps with this menstrual cup breakdown in hand), but for now, I’m trying to approach feminism as less of a performance. No one’s keeping score anyway – doing so would just undermine the point.

On the topic of our feminine internals, are you into IUDs or no?

Illustration by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; follow her on Instagram @heysuperstar.

  • Linda

    It took me about three months to get used to mine. It has been little over a year since I used a tampon and I love my cup!! It’s liberating not worrying about where and when to change especially when I am at the beach in the summer or camping. Hope you find your way to it too 🙂

  • I took some reflection time before purchasing mine as it turned out it exists in different sizes: Mine is the same size as for women who’ve born children, because of my age. It fits quite well but took some time getting used to.
    I cannot claim I am 100% happy with it, but I am happier than with tampons – which I still use for certain occasions (when not being at home and basic cup hygiene is not guaranteed).
    I also didn’t know about its feminist side 🙂 – I decided to try it out because I am so damn curious and because the idea of lessening (blood-soaked) garbage quantitites was so appealing.

  • Riley W

    I love love love my Diva Cup! I’ve been using it for over two years now. There is usually one time a period where I have some mid-day readjusting, but usually it works just fine, for twelve hours straight. As someone who used to have to change tampons every hour, I find it to work much better for me.

    That being said, I know plenty of people who don’t love it. And I have a few UTI-prone friends who said that was made worse by the Diva Cup.

  • Courtney Cooper

    Absolutely love my Diva Cup. But honestly it took about a year to LOVE it. The first time I used it was like walking around with an orange stuck up there and in the proceeding months there would be days when I would switch back to a standard tool. But now we love each other and the freedom of the diva cup can’t be compared. So maybe give it another try?

  • Beana

    Don’t be discouraged that the Diva cup didn’t work. There are other brands out there of different sizes and shapes. I found this article to be helpful:

    http://m.thesweethome.com/reviews/best-menstrual-cup/

  • I’m in love with my Diva Cup! However, I did leak for a while…then I FINALLY figured out that my cervix is much lower than I thought it was…gotta make sure she’s actually in the cup, or, yea, you’re gonna leak.

  • Molly D

    This is one of a few (prob a ton) things in my life that I allow myself to judge hard without ever experiencing. No thanks.

  • I encourage you to try it again . I am not a hippy. I like make up, weave. Nordstrom, and my leather over the knee boots because they make me look like a sexy assassin. But I lost my grandmother ovarian cancer.my mom and sister have had fertility health issues as well. A lot of these brands make thing to get our money, not to keep us healthy.

    Diva cup tips
    1) put it in at home – who wants to fuck with that nonsense In a public stall? Do it at home and be comfy.

    2) use lube- make sure its silicon safe and free of parabens.

    3) watch youtube videos- I like the one by halisebeast best but watch hella of them.

    4) let go of the assumption that it will be easy- You have been on period auto pilot for a decade or two. This is new and It will require a brain shift.

    5) till you get the hang of it pantyliners are BAE- that doesn’t mean you failed it just means you don’t have to underwear shop monthly. Unless you want to.

    I finished my second diva cup cycle and it has improved with these tips.

    • Krusty the Kat

      “4) let go of the assumption that it will be easy- You have been on
      period auto pilot for a decade or two. This is new and It will require a
      brain shift.” – Yes.

      Do you remember how awkward and uncomfortable it was getting used to tampons/pads when you first started using those? Give it more than one try. It took me a couple cycles to figure out how to effectively fold the cup for insertion. And the twisting move that fits it snugly in place is key. It’s going to take some frustrating moments with one foot on the toilet. Embrace it.

      • Viva the pop down and twist! The twist is KEY.

  • Jamie Leland

    Though the feminist side is appealing, the most important part of using a menstrual cup for me is the environmental friendliness of it. The amount of garbage we produce in dealing with our periods is SO depressing, and I find comfort in the fact that I, and many other women, only require one little piece of silicone that will last at least a couple of years.

    Doing some more research on fit and firmness of different cups is definitely essential to the effectiveness/comfort, and there is certainly a learning curve. It is a little more involved than inserting a tampon, but you typically only have to deal with it twice a day (as you can wear it safely for up to 12 hours) – preferably, as Marissa pointed out, in the comfort of your own home. Overall, the small inconvenience of figuring it out is worth the environmental payoff.

    • S.O. Carts

      The other side of the environmental coin: economics. I was motivated by the *substantial* cost incentive or the cup in university. (Aren’t we all outraged on the literal luxury tax on tampons!?) Although the initial cost can be roughly $30, that’s all money you “make back” in aprox four months. After that, *it’s basically like not even having to pay to be a woman!* The initial outlay hurt a little, but by my second period with it I was so happy with the decision – no more wondering if I had enough money to eat *and* buy menstrual products. Although there was a couple-month learning curve, the peace of mind of having my menstrual cup was well worth it.

      • Jamie Leland

        Yup! Also, since I’ve purchased mine, there seem to be a lot more options for not just fit and firmness, but also budget. I’ve seen some that are under $20, which would basically pay for itself in just a couple of months.

        I live in Arizona, which doesn’t apply a “luxury” tax to menstrual products, but does subject them to the same sales tax that is applied to nearly any day-to-day good an individual might buy (including medicine) with the exception of grocery food. Our state’s tax system relies heavily on sales tax, egregiously disadvantaging those at the bottom (not just women), so obviously the whole thing needs reworking here.

    • Luisa

      I agree with you, I hated the idea of inserting a piece of cotton filled with nasty chemicals that will only make you bleed more (so that you use more), plus the amount of waste always frustrated me. I thought the Diva cup was scary big so I got the Lena cup instead, which is smaller. It did take a couple of tries until I got it right, and now I couldn’t be happier! 🙂

      • T. E. Hieatt

        There are organic all-cotton, bleach-free tampons like Natracare that are biodegradable. The non-applicator ones are shaped like OB tampons and work well. I’ve used Natracare products as long as I can remember. Good stuff for anyone who wants a healthy tampon but doesn’t want to use a cup or pad.

  • From what I hear, Diva cups are on the rigid side. I stayed away for that reason. It usually takes trying a few different cups until you find your “goldilocks”. I tried a Lunette 2 first (too hard/big) , then Meluna M classic (too small, and the stem was too stiff) and then the Lunette 1 (just right). I recommend going on a youtube crawl to see all the reviews.

  • Grace B

    I’ve had one off and on for 5 years now. First one, I uh, leftinasuitcaseatmymomanddadshouse (terrifying), the second one I flushed down the toilet my accident, and this current one I’ve used very sporadically. I will say, tampons irritate me more than they ever did when I was a teen. When I can get the Diva Cup to work (and have the time/space to put it in correctly) it is a GEM and a GODSEND and the BEST THING EVER. But when it fails, it really sucks and getting it in right is 50-50 chance and I also use cloth pads now which I sometimes really appreciate at night or on days when I don’t have to be anywhere.

  • Adrianna

    I never related with menstruation talk because I practically forget that I get my period. I don’t really confront it because I haven’t used a pad in over a decade. Tampons were a revolution for a reason – I have a full time job and hobbies. I don’t know about you, but I almost always have to address my period in public stalls. Lube? I’m lucky if I remembered to pack my chapstick.

    And I would argue that sticking my fingers up there with a questionably sanitized cup up there isn’t great for my health either. There are alternatives to your drugstore tampon brands. Lola tampons are “All-natural tampons made without synthetics, fragrance, or dyes.”

  • Erin Lares

    I have to say that I too, was slightly embarrassed it had taken me so long to get around to using a cup. I did a LOT of research, and ended up with a Lena that I love. I have an adorably small vagina, so I needed to go with something built a bit smaller (check!).

    That being said, I was worried I would NOT be able to squeeze this puppy in said adorably small vagina without lots of trial and error. WRONG! Boss vag got it right on the very first try.

    So if for reasons feminist, environmental and beyond you decide that period waste just isn’t the thing you want in your life, try again!

    PS I went on a different birth control about 2 months after buying my menstrual cup and now I’m not even GETTING my period, and I’m most sad I don’t get to use it. Your hippy friend was right: it is sometimes the best thing about that part of the month.

    Thanks MR for being a great place to share our personal experiences with our bodies (and allow me to say vaginavaginavagina overandover).

  • There are so many levels to these cups…I went through three different kinds before finding the one that worked for me (I use a MeLuna). The Diva cup was my absolute least favorite. Way too smooshy and that stem was AWFUL.

    You have to know a fair amount about your anatomy when you decide on which cup to buy. Companies make stemless and shorter ones for the lower slung cervix types, small ones, large ones, more rigid ones for those with more tone to their vaginal and pelvic floor muscles, and ones with different capacities depending on flow.

    This site (www.menstrualcup.co) has the best selection / prices in my experience. You just have to find the one that works for you, kinda like jeans or skincare. There is definitely a learning curve with using them, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

  • x.

    These don’t work for everyone, and the comments are going to quickly fill up with “But have you tried this, that and the other???” So I just want to support the author in her choice NOT to keep trying. It’s fine.

    Still: I really recommend the MeLuna over Diva Cup, because they sell them in the color black (essential for not grossing yourself out with cup discoloration over time), and with a ball or loop at the end instead of one of those poky, poky stems!

    • Tessa

      I totally agree! After all, you have to feel comfortable, and if you just can’t get used to menstruation cups, just let it go.
      I also bought a Meluna cup in black (the glittery ones won’t always look that cute, I guess). It had a little ball at the bottom to remove it, but I found it rather annoying and just cut it off. It’s still easy to grab and pull it out/squeeze it out with your muscles.

  • I also have a low cervix and had a verrrryy scary moment where the dang thing suctioned onto my cervix and I had a less than fun time trying to get it out. (let it fill more, and then “bear down” to push it out enough to break the seal, if you’re wondering) I have since forgiven it, although mostly for heavy days.
    Its not for everyone sure, and i have also tried sea sponges etc. Anything to keep bleached cotton out of my hoo-hah.
    The one thing that keeps me sane now are those free-bleed panties. Mine are from Thinx. If I am light they are all I need, and if I am heavy and have my cup in, they keep me white-pants approved.

  • MT

    It’s okay. I love the Diva Cup (and it’s sisters) in theory. I honestly LOVE dumping the thing out and seeing all that blood in one spot. It’s so fucking metal and empowering, honestly. LOOK HOW I BLEED.

    But I can’t get a good, reliable, comfortable seal. I have tried again. I tried again and again and then I set it aside for a few cycles and then I tried again. I can’t get the hang of it, and I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t give a fuck anymore. It didn’t work out for me, and that’s okay.

    If you’re interested in other methods of collection, though, I really like my Thinx.

    • Grace B

      I’ve been really curious about Thinx — do you have a pair recommendation that are good for super heavy days?

      • MT

        For super heavy days they’re better as a backup to your primary collection method. Their most hardcore pairs are like 2-3 tampons worth of collection, which is like…. not gonna cut it. But great for overnight on heavy days, and during the day on medium or light days you will be 100% covered.

        I pick primarily on cut, because they only have one that’s appealing to me (hiphugger).

        • Grace B

          awesome, thanks so much for your perspective! i really appreciate it.

    • Imaiya Ravichandran

      THIX sound so cool!!! i’m asking for a pair for xmas. i also believe mr did a really cool podcast with the thinx founder, will have to check it out at some point

  • millalauren

    Always sad to hear when a cup doesn’t work. I personally hate hippie crap, but I am very happy I discovered the cup. I had to try two different brands to find the one that worked for me. And, likewise, I no longer hate my period. I can definitely see it as off-putting to some, but for me, the diva cup was SUCH a godsend. I no longer battle my femininity and while I still wish I could get a volunteer hysterectomy and avoid periods all together, not having a tampon that gives me a severe cramp after an hour, periods too heavy to even use tampons effectively or sitting in a blood diaper is amazing.

  • Julia

    I love my diva cup. But it does take some getting used to. I too had to cut the stem, twice. And then had to figure out how to properly insert it. After about a year of using it, I am one of the biggest proponents of the diva cup! I never imagined that I would be the type of person to boast about my chosen feminine product in public but I wish everyone could use one. I know everyone’s bodies are different, but they are so much better for the environment and make you reclaim your womanhood. Using a msnstral cup allows me to go the entire day without thinking about my period. As much as I wish periods were something that could be talked about openly with men and women, we aren’t there yet and being able to not worry about when I have to change my tampon is one of the most relieving things in the world.

  • mo_0207

    I tried for multiple cycles, but I have super heavy periods, a less-than-ideal restroom situation at work (40+ women, including my agency chair, five stalls, and sinks way across a hall), and just hated that if the angle were off a tiny bit, I’d leak everywhere. What I hate more is every cup devotee’s insistence that I should try again (and you’re getting the same reaction in the comments). We’re fighting for choice, right? Not just your choice, folks. Other solutions are more reliable for me and cause less discomfort, and that should be valid enough to other women.

  • Deborah Ramirez

    What does being a feminist have to do with if like or not the diva cup? The diva cup is supposed to be an environmental friendly, cheaper way on the long run, product that is also more hygienic. But what in the world does it have to do with feminism? I’m so confused. If it’s not for you, then it’s not for you, not a big deal… You have to do what’s comfortable for you. I’m really confused as to why this is a feminist or not issue…

    • …to do what’s comfortable for you…
      IS feminism’s very definition.

      • Deborah Ramirez

        Sounds like the definition of… just being human. Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. Whether I use the diva cup or not has nothing to do with feminism. Doing what’s comfortable for me doesn’t have anything to do with feminism either.

        • I respect your right to separate the autonomy to choose and/or honor your comfort level apart from a label. However, your definition of feminism is a “range” of rights – including those that are personal. The use of the diva cup is not a feminist act. The choice is. Any options women can affirm or deny leads to lives lived more soundly on our own terms. For me, and again, you have every right to counter, but any right – relating specifically to women, that can directly oppress or liberate less advantaged women is a feminist issue. Ain’t about the diva cup, but rather the insistence that the mere consideration of it doesn’t qualify as an aspect of liberation struggle. According to UNICEF, 1 out of 10 girls in rural Africa drop out of school due solely to lack of access to feminine hygiene products. The “week of shame” makes those who remain skip regularly and thereby perform much weaker than their male counterparts. A product like the recyclable napkin, AFRIpads is indeed feminist activism. Menstruation should not be a plight but when it proves so anywhere on this globe, then perhaps the comfort levels that women are able achieve thru privileged access are worth contemplation as part of a complex, holistic liberation movement.

        • I respect your right to separate the autonomy to choose and/or honor your comfort level apart from a label. However, your own definition of feminism is a “range” of rights – including those that are “personal”. The use of the diva cup is not a feminist act. The choice is. Any options women can affirm or deny lead to lives lived more soundly on our own terms. For me, and again, you have every right to counter, but any right that relates specifically to women, that can directly oppress or liberate less advantaged women is a feminist issue. Ain’t about the diva cup, but rather the insistence that the mere consideration of it doesn’t qualify as an aspect of liberation struggle. Even for those granted options, that they can then exercise, some might even include the tampon tax in ‘advanced’ Western societies as an extended feminist concern. According to UNICEF, 1 out of 10 girls in rural Africa drop out of school due solely to lack of access to feminine hygiene products. The “week of shame” makes those who remain skip regularly and thereby, perform weaker than their male counterparts. The grass roots manufacturing and distribution of a product like the recyclable napkin, AFRIpads, is arguably feminist activism. Menstruation should not be a plight but when it proves so – anywhere on this globe – then perhaps the comfort levels that women are able to achieve thru privileged access are worth, at the very least, the solidarity of contemplation as part of a complex, holistic liberation movement.

  • I’m confused as to why it’s a feminist issue too. Isn’t it just about having more options and doing what’s right for you?
    I haven’t tried one but I’m kind of curious. But how exactly do you figure out your vagina’s size? I know that mine is small because I am small in general, but it’s not like I can measure it, can I?

    • …having more options and doing what’s right for you…
      IS the exact definition of feminism.

    • Talk to your obgyn! Mine was great about telling me which ones might work better, and already knew if I’d have problems using certain ones or not. She’s pretty amazing like that. 🙂

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    thanks for your informative comments everyone! I did not realize this was such a passionate topic for so many. i flip back and forth between wanting to give it another go and just saying “fuck it hand me the kotex”, so we’ll see what ends up happening (maybe I should do as many of you have suggested and look into other brands, but then again…more $$$).

    • Jessica Amento

      Lola all cotton tampons are where it’s at!

  • chia

    I feel you! I’ve tried it once and I’ve lost it “inside”, had to run to the hospital to get it out. #fabulous

  • I love mine. I tell all my girl friends in my life about it and want the cup to get a fair chance. Seeing the tone of this post makes me feel it will introduce a negative bias for a lot of women who never tried it before.

    I couldnt figure out how to use it too when I got mine. Day 1 was very uncomfortable. Day 2 was a disaster. The forums help. I sat with a diagram of female anatomy and my cup to work it out. End result : happy periods, sustainable option and knowledge of my anatomy.

    Perhaps use it with a panty liner till you are comfortable with it ? And give it one more chance ?

  • Get an IUD and you won’t need a Diva Cup! No pill ever did me that favor. I got Skyla, which is smaller, made for women who haven’t had kids. Last 3 years. Hurts like a bitch when you get it installed, but worth it.

  • Tessa

    I wouldn’t call myself a hippy either, but I’d also encourage you to try it again. I’ve read a dozen times that the first period using a diva cup was awful – same here, actually sometimes it can still be annoying after 2 years of using a cup if you’re having a “bad day”! But once it fits and once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s great – at least for me. I guess it’s just something each woman has to try for herself, after all. One last remark (I feel like my comment is completely lacking coherence – well, it’s 1:30am here in Germany): I think it would be best to try using the cup the first few times when you’re at home and don’t have to worry about bleeding all over the place.

  • It’s good that you at least gave it a try!

    I’d say if you are really committed to making it work, take the advice of the women in the comments. Just like tampons, there are sizes and brands that people prefer – so perhaps try a few different ones out? I also found talking to my obgyn helped too – she gave me advice on which ones might work better, and explained to me why they don’t work well on me (I have one of those “tilted” cervixes that makes it damn near impossible for a cup to stay put).

    Or, if it’s just not for you, that’s cool too. I’m not a big fan of them, and would rather seek out more ethically-minded and healthy tampons than use something that doesn’t work for me.

    There is no reason you should sacrifice a drawer of underwear and undue stress. There are so many options out there – one will work for you!

  • elpug

    I love my diva cup but it’s sure been an adjustment. I lost my first one to a honey bucket incident and deemed it a DNR – Do Not Retrieve. A week later I was ordering a second. Sure, there have been mishaps and it seems invasive to have to adjust it all up in there with your hands but now that I have the hang of it and supplement with luna-pads (another feminist blessing to periods). Overall, it has saved me money, time, guilt (over the environment), and stress. As a user for almost two years, I can say the Diva Cup is a blessing. It just takes a little adjusting and figuring out your body.

  • Beatrice

    Hi there, sorry it did not work for you, I find it a life changer not to have to use the usual nappies and tampon that I find hurt and dry out this part of the body. I love the cup it’s so practical, I don’t feel it and can keep it all day without changing. Just pop it out and back in the shower. And yes there is the ecological part as well so don’t discourage other women who might not have your bad experience!!!

  • Kelly Rose

    Man, I just have lucked out. I bought my cup so long ago I don’t even remember the brand, and it was awesome from the get-go. Also, do none of you go backpacking? Cups are a fucking GOD SEND, especially since I go backpacking mostly with men, and there is no way I’m packing out used tampons in a communal bear can with a bunch of dudes.

    For the lady talking about the questionable hygine of the cup in public restrooms: honestly, tampons aren’t sterile, and neither is anybody’s penis. Your bits can handle a cup getting wiped off with toilet paper and re-inserted.

    • T. E. Hieatt

      Yes. Inserting any product or object without first cleansing the fingers is introducing germs into the vagina. I carry alcohol pads with my non-applicator tampons for when in public restrooms to clean my hands once I’m seated and ready to begin. I think it’s a good idea to do whether using tampons or a cup. Plus you can clean your fingers after business is done.

  • I.N b

    it’s a totally new thing that you only kinda knew how to use, you should do your research before buying it, there’s a number of cups that can fit a number of women because not everyone has the same body. i did my research before buying it and before using it to see te best way to use it and it was amazing, from the first time everything went perfect and i absolutely love it, can’t imagine life without it.