See a Modess True or False?
ad in The American Girl magazine, January 1947, and
actress Carol Lynley in "How
Shall I Tell My Daughter" booklet ad (1955) - Modess . . . . because ads (many
THE MUSEUM OF MENSTRUATION AND WOMEN'S HEALTH -
The Most Flattering of
This is not menstruation (for those who still regard
it as a disease), this is tuberculosis,
the subject of a great and readable book by Dr.
Katherine Ott called Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in
American Culture Since 1870 and just published by
Harvard University Press.
The menstrual connection to this Web site is twofold:
in the last century some physicians believed a female
consumptive's spitting of blood was vicarious
menstruation! And Dr. Ott has been one of the conduits
of knowledge from the Smithsonian's National Museum of
American History - where she is a historian - to this
museum, having visited MUM with six Smithsonian Fellows
and brought copies of outlandish patents for menstrual
devices as museum-warming gifts. She has also smoothed
the way in the Smithsonian for MUM researchers to use
that museum's collection in menstruation.
But back to tuberculosis. Flattering?
"Consumption is the most flattering of all diseases,
as well as the most insidious and fatal," wrote Dr.
Elizabeth Bigelow in her 1876 senior thesis at the
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She had seen
what the disease had done to her own family.
"Consumption [which included
tuberculosis] set the standard for white middle-class
beauty in the nineteenth century," writes Ott, and
"pale, bedridden, wasting women and men quickened the
romantic pulse of Victorian readers both here and
One reviewer called the book "The best kind of social
history." It's readable, has extraordinary pictures, is
full of cultural and medical information, and surprised
me page after page!
Two Users Comment on the Menstrual Cup Instead
PRO (mostly): "Right now I am sitting here
browsing the MUM and not worrying at all about the
Instead that is all snug and warm inside me. I am a
major advocate for Instead. I think any woman who uses
o.b. would not have a problem, but there are many out
there who can't even use an applicator-less pon, let
alone put (oh dread) a cup in oneself. The only problems
I have found are: if I wear one for more than 4-6 hours
the blood smell is super intense when I take it out. And
the other one is I can't "relieve my bowels" without
major leaking. But I think it is still worth it. I also
get really bad cramps when I use tampons; with Instead
they are much less active. Finally I have been able to
babble about Instead to someone who seems to like them;
I thought I was the only one!!! One more thing: there is
something about the name that I don't really like."
An industry source told your MUM director - me -
that the Instead people started marketing the cup on
the Pacific coast of the U.S.A. because a larger
percentage of women there than elsewhere in America
use o.b. tampons, which have no applicators and must
be inserted with the fingers, just as Instead must be.
I do favor a menstrual cup, but one more like The Keeper,
which can be used for a decade or more, according to
the company. But hey! I'm just a guy, as has
been gleefully pointed out to me on several occasions.
I am humble about the question of what women
should use, and very humble about being a guy.
I can only present as many facts as I can; you choose.
CON: "The ones I tried didn't fit and leaked .
. . and I can't imagine trying to change one in a public
restroom because of the mess on my hands."
My comments on
Instead and cups go on for several items, and messiness
is probably the main concern most women have. E-mail me if you
want to comment on menstrual cups.
OBGYN.NET Featured MUM as Hot
The folks at The Physician Reviewed Network for
Ob/Gyn [obstetrics and gynecology] Practitioners,
a truly extensive and useful site for folks interested
or working in these fields, linked this museum
for a short time in late November as its featured
Welcome! and Thanks! and your MUM
has some chicken-soup information for your patients,
and even you, on each page! You will feel
better in seconds! See?
More Girls Than Boys Born After Dioxin
Dioxin somehow influences the estrogen in a woman's
body. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung (28 Aug 96) reported the results of a
study published in the British medical publication Lancet
(Volume 348, page 409) that almost twice as many girls
as boys were born to mothers exposed to high levels of
dioxin after the dioxin accident at Seveso in July 1976.
And the seven mothers with highest blood serum levels
of dioxin all had girls!
Dioxin in varying levels is present in many products
used in menstrual protection, such as pads and tampons,
and is a powerful poison. Dioxin exposure is also linked
to higher rates of cancer.
You May Use Instead For 12
I thank a securities analyst for this information from
Bloomberg Business News (20 Nov 96): Ultrafem, the maker
of the new menstrual cup Instead,
now says the Food and Drug Administration has approved
Instead's use for up to 12 hours in the vagina. The
FDA had initially approved it for only eight hours, but
the company put 12 on the packages.
Susan Antilla also writes in the article that "There's
a reason women haven't switched in droves to the
menstrual cup. And that reason isn't because it's so
tidy to use." (Italics added). This is the problem
I have mentioned before. If
it were designed to be used again, like The Keeper
cup, I might recommend it, but the Keeper itself has
sold so few (around 15,000) since it started in the late
1980's that it is not trackable by Information
Resources, a Chicago-based marketing research firm. Why?
Probably because of a generic messiness and
inconvenience in inserting and withdrawing the device
with your fingers. Not many women want to deal
with it. But even a cup with an insertion device
marketed in Australia, Gynaeseal,
flopped in the past few years.
The Bloomberg article mentions that Instead is one
size only (The Keeper has two sizes, for women who have
and have not had children), and will not fit everybody,
unlike a diaphragm, which is fitted individually. This
causes leakage in some women, one of the vexing problems
women have with any menstrual product.
I must mention that Ms. Antilla interviewed me
by phone for the article. She was dumbfounded that there
was actually such a thing as MUM (I can't believe it
either, actually) and frisked me for some
information on the history of menstrual cups, which I
But try Instead out. Call 1-800-INSTEAD for a
sample, and see it on the Web: www.instead.com By
the way, Michael Bloomberg, who founded and runs the
aforementioned Bloomberg Business News, is a college
classmate of mine. Hm, if this billionaire - he
really is! - could help support his and your
Museum of Menstruation . . . .
Comedy Central - Gasp! - Drops
The Museum of Menstruation makes its debut on American
television on The Daily Show on
the Comedy Central network from New York. [It
was broadcast in December of 1996.]
While being filmed, Beth Littleford grilled the MUM
director about the exhibits, with producer Stewart
Bailey occasionally whispering into her ear. Viewers
should get an idea of the museum and its founder (moi)
from the 2-3 minute segment, boiled down from more than
an hour of taping.
You'll know who I am by the glare off my
forehead; also, Beth is awfully good looking.
She questioned my motives for starting MUM - so
what else is new? - but liked the job I did in
putting the exhibits together. Beth seemed impressed by
the wealth of information, but had to laugh at - well, see
for yourself (unless they edit it out)!
The producer's girlfriend
had read the long, great article
about MUM by Nancy Young in the current BUST magazine (apparently a
book from Harpers due in the summer of 1999 will contain
this interview), and suggested that maybe his show could
do something with it. I guess this is how things happen,
Although the first American TV treatment of the
museum, TV networks in Germany,
the United Kingdom and Canada have already done segments
on MUM. Typical, right?
MUM Proud of Listing in Europe: Lifestyle.co.UK
About a month ago MUM got this e-mail:
"Congratulations, your site is a quality resource and
will shortly be featured @ Lifestyle.co.UK. We apply
stringent criteria to our listings and it is indeed in
recognition of your good work. Lifestyle.co.UK, Europe's
best crafted directory, features top level subject sites
What you'll find there is an incredible mass of
links to museums, universities, etc., all over the
world. It's the best reason to get an Internet
provider with unlimited usage time for you.
It's a pleasure to know that virtue is rewarded! Well,
anyway, at least hard work on a worthwhile subject is
recognized, even if the subject gives most people the
BUST Magazine Strikes
TV Tapes at the Museum
The second German network to shoot a tour of MUM, RTL2
- the first was Pro 7 six months ago - arrived one
evening to see what all the fuss is about regarding
menstruation. Its representative in Los Angeles had read
about MUM in BUST (see the item about Comedy Central,
above) and rushed the news to the Old Country.
If the TV folks find MUM worthy, Germans will tour the
museum as part of a weekly one- hour program with a
studio audience which features two German celebrities,
newly chosen each week, and a good-looking, very
cheerful woman in a heart-stopping short black dress
who runs things. She asks the celebs what they think
about four or five short tapes dealing with the world
of, er. . .well, I'll just say it: erotica.
Menstruation equals erotica? For most people,
not exactly, but it IS naughty to talk about it, I
guess, and especially to show anything associated with
it, which MUM does in spades.
RTL2 sent me a recent show featuring Germany's most
famous boxer and a cute, prim actress maybe in her
thirties; they are the celebs. The videos the woman in
the black dress asked them to consider included a show
of the works of the California artist Ramos, who
specializes in photorealistic oils of nude women
writhing in cocktail glasses, etc.; and a clip of female
bodybuilders strutting about and pumping their pecs,
mostly Americans - of course!
As a matter of fact, the show seems to be a window on
America, which Europeans regard with mixed wonder and
contempt. The producer told me he loves the States, and
has crisscrossed it many times in old cars for fun.
And the title of the show is Peep.
Well then, all roads lead to the Museum of
Menstruation, don't they? Westward, Ho!
You're thirsting for more, aren't you! You
wish you had started a Museum of Menstruation -
Well, you'll have to wait till next week to find out what
Just Can't Get Away From Bad Company:
Newt Gingrich and Some, Well, Interesting Web Sites!
Yes, your upstanding, reputable MUM is AGAIN keeping
company with low-life Web sites in a book (see the
other, socially better connected ones and museums in America's Strangest
Museums, discussed several items below)!
Non-Americans (and some Americans!) might not know that
Newt Gingrich is the conservative Speaker of the House
of Representatives in the U.S. Congress, and if the
president and vice president of the U.S. die, he's
the president. This worries many people, even
With no active participation on my part, the book
"Things On The Net..." (see the green box with a cartoon
of the Speaker) devoted pages 40-41 to this museum, and
was actually respectful. It should have been,
considering what else it had to deal with: The World Sex Guide, Heartless Bitches
International, The Penis Size Survey, Gay Hankie Code,
Skin Disease Weekly, Rectal Foreign Bodies -
you get the idea.
Now I know you'll want to buy one, so here's
how: the deservedly purple
paperback is now in stock at many bookstores (I bought
mine at a Scribner's),
including all B. Daltons
and Barnes & Noble
Superstores, as well as Spencer
Gifts. It's also available through a 24-hour
orderline: 1-800-266-5564 (U.S.& Canada) or
609-863-1014 (worldwide). Or get it online from a book
Classy authors send free copies to the people they
include in their books, but these fellers whine, "We're
sorry we have to ask you for the budget-busting $8.95
retail price, but we'd never earn our Junior Achievement
merit badges if we didn't."
When will our MUM walk the straight and narrow?
Many women feel
the effects of their own menstruation - but who has seen
a moving, menstruating uterus? Dr. Jason Birnholz and
Frances Kent of Highland Park, Illinois (USA), report in
Medical Imaging International (Jan-Feb 1996)
about their creating moving
images of a menstruating uterus using
ultrasonography (sample at left). Not only does this
investigation unveil the workings of a normal menstrual
flow, it can be used to pinpoint structural causes of
abnormal bleeding. One of these days I hope to
get a moving copy for museum visitors and this MUM site.
Hey, didn't you always want to see what's causing all
(The image is courtesy of Dr. Jason Birnholz)
the Sylvia Comic Strip
Rummaging through the museum this evening, and
stumbling over Mack C. Padd,
MUM's distinguished cat, I found the Sylvia comic strip
from 5 August 1995 discussing this museum, which many
people probably have not seen. A
great lady from Los Angeles, now fighting
cancer, clipped it out and sent it to me a year ago.
(Used with permission of Nicole Hollander)
Tampax Reaches Out
Tambrands e-mailed me last week,
suggesting I add their two links (Tampax & Troom) to the MUM site.
I just did! They are also in NetConnect.
The SCA Mølnlycke company in Tønsberg, Norway, the
largest producer of menstrual pads and tampons in
Norway, created an exhibit about menstruation in their county museum (!) on the
occasion of the company's 50th anniversary. Lasse
Gjertsen faxed MUM that the company would send more
information about the exhibit in the next few weeks. In
the meantime, look at the Website of a
non-American manufacturer of menstruation products!
Instead Bent the Rules!
A securities analyst kindly sent me information about
Instead, the new menstrual cup (see
below), which indicates that the parent company
(Ultrafem) advertised that the total time a woman came
safely wear it as 12 hours, not the eight that
the Food and Drug Administration approved. And the
company altered the composition of the product after the
FDA approved it. It's not clear that either change will
harm the wearer, and I believe the FDA and Ultrafem are
discussing the changes. Ultrafem based its increased
length of usage on tests showing that the bacterial
count in the menstrual blood in the cup did not increase
when retained four more hours.
Another securities report calls holding shares in
Ultrafem "risky," because of doubts that enough women
will want to deal with the insertion and removal
process, leaking, as well as other reasons. Education is
the key, the report says, and I agree.
A similar product, Gynaeseal in Australia - it
even had (has?) an insertion device - failed recently
because of a "total lack of interest" on the part of the
Australian public and government. I thank Megan Hicks of
the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, for this
I work in a federal government office, and two weeks ago
I distributed six Instead cups to interested co-workers.
The one report I have so far gotten back is negative.
The tester simply didn't like the insertion and
But there may be enough interested women to make the
Menstrual Cups May Do
the Best Job - If
Women Can Overcome Negative Attitudes!
As discussed earlier (see below for a
discussion of cups in general), Ultrafem just
started marketing Instead (picture below) in the
western part of the U.S.A. (Or buy by telephone:
1-800-INSTEAD). It's a disposable
menstrual cup which costs less than 40 cents. Women have been able
to buy a re-usable cup since the 1980s, The Keeper
(see also MenstrualCentral)
(below), from a company in Ohio.
Instead sits (from the Instead instructions, with
added color). Ring is dark red, pouch is lighter
The Instead people say women can keep the cup in about twice
as long as they would a tampon, up to 12 hours
on light days. And users can wear the cup during sexual
intercourse for blood-free sex. As also mentioned below,
cups are probably the safest of all menstrual
But many women are reluctant to insert their fingers
into their vaginas, especially during menstruation, and
this may pose a problem for wide acceptance.
And there is the disposability factor - this is not
Finally, apart from the great merits of the product, I
must mention again that menstrual cups have been around
for decades (see the item below). The old Tassette and
Tassaway cups were advertised in mainstream, national
magazines like Bazaar, even if The Keeper is less widely
advertised (it deserves better). Advertising folks are
not telling the truth when they claim that - as Padette
also does in the next item down - Instead is the first
really new thing in menstrual protection in 60 years. See also my protest
There is a recent New Yorker magazine cartoon showing
a line of public relations people in front of the door
to PR hell. Above the door a sign reads (approximately,
anyway), "Abandon All Hype, Ye Who Enter Here."
Speaking of claims to being new, I hope that everyone
knows that all these "New!" exclamations
plastered on pad and tampon boxes are usually hype at
its worst. A Canadian observer of this Web site just
sent me an article about Procter & Gamble, which
reveals that they make over 200 versions of their Always
pad, some differing by no more than a millimeter in
I think it's simply a shameless attempt to delude
women into thinking that, at last!, this thing will
work for me. Always is not the only offender.
Try the Interlabial Padette!
Recently a graduate student called me and told me
about the Padette (below), a wedge of material the user
places between the lips of her vulva, not into
the vagina (picture below).
Women use them on light menstrual days, for light
urinary leakage or for other light secretions, and the
company - A-Fem Medical Corporation - says it has the
absorption capacity of a junior/regular tampon. The
manufacturer states that the pads stay put, without
adhesives, unlike the shifting usual pads, and they
don't bunch up. Padettes are made from the "same
materials commonly used in leading tampon products,
external pads and panty pads," without being highly or
super absorbent. They are changed with each urination,
and either flushed down the toilet or wrapped and thrown
into the trash.
If you live in Florida, find them in Walgreens drug
stores. Otherwise, order them by phone at 1-800-700-8716
(Pacific Standard Time 9-5). Ask questions at
1-800-764-6864 (EASTERN Standard Time 9-5). They cost
$7.05 for 48 (the minimum sold, in two boxes), which
includes shipping and handling.
I have two quibbles with the merchandising of
this probably good product:
-The actual name of the pad is Fresh 'n Fit Padettes.
Shouldn't there be an apostrophe after the "n," assuming
the word is "and"?
-And the company claims it's the "first major innovation
in feminine protection in over 60 years." Sixty years
ago was 1936, the year Tampax came out. But the first
commercial menstrual cup came out about 35 years ago,
and that was TRULY an innovation.
By the way, Instead, the menstrual cup which just
appeared, makes the same claim (see the two items, one
right above, the other several sections below).
MUM Looks for Additions
Do you have or know of items which belong in the
Museum of Menstruation? These can be articles, books,
ads, actual products (but unused!), packaging, pictures
or silly, kitschy things - and anecdotes or reports from
any culture. Actually ANYTHING concerning menstruation
in any culture, however humble, is a welcome addition to
the museum and archive.
Scholars and the public from around the world look to
the museum as a source for cultural information about
menstruation, and you can help them!
The museum is expanding its collection, and is seeking a
completely public place for its exhibits and archive -
and future cafe, shop and meeting and lecture halls.
Being considered also is a unique display of the history
of women's health, an expansion of the concept of the
news - Next later news
© 1996 Harry Finley. It is
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