Menstrual cycles - ancestry, emancipation and sustainability of female bodies
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Menstrual cycles - ancestry, emancipation and sustainability of female bodies

Authors: Ambiafro Scientific Dissemination Nucleus

When we study the reproductive system in the classroom, in elementary and high school, little is said about the creation of an intimate relationship that we are able to develop between our female body and the proper care that we must dedicate to the sacred abode. Over the years, technological and medical advances have made the female body/uterus a complex and delicate place of experimentation that surrounds female life to the present day. It is extremely important to point out that the emancipation of bodies, gender and even the movements that fought for women's freedom and expression, were relevant for us to start a discussion about all the negative effects that the intense use of both medication and the use of disposable pads can cause the body.

Rescue of intense and true knowledge

According to African philosophy, ancestry is feminine, since the body must be the balance and harmony of feminine and masculine energies, in which the feminine energy is the one who contemplates existence, which creates, generates and co-creates. According to Adilbenia Freire Machado. In her title text “ African Philosophy and Feminine Ancestral Knowledge: uterus of the world” (2020), the author also points out that the feminine is the womb of the world, power of life, collective, which carries an entire ancestry that allows us to be, exist, resist, re-exist, because of that we are ancestors, together with our bodies. Ancestry is nature.

In indigenous tribes, the intimate relationship between matriarchs and girls who have their first menstruation, called menarche, is marked by welcoming and teaching with the ancestral women of these traditional groups, mothers and grandmothers mainly. The first menstruation of women from the Ticuna peoples, who make up one of the largest indigenous groups in Brazil, is marked by a complex ancestral and traditional ritual that lasts three (3) days. For the Paiter Suruí indigenous people, located between Rondônia and Mato Grosso, recollection, during the first menstruation, serves as a rite of passage that lasts for six (6) months – during this period the girl is under the care of her grandmother and mother, learn to weave cotton and prepare for adult life.

Are the rituals lost or forgotten?

A combination of technology, facilitation of untracking of medical waste and justification in design has made sanitary products full of plastic, thus including sanitary napkins.

In the 1920s, cardboard-based tampons were very well used and accepted by the female population. Other products such as fabric-based pads and attached to a belt next to the underwear were widely used by women. An important point that should be considered, exalted and remembered is the contribution of Mary Beatrice, an African American who developed the belts that were used by women in those times, since Beatrice had her history erased and forgotten due to racism.

Another important and critical point that must be highlighted is that if we stop to think about the physical and gender characteristics of the researchers who were responsible for the development of absorbent products in general in the 60s, the majority were represented by white men who did not know exactly the female condition and discomfort these women faced during their menstrual period. Due to the lack of technology that was considered practical and not disposable for day-to-day use and due to the advancement of plastic development studies, sanitary pads were adapted with a completely plastic cover that guaranteed greater absorption of the menstrual flow and thus gained space in the market and on the shelves of pharmaceutical companies worldwide, having important brands that were leaders in its development.

If we stop to think exactly how long we use a plastic absorbent to contain the menstrual flow, we can say that its use is very brief compared to the time it takes to disappear in nature. It is estimated that plastic takes an average of 450 years to disappear in nature, so its degradation can go through different stages until reaching small dimensions that science classifies as microplastic, since this one causes problems on ecological scales within of the ecosystem. A woman can have menstrual cycles for about 40 years and if we estimate that same time in relation to the use of disposable pads it is equivalent to the use of 16 thousand disposable pads throughout her life and in expenses it is equivalent to 10 thousand reais during all this time.

Sustainable alternatives

Allergies and infections are some of the problems that we can highlight due to the intense use of pads, not to mention the environmental impact that it generates, as previously highlighted. Therefore, the current market has reinvented itself with regard to the use of sustainable and reusable absorbents, that is, those that cause less damage to the environment and can be reused at each cycle. These alternatives involve cloth sanitary pads, silicone menstrual cups for internal use and even absorbent panties, since they are gaining a lot of space in the market and in female bodies.

Thinking about these alternatives as a use in our cycle does not only involve discussing their contribution to the environment, but even a rescue of a more intimate relationship that we build with our body during this period, being able to better observe the blood flow together with the color. of fluid that can indicate menstrual period health stages and even greater comfort compared to traditional pads.

Despite the advances regarding the awareness of the use of reusable pads, it is of great importance to highlight here that many women, mainly black and non-white women, do not have this intimate relationship with the body and the possibility of accessing the sustainable seal built by the current female society. . Black women are the vast majority in the periphery and on the streets, the crossings that run through these bodies are strong, requiring a more sensitive look at this portion of the population as a focus for the development of conversations and awareness about feminine hygiene. Since alternatives for income generation and the inclusion of these women in production chains for sustainable sanitary napkins can be an important way to build a sense of belonging and autonomy for their bodies, including their active participation in the economy.


  1. African Philosophy and Female Ancestral Knowledge: Womb of the World
  2. Disposable pad: history, environmental impacts and alternatives
  3. How tampons became so unsustainable
  4. Mary Kenner
  5. Belts to hold menstrual pads
  6. #WeTest | Menstruation
  7. Ancestral History
  • Muito boa a analise, especialmente por fazer o recorte de raça. A conversa sobre absorventes reutilizáveis não deveria ficar restrita a um pequeno grupo de mulheres, senão, qual é o sentido, né?

    Heloiza Camargo on
  • Esse texto é rico e contempla questões necessárias a se discutir. A simplicidade da natureza nos ensina tudo, mas infelizmente nem sempre escutamos e/ou enxergamos.
    E que nós, com a acesso a conhecimento possamos resgatar nossa ancestralidade e seguir nossa natureza. Começar usando opções mais sustentáveis já é o primeiro passo. Obrigada equipe Ambiafro.

    Mariana on
  • Parabéns pelo texto. Muito pertinente.

    Iamara on
  • Na minha época ainda se usava os panos como absorventes e eram reutilizaveis mas não fomos educados nem orientados em relação ao impacto ambiental optando com isso por absorventes industriais por sentir “nojo” do nosso próprio corpo. Muito pertinente a dissertação em relação ao histórico e incentivo à volta dos absorventes sustentáveis.

    Márcia Regina Nascimento Lyrio on

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