The Associated Students Women’s Center is hosting “Women, Herbs, and Alternatives,” which will offer information on non-mainstream menstruation products.

Roberta Romm will be coming to Western on Thurs., November 10 to facilitate a free workshop on alternative menstruation products. Romm is a certified herbologist from Bastyr University. The workshop will include information on alternative products, herbs which relieve Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, a lecture entitled “Formulating the Goddess,” and the ideas behind the moon cycle. The workshop will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will take place in Viking Union room 565.

“The idea behind this workshop, and all our workshops, is to provide alternatives,” said Women’s Center co-coordinator Hana Kato. “The options for periods are presented as only tampons or pads,” Kato said. This program will explore products and herbal supplements for menstruating women.

Kato said that people have become very used to how menstruation is portrayed in American culture, and that it is often hard for people to even talk about periods or using alternative products.

“Most people don’t even know about alternative products and I’ll talk about them and girls will laugh. It makes them uncomfortable, but it is a valid option.”

Because of this discomfort, Kato is worried that the turnout for the event won’t be as strong as she would like. She is trying to shake that off, saying, “There is always resistance to the unknown. We’re taught that periods are gross and unnatural.”

Kato said that this widely-held cultural view that menstruation is “unsanitary” and “gross,” is due in part to how we are educated during puberty. “I’m really disappointed in the education given to us on how to ‘deal’ with a normal body function,” said Kato.

Many people, Kato said, are so quick to “deal” with menstruation that they don’t consider the negative aspects of using traditional products. Kato contends that traditional products like tampons and pads are cost-ineffective, since such products are not reusable and are expensive. “Tampons and pads also produce a lot of waste,” Kato said, with large amounts of plastic wrapping and applicators ending up in landfills.

Kato also argues that besides harming the environment and being cost-ineffective, traditional products are bad for individuals’ health. Almost all tampons are bleached to give a “clean and sanitary” look to them, Kato said. Tampons can also cause micro-tears on the inside of the vagina, especially at the end of menstruation, which can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome, said Kato.

Kato thinks that there are three main alternative menstruation products currently on the market. The first is the sea sponge, which can be reused for four to six months. Kato said that you can buy sea sponges in a pack of two for nine dollars.

The second alternative product is the reusable organic cotton pad. It has a flannel-like texture, boasts far more comfort than regular pads, and can be washed and reused, cutting back on waste.

The third is called the Keeper. It is a rubber cup, similar to a diaphragm, which can be purchased at the Co-op for 33 dollars, and which can last ten years.

Kato understands that many people feel overwhelmed and even frightened by some alternative menstruation products. She said that even taking a small step from using plastic applicators to organic applicators, or no applicator at all, still has an effect.

“It can take a while to warm up to this stuff,” Kato said, “so by slowly introducing these ideas, people will become more receptive.”

For more information on Romm’s workshop, alternative menstruation products, or the Women’s Center, call 650-6114 or visit VU 514.