My Bloody Vagina is Not a Wound.
We live under a generalised assumption that all blood is bad. Blood is a signal that something is wrong. We are taught that blood equates to danger or injury and should therefore be absent from normal life. For many people the mere mention of blood can induce discomfort and even fear.
But to classify all blood as the same is to perpetuate a blind spot inherited from a culture dominated by superstition, immature science and men.
Fact: 51% of the population worldwide naturally bleed every month for over 35 years of their lifetime. Therefore menstruation is normal: It is not a sign something is wrong, it is a sign that a woman is healthy and fertile, it’s a totally natural aspect of our biology.
Prohibition - euphemisms and stagnation
For decades Femcare has been dominated by a total prohibition on blood, avoiding the colour red and any mention of blood when discussing periods.
Scared of cultural prurience the incumbent brands have created a lexicon of code words and intricate functional benefits that prey on women’s insecurities:
An obsession with hygiene - blood is dirty, yucky, messy
Disposability and flow rates - blood is a threat that must be mopped-up disposed of asap
Mysterious blue liquids - blood must never be seen it’s simply too shocking
Stealth packaging designed to be overlooked and unheard - if people know you’re menstruating they will consider you weakened and dirty
Even the category name Femcare was created to avoid mentioning the unmentionables.
The feelings of shame that have surrounded periods have suppressed a healthy discussion of the subject and this in turn has stifled innovation in the category.
Some incumbent brands have attempted to break their own rules and drop the blue liquid, show a glimpse of red, but it’s all so piecemeal and timid.
Despite all the talk of performance most women have experienced a failure of ‘protection’. True innovation from the incumbents has been so lacking we don’t yet have a safe chemical free, sustainable product that works.
The challenger opportunity
Here’s the twofold opportunity for menstruation challenger brands: Break the blood taboo, and offer certainty with genuinely innovative products.
Breaking the taboo
Breaking the taboo means prizing apart monosyllabic attitudes to blood, demanding menstrual bleeding be owned by women, and accepted as normal by everyone else. It’s time for new stories around periods that use positive language, encourage understanding and enhance the power our cycles represent.
Within the same cultural space, friendship group, or even within a our own lifetimes all women hold a rainbow of period stories. All of us will have a different history of flow, discomfort, and hormonal shifts. These will change over time and be subjected to external influences. But for most women, our periods are a predictable and manageable part of everyday life. They do not need to be shrouded in fear and chaos.
If we can create a common parlance to discuss our experiences and our demands, and ditch the euphemisms, we can start to see the value in the range of our shared menstrual experiences. From this well of suppressed knowledge great insight and innovation can emerge.
The taboo breaking conversation must be supported by efficacious new product choices, and it’s starting to happen.
Us women have had two or three options for blood management: Tampons, pads, and recently menstrual cups. Period proof underwear is another option that has recently joined the mainstream. PPU sits between tampons and pads and offers all the benefits of pads in an easy and reusable format.
It is interesting to note that these products map directly to an attitudinal spectrum that moves from blood avoidance at one end, through to blood acceptance at the other.
Where each woman registers on this spectrum, how she feels towards her own menstrual blood will greatly influence the period product she adopts.
The more open and accepting we are of menstruation the more choices we have.
When it comes to periods women know best. Our experiences and our bodies should be at the forefront of reclaiming what it means to have a menstrual cycle. Our preferences and demands should be at the forefront of innovation.
Every person who menstruates deserves the right to choose exactly what works for them, and our realm of innovation ought to reflect that. As a society, we have a wider responsibility to deconstruct the existing dialogue, destabilise the status quo and readdress our attitudes to blood. We must champion conversation for the sake of liberation.