Unless you’ve been literally menstruating for the past two weeks and therefore understandably excused from all world business, you’ve probably heard by now that the “feminist utopia” promised by the founder of period-panty company Thinx was…not so much. Founder Miki Agrawal has been accused by former employees of a myriad of unsettling claims, from subpar compensation to sexual harassment. It’s a serious blow to a company that made its name promoting body acceptance and exploding taboos.
So what’s a troubled menstruator to do?
Conventional period products, while liberating, are intensely problematic: many tampons and pads contain bleach and artificial fragrances, and the manufacturing processes are extremely resource-intensive. There are over 20 billion tampons and pads in landfills now, and these products take years and years to degrade. Add to that the risk of TSS, bacterial infections, and allergic reactions — not to mention the sheer inhumanity of stuffing dry wads of wood-pulp up your vagina, and the estimated up to $5000 women will spend over their lifetimes for that privilege — and it’s enough to send any bleeder crawling to her Red Tent.
Thankfully, Thinx isn’t the only name in the mindful menstruation game: there are many other companies delivering sustainably-made, comfortable, and effective alt-period products that let a girl free bleed in peace.
Thinx may have cornered the market with their provocative advertising, but there are other options for period panties that (as far as we know!) aren’t run by megalomaniac bullies. Knixwear’s “active intimates” are sleek, seamless, and crazy high-tech: their all-natural odor- and moisture-wicking fabrics were developed in Italy and have been wear-tested on a super inclusive range of women to ensure fit and comfort on the full spectrum of women’s bodies (they source their gorgeously diverse “models” from Instagram). Bonus: they’re Canadian, and their small, woman-led operation here in Toronto has donated thousands of intimates to women in need at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. You can get the leak-proof insert in any of their styles, which absorbs about two tampons worth of blood (if you’re a righteous bleeder at the beginning of your cycle, use them as a backup). Just pop them in the washing machine, and you’re good to go again next month.
Sea sponges are non-toxic, naturally anti-microbial, and basically turn your body into its own functioning coral reef. These little buddies shape themselves to your curves, are sex-friendly, and, when properly positioned, should protect you for a full day. Proponents love the comfort and sustainability; sceptics say squeezing out a sponge of blood in a public sink is exactly as murder-y as it sounds.
Holy Sponge! is a queer, lady-owned business that sells “ritual moon kits” that come with everything you need to weather your cycle for a full year, including a hand-picked ritual plant for your smudging ceremony, because of course. As far as unconventional options go, this one might be the kookiest; still, it’s a pretty perfect union of form and function, and a great way to get more in touch with the intricacies of your body.
Menstrual cups are the bunny hill for tampon devotees: a small, silicone cup inserted into your vagina that collects your flow. Once again, they are far more environmentally-friendly than pads or tampons: if cared for properly, one menstrual cup can last up to 10 years. Insertion and removal take some getting used to, and leaks can be an issue if the cup doesn’t create a seal; still, they’re way more comfortable than tampons once in place, and require far less attention during the day.
Looncup, currently in funding on Kickstarter, is hoping to be the first smart menstrual cup. It uses a small, embedded sensor to track everything from the volume and colour of your flow to the timing of your cycle, with the aim of giving bleeders a fuller picture of their health. If you’re not totally down with a mini Wall-E up your vag, try Lunette: their lady-led team has a great history of charity work and their cups come in a variety of colours and sizes.
Let she who has never crocheted her own tampons cast the first stone: cloth pads are readily available online, equally as absorbent as commercial products, and infinitely more earth-friendly. They’re also made of cotton, which is soft, breathable, and much kinder to your precious parts. Cloth pads come in a variety of sizes, can be washed alongside the rest of your clothes, and should last at least 5 years.
Gladrags, a Certified B, woman-run corporation, hand-makes their rags in Portland (surprise!). The fabric pads have removable inserts that clasp around your regular underwear to keep them in place, and come with a travel bag that allows you to keep them safely concealed when changing pads in public (every 2-6 hours, depending on flow), if you’re one of those brazen women who dares to leave the house while fervently bleeding.