I attended a conference at the beginning of June and there I had the privilege of sharing my research with others. A professor at the conference directed me to the book, Feminist Technologies (2010), which I can’t seem to put down. Through case study, the book explores a myriad of feminine technologies such as tampons, breast pumps, birth control even home pregnancy tests and offers an analysis of whether or not these technologies empower women or do more harm than good.
The book got me thinking about sustainability and while I agree that tampons have offered women more freedom, they also contribute to women’s health problems as well as environmental degradation. Rather than post another plug for The Diva Cup, I want to shed some light on an alternatives product Sharra L. Vostral discusses in her chapter, “Tampons: Rescripting Technologies as Feminist”.
Natracare, a German-based organic producer of feminine hygiene products, produces the best alternative to reusable menstrual products and are available at a number of grocery and drug stores worldwide.
In researching the company I learned so much more about the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products. Did you know that a regular box of sanitary pads is equivalent to four shopping bags? And tampon applicators are equally guilty of the same crime. How many of us own at least one reusable shopping bag and how many of us have purchased it because we recognize how harmful plastic can be on the environment? If we are aware of this devastation, and by reading the last two sentences you now are, why do so many of us continue to use disposable feminine hygiene products?
I found the following video to be both educational and also empowering for women worldwide who have sought after a disposable product that really is good for them and the earth. And best of all the product was designed and manufactured by a woman!
Vostral also talks about two other innovative products, Vipon and RapeX. Vipon was designed by Steve Kilgore in an attempt to ease his wife’s menstrual cramps. The tampon has a built-in motor that has been clinically proven to ease the discomfort of menstrual pain. Although Vipon’s environmental impact is high, the product raises the question: If a man can design something that helps relieve a woman’s menstrual cramps, how much more can a woman who actually experiences these symptoms achieve if she begins her own designs?
A second innovation Vostral discusses is RapeX, a rape-deterrent technology worn internally by women. Sonnet Ehlers designed the device after learning about the high rape rates in South Africa and hearing the personal testimony of rape victims. The device has built-in burrs that embed themselves in the penis when pressure is released. The only way for the burrs to be removed is through surgery which Ehlers believes can help police track and punish rapists. Read more about the product in this article from the New York Times.
I am excited about these products and the future potential for feminist technologies. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all products women used were created by women and with a woman’s good health in mind? I think Vostral and the other researchers in Feminist Technologies are onto something revolutionary and am hopeful that many of us will join in the conversation.