What we call the "ewww" factor is a fact of life here at Lunapads (although most of the feedback we receive is overwhelmingly supportive, when it does come up it can kind of wreck your day.) Recently however there have been some interesting examples that have given me pause for thought about how we respond to it.
In the past, my reaction to icked-outedness has been to cite the billions of chemical-soaked pads and tampons festering in landfills, or to invite the ickee (as it were) to recall the discomfort of removing a tampon towards the end of one's menses, as examples of ick as I see it. The new Stayfree "date" videos are also standout ick contenders, but I digress.
And yet I certainly didn't start my journey of consciousness around menstruation where I am today. In fact, I'm sure that once upon a time, had you asked me what I thought of the idea of washable menstrual pads I might well have been totally icked. Apparently, what is and is not gross or disgusting to us today is not necessarily true for tomorrow.
What's interesting to me about it is that the folks who are able to be, oh - a bit more patient or self-conscious around it seem to end up in some interesting places, whereas those who can't get past it just stay grossed out. Some examples, forthwith!
I was recently asked how cisgender men (generally speaking) react to our products, and was happy to report that, at least in my experience, most have been very supportive and pragmatic, along the lines of: "You'll save money and have less to throw away - why not give it a try?"
That said, one man's discomfort with the idea of Lunapads and menstrual cups recently led to a very unusual and enlightened conclusion. In a guest post for industrial design blog Core77, consumer behavior researcher Steve Portigal tells his story. Steve takes his initial reaction of deep discomfort upon seeing a Lunapads ad for the first time and creatively uses it as a jumping off point for a key realization: that change and progress are often accompanied by discomfort.
Further to my observation about men's reactions, I pointed out that it's often women who have the strongest negative reactions. In a recent case, I was reading a post about our new "ditch the disposables" video on one of my favorite blogs, The Girlie Girl Army, and was struck by the first comment: "That is disgusting...really." Several dozen readers were quick to jump in with more positive sentiments, but it made me want to take some time to look at the whys and whats of these kinds of "uncomfortable" reactions to our products.
Given all the negative, shame-based messages we receive around our bodies and menstruation, is it any wonder that some of us have issues with menstruation and menstrual products in the first place?
Prenatal coach Crystal Di Domizio paints a beautifully honest picture of her transformation in a recent blog post about her experience with switching to our products: "The ewww factor always came up for me even though menstruation doesn’t make me squeamish. What I thought was going to be a huge hassle (but worth the extra work) actually ended up being easier and more enjoyable."
It's not easy to be Green blogger Ailanna further makes the excellent point in her recent "Getting over the squeamishness" post that our collective freakout about bodily fluids is essentially the engine that drives our unsustainable disposable culture: "The problem with our squeamishness is that it’s kind of killing the planet. Not singlehandedly, but in our plastic-loving disposable attitude, our conviction that we are somehow above having to deal with the messes we make as biological beings – surely enough."
While I have no wish to argue with icked-out prospective customers, it does make me wonder what can be said to help to get them to come down the tree, as it were. What I wish I could ask the grossed-out folk among us is about the origin of their discomfort: is it the notion of getting any closer to their menses than absolutely necessary, touching themselves intimately, the products or the hassle of cleaning them? Is there a gentle, creative way to support someone in whatever place they find themselves that doesn't necessarily imply that they are wrong? What do you think?