People who menstruate, have you ever faced the following dilemma: you are on your period, and you need to dispose of your pad or tampon. But all you have are your bare hands. What do you do? What if I told you that a group of men came up with a ‘solution’ to this (apparently) pressing issue?
There are a ton of useless vaginal products out there. The latest one is called Pinky Gloves, brought to you by a group of three men, which are essentially a pair of gloves designed to prevent you from getting blood on your hands when removing period products. The pair then forms its own bag, which you can use when disposing of your tampon or pad (instead of using its original wrapping, or toilet paper, I guess). And it’s bright pink of course, because what other colour would women want?
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Yes, Pinky Gloves sounds like the exact type of product someone who knows little to nothing about periods, or vaginas, would make. The founders are two men, Eugen Raimkulow and Andre Ritterswürden. The duo first presented the nightmarish product on the German TV show Die Höhle der Löwen, where inventors go to seek money from investors. Ralf Dümmel, a businessman, invested €30,000 into the Pinky Gloves, and so then there were three.
As you can probably imagine, this little invention caused some serious uproar. The gloves gained online attention worldwide after gynaecologist Jennifer Gunter tweeted out about them, “So these dudes designed pink gloves so tampons and pads can be disposed of properly and discreetly. I shit you not.” Others described the gloves as sexist, environmentally unsustainable, and blamed them for further stigmatising menstruation—while monetising on the stigma surrounding it too. For three men who do not menstruate in the first place, it was pretty much a win-win situation.
The whole premise of the product implies that having to touch your period blood, or struggling to find discreet ways of disposing of your period product are the most pressing issues people who menstruate face worldwide. For so long, periods have been deemed as something ‘dirty’, and something that we need to hide. It’s still so rare to see a pad or tampon advert where real blood (or at least something resembling blood) is used, and I’m sure many of us can recall the gut-wrenching panic of getting blood on our light coloured jeans, or the sheepish walk into the school bathroom with hidden tampons stuffed up our sleeve. But let me say this once so we’re all clear: menstrual blood is perfectly normal, it can be touched and washed off.
In many ways, Pinky Gloves is trying to be a solution to a problem that simply doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, period poverty is at an all-time high worldwide, and in the UK alone, almost a third (30 per cent) of girls aged 14 to 21 have had issues either affording or accessing sanitary wear in lockdown.
Stigma surrounding menstruation, along with lack of necessary education, are contributing factors to period poverty. Tampon tax is a term used to call attention to feminine hygiene products being subject to value-added tax, unlike the tax exemption status granted to other products considered to be necessities. While some countries have lifted this tax, it is still a pressing global issue.
The ‘pink’ tax is a similar term used to describe how products marketed towards women are often more expensive than those marketed for men (for example; razors, shampoos, and shower gels). In many ways, Pinky Gloves are contributing to this ‘pink’ tax—the gloves were reportedly sold for €11.96 for a pack of 48. Not that you need an alternative, but just doing a quick Amazon search, I found a pack of 100 disposable gloves for £10.49 (converting to roughly €12). Pinky Gloves are marketed as ‘femine’ and as an essential hygiene product, but are sold at a significantly higher cost than most hygiene products. After all, they are pink!
Amidst all the backlash (and some great memes), the great minds behind Pinky Gloves have released a few official statements, acknowledging their errors and apologising for them. In the latest one, they said they are pulling the product off the market, adding that “at no point did we intend to discredit anyone or make a natural process taboo.”
“The good thing about the current situation is that the period and its political aspects are getting a lot of attention and the important social discourse is now widespread,” reads the first official statement of the product’s Instagram. The truth is, as ridiculous as the gloves are, Pinky Gloves does highlight one pressing issue caused by menstruation (and spoiler alert, it’s not the blood getting on your hands).
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There is a sheer lack of education when it comes to sexual and gender health, and therefore the fact that this product exists should not come as a surprise. In fact, Pinky Gloves have a reported revenue of $704,000—highlighting the fact that there are people out there purchasing them. Periods should not be taboo, but the reality is that they still are. As a society, we certainly do not talk about them enough.
There is one thing that the founders of Pinky Gloves are right about—the fact that this discourse needs to be had. And I hope that the backlash does not discourage other men from trying to take an active role in improving feminine health. But it should be done through education, or in other words: an increase of listening to people who menstruate.
The main blind spot of Pinky Gloves was the lack of research and insight into their product. Perhaps the founders had good intentions at heart, but they didn’t think twice. After all this controversy, no Pinky Gloves for you, boo.