6. Framing Menstrual Products as Positive
6.1. Framing on the individual level: Growing demand for better solutions
Demand for solutions that are better for the environment, for the body, more user friendly and more affordable is currently being expressed, where it has not before.
An argument used to demand better products is wanting products that are more sustainable. For example, respondents often argue that the growing use of menstrual cups is largely due to the sustainability movement, which has contributed to more and more products, services, and behaviors being scrutinized in terms of their environmental, social and economic footprints. Lisa Perby at MonthlyCup argues that because of people’s increasing concern with engaging in more sustainable consumption patterns, individuals are also more willing to try new, more sustainable alternatives than the conventional products. Perby stated that,
“Looking at today’s political debate, there is a lot surrounding the environment, which did not exist to the same extent when I started using the menstrual cup in 2010.”
The menstrual cup in and of itself has destigmatizing effects, since its use counteracts the stigma that is associated with engaging with one’s menstrual blood on the level of what is required when using a menstrual cup, and thus contributes to the destigmatization of menstruation and menstrual products. This point is argued by respondents such as Perby and Solgun Drevik and is further discussed in the section on the social risk of trying new products under innovation and entrepreneurship.
While sustainability is becoming a growing concern among consumers, it is clear that environmental concern is still secondary to the physical and social aspects of menstrual products, such that physical comfort and user friendliness as well as the security of knowing one’s product will not leak and cause social discomfort.
Furthermore, growing demand for better solutions is closely linked to other factors identified as driving destigmatization, such as informed choice and shifting consumer demand as well as growing menstrual literacy. An increasingly enlightened consumer is likely to learn about solutions that might suit them better, as well as triggering them to reflect on their needs and wants from a menstrual product. This includes economic, environmental as well as aspects concerning their own safety and comfort.
Nevertheless, as previously discussed, by considering menstrual products in terms of sustainability, there is increased potential for normalization, not least because discussing any products or services in terms of their sustainability has become increasingly common. By employing sustainability as a frame and source for innovation of menstrual products, the discussion around the products becomes associated with two concepts that are generally perceived as normal or important.
In this way, innovation and, in particular, sustainable innovations, aid in destigmatization.
Manufacturers naturally source information about their potential customer base’s needs and wants where sustainability is identified as a trend to be picked up on.
Sofia Ekstedt at Essity stated that,
“Sustainability is one example of one such large international trend that you can pick up through different channels. You can pick it up in interviews with consumers, but also from customers, so retailers, or just if you monitor what’s being written online…”
In order to meet consumer demands for sustainable solutions, companies and entrepreneurs continuously work with trying to find new, more sustainable materials to construct either existing or new types of products. Senior Environmental Specialist at Essity, Ellen Riise, stated that,
“To make the smallest possible environmental footprint with our products, we try to find ways to work with renewable materials, materials that can be disposed in existing recycling systems and such. So, that is very challenging, that’s something we look at a lot.”
Due to the positive connotations of sustainability, framing products as sustainable has profitable effects on sales, even though that may not be a company’s primary selling point, initially. Lisa Perby, co-founder and CEO at MonthlyCup, for instance, started selling menstrual cups because she found them so practical and wanted to bring them outside the environmentally conscious, or “ultra-green”
community, as Perby stated, which was much smaller in 2010 than it is today.
Incidentally, with the rise of environmental consciousness, menstrual cups are increasingly sold on the basis of being more sustainable than other alternatives.
Perby points out that it is one of the four key success factors of their business arguing that,
“When I started using the menstrual cup in 2010, I thought it was an ultra-green product because I was forced by an ultra-green friend to try it. But if you look at the debate today, it’s a lot about the environment.”
Another way individuals are framing menstrual products to encourage them to be taken more seriously as a lucrative area, deserving of financing and innovation initiatives, is in accordance with feminism. For example, Michael Moscherosch argued that access to suitable menstrual products is imperative in working toward gender equality, and thus frames the menstrual product matter in terms of feminism. Moscherosch stated that,
“If anybody talks about gender equality without addressing menstrual hygiene management, they essentially should shut up, because it’s not going to happen. If a woman can’t go to work, if a girl can’t go to school, there is not gender equality.”
Because of the stigma, the culture of silence around menstruation seems to have left the matter of access to menstrual products to the market alone rather than
actively striving toward it on an institutional level. This is currently shifting, where more and more countries and states across the world are providing free, tax-free or reduced taxed menstrual products (Eddy, 2019; UK Government, 2021;
In summary, framing menstrual products as a matter of sustainability is encouraging people to think and talk about products from the perspective on how efficient they are in terms of resource use, and how they can be evaluated socially, economically, and environmentally. The more people talk about sustainability, the more normalized it is becoming and by normalizing sustainability, that which is discussed in terms of sustainability can also be normalized through association.
In this way, framing menstrual products as positive matters such as sustainability contributes to destigmatization.