There are many challenges and contentious discussions around the subject of Menstruation. From the taboo, stigma and varied beliefs; there also comes the practicality of managing Menstruation.
My project explores the physicality of using the available line of menstrual products among various users. It promotes inclusive design thinking behind Menstrual products, for innovation and equality with a particular focus to people with physical impairments.
Menstrual management is a process that is thought to be a discreet and a personal task for the majority, though inconvenient, managing menstrual blood is a quick and easy ‘fix’ with the products available to absorb or collect one’s flow. Though is it? The limited products available pose an additional cost, costs of either harming the environment due to the industries plastic consumption and medical concerns such as toxic shock syndrome.
Much conversation has opened up around the topic of Menstruation, particularly those focused on the industries product materials such as protests against the plastic in period products. Though this is a fundamental aspect to tackle for different reasons, it does not address the much-needed design shift within the industry. However, protesting against disposable menstrual products such as tampons and sanitary towels further limits the choice without proposing a suitable design alternative and considering the many who heavily rely on disposable products.
There are very few options for reusable menstrual products. However, reusable does not necessarily mean it is ‘sustainable’. Reusable products such as Menstrual cups are often complex to use, and one would need to have specific mobility to insert and remove; also the design does not consider the possibility of ‘abnormalities’ of one’s cervix and internal functions. Though the Menstrual cup design is efficient and has additional benefits such as affordances, the audiences for this product are limited. Moreover, reusable products such as pads and menstrual underwear are often expensive to buy and may need to be changed multiple times a day, depending on the heaviness of one’s menstrual flow. In addition to reusable menstrual fabrics, they will need to be washed in regular intervals which can prove to be a challenging task for some.
For Studio formative part 1 exhibition, I curated an interactive exhibit, which surveyed the audience to respond on what they thought to be the most and least ‘efficient’ product to use for managing Menstruation.
The collage represents the material in which disposable menstrual product derives. A scenic image, consisting of a cotton field and women are inserting and removing tampons, a concept that manifests the type of movement required to use this conventional product. The colourful round star behind these women is not an identifiable message without explicit explanation; however it is a wheelchair wheel, this was to create the contrasts of movement, and the ability to use this product without the dexterity of one’s legs.
The collage expresses the association of ‘impairment’ and menstrual management. The loss of senses in this instance can potentially pose challenges for some. For example, challenges distinguishing menstrual blood from other fluids, as well as, knowing when the ‘Product’ has reached capacity and needs to be changed.
The collage visualises the narrative of the contraceptive method in the context of menstrual suppression. There are many reasons why someone might choose to use contraception, as well as responding successfully to their body. However, the choice of this method and its ‘success’ is not guaranteed. For some, it may be the last resort, and as a result, may not fulfil the expectations and respond to the body well.
The variations of contraceptive methods such as the Pill, Implant, Injection and even Hysterectomy Surgery may be a harmful risk and additional hazards for those who are medically vulnerable. Furthermore, the transparency of the potential effects that these hormonal manipulators can have on the mind and body is hard to generalise to varied users.
The ideology behind this model challenges both practicality and physicality of the limitations and functions that conventional menstrual products offer. The ‘Feminine Hygiene’ industry has operated for the last 90 years without enforcement to innovate, and the limited line of products available do not consider the diversity of its users. For instance, the Menstrual Cup, though in some perspectives, materially ‘sustainable’ and beneficial for long-term finances. Due to the complexity of its operation, particularly concerning the insertion and removal methods, it produces many obstacles and diminishes inclusivity to a wide range of users.
By combining a menstrual cup with a catheter, it adapts this equipment into a funnel system concept, which associates menstrual products in a medical context.
The function of this concept collects menstrual blood within a catcher bag to avoid a mess. Furthermore, due to the dexterity and mobility requirements to use a menstrual cup, the beneficial elements of this concept could potentially help those who are unable to manage the Cup efficiently and frequently, by the reduction of insertion and removal.
The function of this design is not inclusive and perhaps not realistic. However, the ideology of industries merging to design for inclusivity proposes the fundamental importance of innovation within menstrual product design.
It is necessary to address the diversity of users concerning menstrual management. To innovate for accessibility in such a critical industry can help many understand and accept the ‘normality’ of menstruation and diversity among people. Breaking the layers of discrimination by considering individuals of whom have less access to many systems and products within society.