I Got A 1950s Makeover
How to Teach Men About Period Paraphernalia
Welcome to BAZAAR.com's first ever Period Month, where for an entire four weeks we'll be publishing stories devoted to your period, delving into what really happens during a woman's cycle. Here, the founders of LOLA open up about why we need to start talking to men about our periods.
We’ve worked with both men and women our whole careers, so presenting to male colleagues had never been a challenge for us. However, one fateful day in 2014, when we entered a conference room full of male investors and proceeded to pitch them on a women’s health company where the first product would be a tampon, was the moment we learned we were in an entirely different ballgame.
Although half the population has a period at some point in their life, and most of the men in this meeting had wives, sisters, daughters, or to our surprise, all three, they actually knew very little about the logistics of our menstrual cycles. In the three years since we started and found ourselves dumbfounded in that first pitch meeting, encounters like these have become routine, and some of the questions we’ve received along the way are downright amusing: “So, you just use one tampon a month? Then a box of 18 would last you a year and a half?”
The first time we convinced a man to invest in us by dunking a tampon in a cup of water over a business lunch was formative. He had never seen a tampon in his life, and soaking it in water was the best way we could illustrate in real time ‘how tampons work.’ At times—most of the time—these uncertainties have made us laugh and then seriously question how and why men have been running tampon companies since the product was invented over 85 years ago. How can we expect men to understand firsthand what women deserved from the feminine care industry as a whole?
"We currently live in a culture where parents don’t talk to their sons about periods."
It’s clear from all the questions we’ve fielded from male investors over the years that we need to bridge a centuries-long knowledge gap.
We currently live in a culture where parents don’t talk to their sons about periods, where boys are shielded from this topic in sex-ed at school, and many women don’t have the confidence to talk openly about it with their male partners. This behavior, over a lifetime, has conditioned many men to think "period" is a dirty word and many women to feel ashamed. Yet, periods are part of the human experience for all of us.
By making periods a part of our normal, everyday conversation, we can open the door for the education of both sexes and start to remove the stigma for future generations. And, as we launch new products at LOLA, we’re looking for ways to engage with men and women broadly. In April, we launched our First Period Kit, a package of natural products and informative content to prepare teens and their parents for their first menstrual cycles. We received more than 1,000 inbound requests! We’re proud to offer a product that helps start productive conversations for all parents, regardless of gender.
The majority of period conversations we’ve had with men over the last three years have left us pleasantly surprised by their level of interest. Prior to launching LOLA we held focus groups for women across the country, speaking with friends, friends of friends, and even total strangers. We found that many participants had never spoken about their periods in public, but once they started talking and opened up, they didn’t want to stop. We’ve seen a similar trend emerge with men: it’s not that they resist talking about periods, they just never have the opportunity. But once our male friends, colleagues, or investors get over the initial shock value of talking about something deemed taboo, they want to know more.
"By making periods part of our everyday conversation, we can open the door for the education to remove the stigma for future generations. "
For investors specifically, we even added a “Vaginas 101” slide to our pitch deck, including insights about girls stuffing toilet paper in their underwear when they first get their period and aren’t prepared, the fact that pads/liners stick to underwear, and that shopping for women’s health products is often the least conscious purchasing decision made. Some have been in touch with follow up questions, and others even have the foresight to see that this is a product category that desperately needs more innovation and advancement.
That said, our period pitch is not always met with such eager reception. Just a few weeks ago we were gearing up for a live segment and received an email the night before asking to reschedule – the female anchor had fallen ill and it was assumed that we would want to hold off until a woman was available to lead the conversation with us on air. Naturally, we were upset; were we really about to miss out on an opportunity because men felt unequipped or embarrassed to talk about periods? We pushed to move forward as planned and the conversation turned out to be one of the best we’ve ever had. Once things got going, the male anchors did what we’ve seen time and time again—they became genuinely interested in the subject and the conversation flowed with ease.
While we’re proud of the progress that’s been made when it comes to talking about menstruation, we still have a long way to go to remove centuries of stigma. With the right allies and advocates on our side, we can normalize periods for future generations of men and women—until we’re all comfortable with the topic.
Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman are the co-founders of . They first met in the summer 2014, introduced by friends who had a hunch they'd hit it off. After a drink or two, Jordana asked Alex, "Have you ever wondered what's in a tampon?" Turns out, she hadn't. That small question sparked a big idea—a brand for women, by women.
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