By Zoe Titus
Edited by Kathleen Khorn
Period. What comes to mind? I could be referencing punctuation, time, maybe even women? One 25-minute Netflix documentary raised some question marks.
“Period. End of Sentence.” in summary, painted the once-a-month lives of Indian women through often silent interviews, unsanitary conditions, and the rising popularity of homemade cotton pads in largely rural areas. In India and many other countries around the world, a girl or woman’s period is often titled “bad blood,” considered dirty, taboo, or even sinful. The pain, unhygienic norms, and the shame involved in having one’s period leads to the dropping of girls from school, harming their education quality and futures.
Though there are dire consequences of periods, men and women alike do not dare speak of it. The aversion to the existence of woman and their bodies allows the continuation of poor hygiene, adverse consequences, disrespect of bodies, and even rape - when disposing or changing their rags, many women are harassed and sometimes forced into harmful situations.
After watching this beautifully symbolic and eye-openingly uncomfortable documentary, I realized something about the feminine product industry. The people who are at the top - bosses, CEOs, and founders - are mostly men. Why, if female bodies are the only ones to experience periods, are men who do not undergo them at the core of the products we use? Is it because they want to solve the problem of so-called “bad blood?” In the documentary, the man who began breaking down social criticisms and created the machine for women to make their own pads in India was motivated by his wives’ pain and need. Is this the reason for American entrepreneurs as well?
The lack of women in high management positions in America might not be so much of gender discrimination, but possibly more that women are socially expected to start a family and be the primary caregiver. Women fill up much of the lower-level management and even middle-management, but at the top, it is almost entirely male-dominated according to the Huffington Post.
Though men are at the top decision-making jobs in the feminine product industry, it might not be all bad. The Huffington Post interviewed a woman who works at Procter & Gamble (a company that owns Always, Just, Tampax, and This is L.) and she surprisingly relayed that the men at the top relied on market research to make change and brainstorm on their products, but that their solutions and new ideas often reflected exactly what women want in feminine products. What the woman was saying was that the decision makers were capable of holding their positions, even though they didn’t have the life experience of a woman.
The feminine product, or even household product industries are not that much different than the rest of Corporate America in terms of percentage of women in business. According to this graph created by Catalyst Data, women often only make up larger percentages near the bottom of the workforce.
The real reason women aren’t at the top of industries centered around their own bodies is because of a nation-wide spanning issue (world-spanning, actually). Babies and gender roles. Since women are more likely to leave their jobs once they build a family, even if the woman might not have a baby for a few years, or never have one, the company will hesitate to promote them to largely competitive or important positions. The reliability of women staying in the workforce is too much of a liability for the company. So, the real solution would come not from promoting women more readily, but from breaking down gender constructs and allowing men and women to equally share the responsibilities of caring for their household. If it was more socially acceptable for men to be the primary caretakers, we would have a more diverse workforce in America. Once social constructs such as gender roles are broken down, more promotions for women would come naturally, and women would become more involved in the American marketplace and the American government. People must continue using feminism to normalize women in power and emotions in men. We are more similar than we are different, let’s reflect that truth in our society and our systems.