Have you ever considered the health risks or environmental impacts of menstrual products? You might want to! Pads and tampons comprise a multi-billion dollar global industry, one that recently has been criticized for its toxicity AND its waste. This has left many looking for alternatives, but it can be hard to choose! With dozens of new ‘organic’ tampons companies and rising brands like THINX, there has certainly been an influx of options for when you bleed. With all the new products, new dialogue has opened. For instance, what is menstrual activism? How can I minimize my ecological footprint? With so many new choices, how do I know which product is right for me?
Amid all these questions, one company in particular stood out to us for their minimal waste approach and great message: Holy Sponge! Based out of Cali, this company operates via Etsy and BigCartel. Composed of activists, they address their customers as “bleedin’ babes” and sell cute kits filled with actual sea sponges, and other goodies. The founder, Janeen, gave us the scoop on alternative menstruation products, feminism, and how they go together!
Ready to toss those toxic tampons? You’re in luck! Holy Sponge! And Good Clean Love have teamed up to do a giveaway. Enter now on insta to win the Holy Sponge! Bleed Indigo kit. We’re also throwing in a full size CBD lube, CaraGold, (great for cramps! ) and Balance intimate wash … a $72 retail value, fo’ free. Here is our compelling interview with Holy Sponge!
Q: What are some reasons NOT to use traditional pads and tampons?
A: Unfortunately, conventional pads and tampons are full of toxins & known carcinogens. These products fill the shelves of mainstream stores and although they are the most socially acceptable menstrual product, the public still has not been fully informed of what ingredients are actually in them and the manufacturers are not required to label them. The scientific testing that is done to “ensure safety” is done by companies paid by Procter and Gamble instead of neutral, impartial scientists/researchers.
Another reason to not use these conventional pads and tampons is that they are piling up in our landfills and oceans. Think about the amount of packaging ad plastic involved. There’s the trash produced in making these products (especially rayon) and then the trash produced in consuming them.
Q: Historically, have sponges been used for menstrual hygiene? If so, when and by whom?
A: Yes! There are numerous accounts of ancient people using sponges both as a cervical barrier and as a method of collecting menstrual blood in Mediterranean regions, Poland, Ukraine, and American coastal regions. Cleopatra is also said to have used menstrual sponges.
Q: Menstrual sponges may not be everyone’s thing, what are some other non toxic hygiene options that have a low impact on the environment?
A: Menstrual cups are great, especially for folks with a heavy flow. Re-usable pads are very comfortable and we like to refer to them as “pussy pillows” (if you try them after having used disposable pads, they really feel like a pillow!). Organic tampons are safer for your body than regular tampons but they do not solve the waste issue.
Q: Holy Sponge tries to instill in women that bleeding is a blessing: why should we be happy to menstruate?
A: We are trying to reverse decades of social messaging that has told women and people who menstruate that they are are dirty and that should feel shame about a natural process which occurs every 3 or 4 weeks for some, although it varies person to person. We don’t necessarily feel that folks should feel happy about their cycles, but if they can look at their menstrual blood without shame, that would be fantastic. For some, happiness is a part of experiencing their cycles. For others, they are listening to their bodies and able to read the overall health of their bodies through the quality and amount of blood they are shedding.
Q: What is menstrual activism to you? Why are we starting to see more of it these days?
A: Menstrual Activism for us is taking back our periods from patriarchy. It is embracing one of the body’s cycles as natural, deserving of respect and care. It is removing shame and replacing it with matter-of-fact, unapologetic, normalizing language.
It’s our opinion that we are seeing more of this because folks who bleed are becoming more conscious and there is a large-scale awakening happening (ex. The Future Is Female, moon archetypes/imagery, etc.). Menstrual activism, to us, seems like an extension of the feminist movement, which continues to grow and become more radical and more queer. As rigid structures surrounding gender begin to break down, equal rights for women, queers, trans folks, and all bodies will hopefully become more important. Respecting and normalizing menstruation is a part of that equality for all bodies.
Q: Where does this cultural stigma surrounding menstruation come from?
A: There are entire books written on the topic…It’s so big and so old. We recommend checking out New Blood by Chris Bobel; Blood Magic by Buckley and Gottlieb; The Curse by Delaney/Lupton/Toth. To go further back, read The Chalice and the Blade.
Q: What are some other feminist companies you would recommend?
A: Otherwild is owned by a badass queer feminist, Rachel Berks, and we love what they are doing especially in regard to tapping into the evolving consciousness around gender and equality.
Our good friend Liz Migliorelli of Sister Spinster is making flower essences and potions we use everyday. She is full of wisdom beyond her years and we have tons of respect for her.
Q: What has Holy Sponge brought to your life?
A: Incredible exchanges with customers! Many have become friends. It’s also made me more aware of the wide spectrum of experiences that people have with bleeding. I’ve learned a lot from my queer and trans friends, as well as people from different cultural and social backgrounds than my own. Attitudes towards menstruation vary and we can’t ever assume we know what it means to them until we ask.
Q: Lastly, what do YOU do when you have bad cramps?
A: I always go to Our Lady of Mercy Cramp Balm first. I made this recipe as a last ditch effort to relieve my partner’s cramps. She had tried everything natural, but Vicodin was the only thing that was working, and she was out of it at the time. I was working at an herb shop and brewed up the concoction that is now the balm we sell. I could not believe that it actually worked and continues to work on all kinds of folks, with all kinds of cramps! It was born of love and desperation and I think there’s a bit of magic in those ingredients.
Interview Courtesy of:
Janeen: Owner, Maker, & Creative Fire at Holy Sponge!