Do you scrunch your body up at the thought of feminine toiletries?
For the girls out there, do you have to hide your tampons under your sleeves when you have to be excused? We understand. Sure, menstruation is not our favorite dinner table topic, but why do women have to be embarrassed or discreet about it?
Humans have grown from making African Americans use only the “colored toilets” to electing female presidents, and progress is never ceasing. To call everyone to action in working towards building a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, the United Nations General Assembly has set up 17 marketable objectives, the “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, in 2015 and looks to achieve them by 2030. Among them, gender equality is Goal 5.
Enter: FemTech, where technological advancement meets the needs of women.
But first, what is FemTech?
Say a girl tries explaining how exactly a tampon works, will guys take her seriously? We think not.
FemTech changes that. FemTech refers to the technology used to cater for women’s health. The term was coined by the founder of the period tracking app Clue, Ida Tin, to empower women. It makes communicating with investors and media easier, as the term describes products specially made for female hygiene.
It categorizes women’s healthcare as a separate category to converge women and mainstream healthcare so that women can have a more comfortable conversation when discussing bodily issues. Having a dedicated genre for female healthcare products will raise public awareness of their significance.
Taboo around women’s healthcare needs
Does it surprise you that, as of 2022, many women across the world cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons? And that some cultures still ban women from daily activities during menstruation? For instance, in Syria, female healthcare is left in the dark. There, periods are considered a “shameful taboo”, and women are discouraged from washing their genitals during their periods, as people think that it might contaminate the water of communal bathing areas. As such, a lot of women contract infections due to their lack of access to clean bathing facilities. The belief of menstruation being impure leaves women to suffer not only from physical but also psychological pain as well.
Of course, Syria is not the only country where talking about menstrual health is a taboo subject. Period poverty, or the lack of access to menstrual education and products, exists in every part of the world, including where we consider as the “developed” areas. The avoidance around women’s physical needs contributes to their healthcare being overlooked.
How does FemTech reinforce gender equality?
Historically, health research was heavily tilted towards men, as many believed that the differences between men and women’s bodies were not significant except for the reproductive system. In light of the overlook of women’s healthcare, many FemTech companies collaborate with the education and medical field to increase women’s representation in the health space by addressing the gender health gap.
These efforts have sparked the rise of FemTech products, like period tracking apps, sustainable period products, breastfeeding monitors, contraception and fertility trackers, to cater to the variety of health needs of women and educate people about the female reproductive system. In the long term, FemTech can help women take greater interest and control over their bodies
Besides, FemTech also brings female healthcare to society’s attention. The increased discussion, presence and exposure of these products and technologies in our daily lives can destigmatize women’s healthcare needs and raise cultural acceptance of women’s health. It also attempts to mitigate gender stereotypes by addressing common myths, like periods are “dirty” or “shameful”.
Moreover, women using these products can connect with each other in the community. For instance, many period tracker apps allow users to communicate with each other as health experts regarding the questions and issues they have around their period. Not only can this help them physically, but women will also be encouraged to speak about their bodies and needs in a supportive, inclusive atmosphere.
Though FemTech claims to advocate for women’s rights, there are still seeds of doubt about where it’s headed.
Next step: more inclusivity
While FemTech is at the front line in the battle against female healthcare stigmatization, many believe that the category is not “sufficiently inclusive”. One reason behind this includes the belief that some FemTech topics are not women-exclusive but affect other genders as well—consider infertility. Further, the unique experience as a result of interconnected identities (consider an old Black lesbian woman) should also be highlighted as well.
It is because many non-dominant communities, such as LGBTQ+, Black, indigenous, people of color and elderly, often receive worse or are refused healthcare support. This indicates that we have many more steps to take in order to provide genuinely equal access for everyone in society to quality and inclusive healthcare.
After all, we are trying to accentuate all aspects of healthcare and educate people on the significance of gender (in)equality. As we continue to develop all sorts of new technologies, we have to take into account at all times inclusivity and equity. Now, instead of stuttering when we are trying to involve female products in our discourse, just say FemTech proudly.
- What is Femtech and Are Femtech Companies on the Rise?
- Top Five FemTech Startups To Watch
- ‘Smart’ Living For Women: 8 Lifestyle Femtech Products
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