Sirona calls itself “an award-winning product innovation brand, committed to solving those intimate and menstrual hygiene issues for women, which are not adequately addressed in the country”. And I honestly thought it came in earnest when I heard about their menstrual cup. Purchasing it continues to be one of my best decisions.
However recently, an Instagram ad led me to one of their products: biodegradable black pads. Naturally (pun intended), I searched up the product description and it appears the product is made of carbon captured from natural resources like corn, Sugarcane, Cassava and Straw-bale, and transformed into PLA using hot air non-spring process. I’m not the Chemistry expert, but maybe that’s why the pad is black?
Coloured vs White Pads
As someone who’s used cloth pads, vibrant colour choices made sense because they are reusable and stain frequently. Also a coloured pad buys you into the illusion that it’s not yet time to scrap it and buy a new one. Further, I’ve never come across a plain black cloth pad. If you’ve ever used a pad (reusable or disposable), you know that you depend a lot on what you see to know when it’s time to change. Going by that logic, the black pad is a failure.
Customers who find the product comfortable also point to the utter incomprehensibility of the colour choice. A user states on Amazon reviews: “How do you tell how soiled a napkin is if its black? Bad design choice”. A customer questions why they bought it because the pad could be overflowing and you’d never know! Another user points out an important fact: “(W)hite was made for a purpose. Medically whenever we want to check the amount of flow, colour of fluid or any other abnormality, white pad helps”. And against the whole point of their marketing strategy, another customer asked if they could make the same product in white!
Then why is it black?
The Brand speaks…
In its description, the product appears to radically speak out against the unwritten rule of pads being traditionally white. As if pads being white have been oppressing its users for ages.
However, the real reason they they thought a black pad should serve anyone at all proves to be (voila!) period stigma. Again, the reviews left on Amazon were eye-openers as someone writes: “The only downside is that it is difficult to judge your flow. But can be used by people who can’t handle/like the sight of blood”. Another reviewer talks about the “psychological relief” of not having to look at the stains on conventional white pads. A section of reviewers particularly liked the black colour which saves them from looking at the blood.
The brand’s description on Amazon is cringe-worthy, but also revealing: “These Black Pads are made for a chic, stylish & fascinating girl because Sirona believes that periods shouldn’t be boring anymore. They are super cool in looks and also save you from having to look at both blood stains & boring white pads”.
Period stigma encompasses many actions that lead to the discrimination of anyone who menstruates. Even considering menstruation dirty and as something to be concealed contributes to the stigma.
Realistically speaking, a person who has never been desensitised about menstruation and feels uncomfortable by the sight of period blood can’t be blamed. We’ve been exposed to years of marketing aimed at hiding and covering it up as best as possible. But Sirona is a big brand that claims “To break the stigma around menstrual hygiene and redefine femininity for modern times”. By producing a black pad, it further adds to the idea that period blood is a gruesome thing to look at, even when it’s on your pad.
The biodegradable aspect of the pad is also a sham. While the pad on its own imitates biodegradable substances, it comes in a plastic packaging. Further each individual pad comes wrapped in separate plastic wrappers. How can a product be called bio-based and biodegradable when it comes wrapped in plastic goes over my head.
The complex part is that the black pad has buyers. Rich, upper-class buyers who can afford to use pads priced at almost ₹20 per piece.
The fact that the product which first came out in 2019 still sells proves that this so-called progressive brand caters to a large section of people who believe that period blood is wrong and dirty. We live in an age where brands create well-intentioned products without understanding and get called out immediately. But it baffles me how the black pad continues to be a “thing”. This only points at how much more work needs to be put into thinking about menstruation and its psychological footprint on both menstruators and non-menstruators.