A tale of two Pinky Gloves: A bloody shame ends in a remarkable victory in Germany

Photo by Vulvani
The Founders of Pinky Gloves on either side of investor, Ralf Dummel. Source: Pinky Gloves Instagram

Unpacking the problematics of Pinky Gloves

Image: Pinky Gloves product page

1. There is nothing innovative about a plastic glove

The ‘invention’ itself is literally just a PINK, PLASTIC, DISPOSABLE GLOVE. If people who menstruate wanted to, they could have used any other plastic glove already on the market to remove their tampon and dispose of it without having to touch their own vaginas. Those already available are cheaper, more accessible and less likely to include the chemicals required to make them pink. Using pink as a marketing strategy is problematic and frankly idiotic because companies literally turn a normal product pink and then add a premium to it to market to women. Surprise, surprise, not all women want pink products and they definitely don’t want to pay extra for it.

2. Menstrual blood is not dangerous or toxic

Contrary to Dr. Bela Schick’s debunked menotoxin theory, menstrual blood is by no way dangerous to touch or handle. Again, a vital sign of good reproductive health, menstrual blood is the body’s natural way of getting rid of blood and tissue it doesn’t need anymore since it did not become pregnant that month. Pinky Gloves’ assumption that menstruation is dirty and needs to be cleaned up is not based on evidence. It is based on Raimkulow and Ritterswürden’s own anecdotal experiences of seeing the discarded tampons of their former female flatmate in the communal bathroom trash bin.

3. Design for real needs

Many German women who responded to this controversy have been asking where the demand for such a product really came from. Are women really craving something like Pinky Gloves to handle their menstrual waste? Is this truly the greatest unmet need around menstrual or female health? Or do these products just reinforce that our periods are major problems that need to be sanitized and cleaned up — even when already in the trash bin?

4. Know your bloody market

There are a variety of period products on the market, and based on the country and other socio-cultural factors, there are great insights available about menstrual product uptake. Interesting to note is the difference between countries with high tampon-applicator preference vs non-applicator preferences (see the photo below).

Images: Left, photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels. Right, photo by Cliff Booth from Pexels.

5. Enough with the plastic waste

Each single-used plastic Pinky Glove is wrapped in even more single-use plastic. It is widely known that single-use plastics majorly contribute to the degradation of human and environmental health, as they break down into microplastics and or remain unrecycleable for decades. On average, single-use menstrual products generate approximately 590,000 tonnes of waste annually in the EU. They are also among the most commonly found single-use plastic in the marine environment.

6. High cost per product

Looking at the price, each Pinky Glove costs 0,25€ (30 cents USD), or 11,96€ for 48. In contrast, the average tampon costs 0,16€ in Germany. The company is effectively selling an additional product to the actual solution at 0,09€ more per individual product. This, to conceal menstrual blood rather than actually absorb it!

7. Scheiß (shit) marketing

We could be more diplomatic but why should we? From the marketing and branding angle, this is truly a divisive and exclusive product. As previously mentioned, pink marketing is usually a way to further tax women because of their gender. However, in addition, Pinky Gloves are marketed just to women — even though not all those who menstruate are women.

Taken from The Drum (2021)

Unpacking the problematics of the investment in Pinky Gloves

For context, in November 2019, investors on Die Höhle der Löwen questioned the legitimacy and market potential of Ooshi (now Ooia), a Berlin-based, female-founded company producing high-quality period underwear. Period panties are an innovative solution that have proven market returns in the US and Canada by e-commerce brands such as Thinx and Aisle. On Die Höhle der Löwen, Ooshi’s products were met with skepticism. Only one investor — a female named Judith Willlaims — offered 300,000 Euros in exchange for 30% equity. Ooshi tried to negotiate to 10% and Williams refused to make a deal.

Image: Co-Foounders of Ooshi (now Ooia), Kristine Zeller and Dr. Kati Erst on Höhle der Löwen in 2019. Source

This is astonishing when you see just how many great Femtech innovations have emerged over the last few years and how little economic support and trust the market has actually provided to enable those products and services to succeed.

From our own experiences and those of other female founders we know who have pitched menstrual-related businesses, a lot of really absurd questions have been asked. “Well, how big is the market, really?” “How many tampons can a woman actually use each period?” “How does a woman go to the toilet using the product?”

The comparison between Pinky Gloves and Ooshi demonstrates that female founders are held to different standards than their male counterparts with their innovations and businesses held to greater scrutiny.

This disparity gets wider when we look at other founders representing minority groups who pitch brilliant businesses and are systematically ignored or minimized throughout the investment process.

It is critical that investors do more to question their own internal bias to help close the financial gap for founders, and to build better products and services that meet the diverse needs all people. Whether you are motivated by profit or impact- know your audience!

What can be done, marching forward

In addition to increasing investor education, we need innovative solutions that seek to address women’s actual pain points and unmet needs. Great products usually solve critical problems, and it’s unclear what and whose ‘problem’ Pinky Gloves were really trying to solve.

Pinky Gloves’ newest Instagram post on April 19th, 2021. Translation: “We’re stopping with Pinky”. Source: Pinky Gloves Instagram

While this revolution of consumer influence may be as exhausting as it is beautiful and powerful, moving forward, businesses must be more cognizant of what they’re doing, for whom they’re doing it, and what their role truly is in creating a more gender-equal world.

Image: Madami’s Women-Centered Design Approach Source: Madami.co
  • For innovators: Consult women and girls* and involve them at every stage of product development, especially if it is a product created by men and intended for women to use
  • For investors: Put your money where your mouth should be, and increase investment into the Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) space to support existing innovations and scalable business models. A potential co-investor like The Case For Her would be happy to have you at the table!
  • For everyone else: Expert and solutionary innovation agencies such as Madami exist specifically to help refine ideas to ensure that products and services truly serve those the innovations are intending to empower. Get in touch to learn more!

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Madami

Madami

A social impact agency specializing in gender, female & menstrual health