The XX Factor

You Don’t Need Another Wearable Device to Tell You When to Change Your Tampon

The my.Flow tampon and fob. 

my.Flow / YouTube

There is a hot new way to figure out whether you need to change your tampon, and it involves a high-tech key fob that will tell you, via Bluetooth connection, whether the clump of cotton inside you has reached a saturation point and needs to be changed. The wearable is called, of course, my.Flow. Was Blood.ly taken?

While this is a thing women have figured out for decades through good old female intuition, now the self-quantification movement has taken the guesswork out of the process. Here’s how it works, as Engadget explains:

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The tampon itself looks like any other tampon, complete with a plastic applicator. There’s no circuitry inside, so in that sense, it’s dumber than its name implies. Instead, an insulated (and very long) string connects to a small sensor that the wearer clips onto her underwear or waistband. The sensor then talks to a smartphone app that sends notifications when the tampon is nearly saturated. Over time, too, the app can predict when a woman’s period will start, how long it will last and what her heaviest-flow days will be.

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The product was created for an engineering class assignment, and its (female) founders are currently seeking funding. What’s next, a wearable that will tell you when your bladder is full enough to necessitate a trip to the bathroom? According to sensor data, you drank some liquid several hours ago. Have you considered peeing?

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In a write-up about the product, the Guardian is rightly skeptical of my.Flow and its well-intentioned seeming female founder, citing the way it claims it will help women avoid the “menstrual mortification” of leaks and its choice to replace the unrealistic blue liquid of tampon commercials with purple. “We thought we’d go for red but didn’t want to alienate anyone,” CEO Amanda Field is quoted as saying. The piece goes on, “This prevarication around the right way to challenge menstruation etiquette, the desire to be revolutionary—but not revolting!—results in a sort of confusion as to whether my.Flow is breaking down menstruation stigmas, or monetizing and reinforcing them.”

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Judging from the reactions to my.Flow, I’m not the only one having trouble getting psyched about how it will finally confront our “culture of period shame.” Broad City recently pinned an entire episode around Abby’s search for a tampon, a common and little-discussed female plight—that seemed awesome and feminist and like something that might “counter the stigma.” Access to tampons and pads is a real problem in developing countries, in prisons, and among the homeless; but for the rest of us, this app just seems so … why? Stains and leaks happen, and maybe in a perfect world we would not be ashamed of them. But stains of all kinds are embarrassing; products like the Tide To Go pen exist for stains completely of a non–bodily fluid nature. And this product won’t even solve stains per se; it will just alert you to what was be an increased risk for them! Engadget’s low-tech recommendation for dealing with your period? Common sense.

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