The THINX Debacle Doesn’t Have to Ruin Feminist Panties: #NowWhat

Move over, THINX.

THINX, the underwear brand known for its absorbent fabric and period-positive marketing, experienced quite the blow recently.

Miki Agrawal, former THINX CEO, is accused of creating a hostile work environment, undermining women who worked for her, and providing poor employee benefits.

Although Agrawal resigned from her position, her antics as CEO have damaged the company’s reputation.

The dubious THINX philosophy

THINX branded itself as the company “menstruating women” could trust. Its first ad campaign, which kicked off in 2015, was controversial because it contained a number of unusual marketing images.

For example, one ad featured a halved pink grapefruit with the text “Underwear For Women With Periods.” Another ad pictured a woman slumped over a chair, paired with an image of an egg slipping over the side of a ledge.

According to a 2015 Slate article, Outfront Media, an advertising company, frowned on Thinx’s advertising.

“[In an email], an Outfront representative told THINX CEO Miki Agrawal that the ads with models ‘seem to have a bit too much skin.’ And the ones depicting a peeled half-grapefruit or an egg out of its shell? ‘Regardless of the context,’ Outfront wrote, they ‘[seem] inappropriate,’” Slate reports.

The brand’s upfront advertising and product, which is, admittedly, smart, attracted young, feminist women.

Thinx technology

THINX was one of the first brands to highly publicize and sell underpants that are ultra-absorbent and moisture-wicking.

Women gravitated toward the product because some of the brand’s underpants hold two regular tampons worth of blood. In addition to holding blood, the panties’ top layer can fight bacteria, and a thin, lower layer can absorb liquid.

A real feminist brand that’s stepping up

As you can imagine, there’s now a substantial hole in the feminist panty game. Luckily, there are other, more inclusive panty brands with strong founders who have feminist principles. For example: Raquel Tulk, founder of the French-Canadian company, Viita, a fashion-forward absorbent lingerie designed to empower women who deal with bladder leakage. Because, after all, all women pee; not all of us menstruate.

About Viita

Tulk first started thinking about a better way to control bladder leakage during a Sunday dinner when her aunt, a gynecologist, happened to mention bladder leakage and the fact that one in three women—many of them young women—struggle with the issue.

“What was shocking and upsetting, she explained, there was not a great solution to the problem,” Tulk says.

“Most women used pads or adult diapers, which of course, didn’t do much for their confidence….A lightbulb went off in my head. I had a background in fashion and textiles, and suddenly, I was determined to find a better way. I just couldn’t believe so many women were dealing with this issue without a viable solution.”

It took years of trial and error, testing, and fundraising, but eventually, Tulk created her brand’s current product, which features a high-tech, triple layer design that keeps women dry, odor-free, and confident.

“I wanted the underwear to not only be incredibly effective, but also super discreet; Viita looks just like a pair of sexy panties,” Tulk explains.

“Additionally, it is available in three different levels of protection, which means it can cater to women with a little to a lot of bladder leakage.”

Running a company with a positive work culture

Tulk firmly believes that a company is only as good as its people.

“It is our duty as company leaders to make sure they (employees) are always in a safe and positive environment,” Tulk says.

“A company’s mission and values should resonate in their work environment; it should not only be a tactic designed to sell product.”

Tulk also aims to talk about taboo subjects, such as bladder leakage in a frank, honest way; flashy marketing campaigns and shock-tactics aren’t her thing.

“I believe through education, technological innovation, and a truly effective product we can generate awareness and improve confidence,” Tulk says.

“The truth is the majority of us will inevitably experience bladder leakage at some point in our lives, whether it be from a rogue sneeze or a hysterical joke. Our mission is simply to empower these women to laugh harder. When taking on stigmatized topics it is important to be empathetic, respectful, and of course, some humor can help, too.”

Recently, Viita launched its product in the United States. The brand is now available in CVS pharmacies throughout the U.S.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.