Jacob McEntire is the cofounder and lead hardware engineer of my.Flow™.
When I tell people what my job is, I get a lot of different reactions. Some people are confused, some are amused, and others are just grossed out. But they all want to know: how does a man come to work on a menstrual product? Well, there are a lot of answers to that question, but I want to talk about one thing in particular: how stigma prevents us all from learning.
As somebody without a period, I learned very little about menstruation up until I started working for my.Flow™; my education mostly comprised hazily-remembered high-school bio classes, and brief chats with girlfriends where the takeaway was a week-long break from sex. Not exactly comprehensive. And it wasn’t by chance that the only ways I learned about the period were formal education and incidental exposure. It’s because it’s not something that we generally talk about. I’ll admit that I thought the menstrual cycle was kind of gross, and had no real desire to discuss it. Thus it largely remained out of sight and out of mind.
When I commenced work with my.Flow™, I began to ask my friends about their cycles (which started off about as awkwardly as it sounds), and I soon realized that there’s an entire conversation going on that men don’t see. One of the most striking things to me is the universality of this community that I had no idea even existed; what’s common knowledge to half the world was (and still is, to some extent) arcane lore to me.
Now, let me be clear here: just like any other aspect of your health, your period is your business, and everyone has the right to talk about it as much or as little as possible. However, it seems pretty crappy that my friends and partners are often made to feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed if they do choose to talk about it. And that discomfort is something that all of us can be complicit in, and that we all must monitor ourselves on. The period is an important part of women’s health, and it seems damaging to our collective knowledge that we push all conversation around this subject down into obscurity, for the reason that “it’s gross.”
When Amanda and I talk about my.Flow™, we usually talk about how it can improve the period experience by using insight to alleviate anxiety. But we also strongly believe that it can help dispel the stigma around menstruation. Apps, and the data that they track, are quickly becoming a universal language. Ten years ago, you might have thought it weird if somebody could see the data on how you slept at night, or how many steps you took last Tuesday, but that data is now available, and pretty normal; most people wouldn’t balk at a friend seeing stuff like that.
By allowing people to see menstruation on a phone, in the same context in which we view other personal-health data, it abstracts it slightly from the notion of “the period” that elicits the knee-jerk “ick” reaction too many of us still feel. I think that this data-driven normalization is the first step toward a more comprehensive understanding and acceptance of all health, and I’m happy to be a part of it.