Fight for Gender Equality
Born in New Zealand but raised in the UK, Cotes-James now splits her time between Hong Kong and Shanghai. She’s clear that while there are pronounced issues in Asia, universally women have been let down by inequality and archaic approaches to female reproductive health.
There is five times more research into erectile dysfunction than Premenstrual Syndrome, for example, according to science forum ResearchGate, despite the latter affecting far more people. A 2005 study by the University of Pennsylvania found female pain is more likely to be underestimated.
Cotes-James says it took her years to realize the painful symptoms she was experiencing during her period were actually an allergic reaction to the viscose and polyester found in some sanitary pads and tampons.
For decades men have decided everything about periods — from helming companies that make menstrual products and overseeing advertising of them, to setting legislation that taxes them as a luxury item and failing to require firms to declare what period care items are made of, she says.
Growing public anger at such gender inequality is driving change — India, Canada, and 13 US states have abolished the so-called tampon tax, while MPs in Scotland are backing a bill that will make period products free.
But Cotes-James warns: “Our bodies are still subject to decision making by predominantly male-led governments. We deserve the final say over our bodies — that includes everything from feminine care companies being required by law to disclose ingredients on packaging, to overcoming restrictive reproductive rights.
That is one of the biggest challenges we face in the fight for gender equality and we are still a long way from that being the reality.”
Period Plastic Pollution
Even among tech-savvy professionals in city centers, myths persist — some fear using tampons is akin to a sex act, others believe virgins cannot use menstrual cups or believe they cannot swim or exercise during their period.
LUÜNA takes a multi-pronged approach to tackling this: With offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as London, the company hosts workshops, myth-busting meet-ups and frank discussions about period products, fertility, and menstrual health for women and men.