Wow, I got a HUGE response to this. It’s almost like there’s a massive appetite for things that are actually designed for female bodies and that a smart company who remembered that women existed could make big money here or something! But what would we know we’re only women after all 🤪.
I’m going to start this week with a submission that came in via instagram, which I LOVE!
Readers of Invisible Women will remember that difficulty peeing was something of a recurring theme in the book, not only because of the perennial (lack of) toilet issue, but also because of badly (default male) designed gear.
The peeing issue is a recurring one for women who have to spend any length of time outdoors. In the UK all coastguards are issued with a set of one-piece overalls which they are meant to put on underneath various other pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as foul-weather clothing, life jackets and climbing har- nesses. The double zip at the front of the overalls is great if you are a man, but, explained one woman in a 2017 Trades Union Congress (TUC) report, peeing becomes a ‘major operation’ for women as all the PPE must be stripped off, followed by the overalls them- selves. ‘As the type of incidents which we are called to regularly involve long searches which can last for many hours,’ she explains, ‘you can imagine the discomfort which female coastguards end up having to experience as a result. It has been suggested to management that the current overalls should be replaced with a two-piece garment which would allow the trousers to be pulled down with- out having to remove the top section, and while management have acknowledged the advantage of this idea nothing has so far been done to implement it.’
A female scientist studying climate change in Alaska was also plagued by overalls designed for the male body. The extreme cold means that overalls are the most sensible thing to wear – but, again, these come with a zip. Where there are indoor toilets, this would be inconvenient and require additional time spent taking off clothes from jacket downwards just for a pee. But when there is no indoor toilet, the problem is much more serious as frostbite becomes a con- cern. The woman in question bought a rubber funnelled approximation of a penis to deal with the problem – and ended up peeing all over herself. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
In my first book, Do it Like a Woman, I interviewed a Greenpeace activist who came up with her own hack for the problem. Victoria Henry had been trying for years to get Greenpeace to customise their wetsuits for women:
“If you look at the wetsuits in the warehouse, they have a little flap for guys” - of little use to a woman trying to use a Shewee. “So, you need to get a few where you’ve got a hole cut in the bottom”, Victoria says, laughing again, “but it’s not even considered”.
When I interviewed her, she had just completed a protest that involved scaling the 310 metre Shard in London: “we were going to be locked half way up a skyscraper – well, you can’t take your trousers down in a climbing harness, you have to take the whole harness off, so it was like: what are we going do?”
What they did was modify their trousers with velcro so that when they needed to pee they could, like a man, simply open up and let it flow.
But not everyone is handy with a needle, thread and velcro. And in any case, why should we have to be modifying potentially expensive trousers when men get to be "universal”?
Like many female-focused innovations, this was borne out of first-hand female need (another example of why venture capitalists should consider…venturing [not sorry] beyond your classic male Harvard/Stanford dropout model when choosing which start-ups to fund).
From their website:
In the summer of 2016, co-founder Georgia Grace Edwards worked as one of a few women glacier guides on the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, where she was spending 8-12 hours a day on ice. Georgia Grace realized the serious disadvantage she faced when it came to using the bathroom on the glacier. In comparison to her male co-workers, whose flies allowed them to simply turn around to pee, she was forced to trek across crevasses until she could find privacy, completely remove 3-4 layers in sub-zero temperatures, do her thing, put it all back on, and hike back.
It was a waste of time and energy, and it often left her feeling cold for hours after, to the point where she started cutting her water consumption—a story not uncommon among women adventurers in group settings or cold environments.
She knew that there had to be a better way to go on the go and set out to see if there were others who shared her struggle.
In the summer of 2017, co-founders Georgia Grace Edwards and Bianca Gonzalez met while interning at Goldman Sachs in Utah. They bonded on many endurance hikes all over the state. On a 18 mile hike to and from Mt. Timpanogos, Georgia Grace and Bianca experienced several awkward bathroom breaks, where they were exposed to others and a chilly winds. Like many women, both knew this irritation all too well and when they looked to the market for an answer, nothing cut it. DIY solutions were unreliable, hiking dresses lacked a fashion-forwardness for the modern woman and remained defenseless in the cold, and female urination devices (FUDs) suggested there was something wrong with women’s anatomies (not to mention their tendency to overflow, and sanitation issues!). [pause here for a brief HALLELUJAH]