India’s ‘Menstruation Man’ Tried On Sanitary Pads, and Found Out What It’s Like to Have a Period

Now he's helping millions of women

This is the incredibly cool tale of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who, after noticing his wife was using dirty rags to manage her menstruation, decided to do something about it—not just for her, but for all the women in India.

That seems like a nice enough story on its face, but the 5:38 video that recounts his trajectory is riddled with challenges that are embarrassing, terrible and hilarious—sometimes all three at once. After thinking he solved the problem in just 48 hours (bro-five!) by creating sanitary pads made of cotton, his wife came back with the results and said they were basically garbage. 

So Muruganantham went back to work. Observing that it took too long to use his wife as his primary guinea pig (it happens only once a month, after all), he went to medical students and appealed to them to test his pads … but they were too shy to provide feedback.

Perhaps other dudes would then have given up, or decided it was none of their business. (They would certainly not have been blamed for butting out.) But this only made Muruganantham, now dubbed India's "Menstruation Man," more determined. Which brings us to our favorite part of his story: He tested his prototypes on himself, creating an artificial "uterus" filled with animal blood that he wore, and gently pressed, as he went about his day. 

Few have gone to such lengths to find out what it's like to have a period, and the results will disappoint absolutely no women: "Did you know that blood, it will give a foul smell in 20 minutes around me, and there is a blood stain also around my clothes," Muruganantham reports in a monotone that had the monthly bleeders in the office spitting out our coffee.

In the two years it took him to finally make a remotely usable pad, his wife left him out of embarrassment, and the community labeled him a pervert. 

But Menstruation Man's tale has a happy ending; otherwise it would be harder to laugh about it.

Some handy stats: 70 percent of Indian women lack access to safe and hygienic pads, and 75 percent of city-dwelling women still buy pads wrapped in brown bags or newspaper because of the notion of "dirtiness" associated with menstruation—that is, when they buy them. Another statistic claims only 12 percent of Indian women use pads at all. 

In addition to issues of cost and availability, it's nearly unthinkable for a woman to ask a male family member to buy them on her behalf, which is probably why so many resort to unhygienic methods like old rags. It's just less bullshit. But like with dominoes, this problem reaches far past matters of hygiene; 23 percent of girls drop out of school after they begin menstruation. And when girls don't go to school, well, you know the rest of that story. 

In the end, Menstruation Man didn't stop at making pads; he made super-efficient machines to produce them cheaply and quickly. In the 18 years since starting his funny local experiments, 877 brands are making his sanitary napkins in 27 Indian states—not to mention in the 17 countries that import them. (Also, his wife came back. Three cheers for spousal vindication!) 

In addition to creating piles of jobs, pads that are 50 percent cheaper than other brands', and flipping a big one to the menstrual stigma, one super-stubborn dude is helping girls and women beyond the boundaries of India. And he won't sell the machine to corporations, ensuring—at least for now—its accessibility to those who can scale the end product to people in need.

Dubbing his efforts "a silent feet revolution," Muruganantham concludes, "That's why this is called 'beyond marketing.' "

Oh buddy, we're well past that now. At this stage, Menstruation Man could easily pull an irony-free Pied Piper—because this is how you help change the world.