Hey ladies, have you ever heard of using a sponge for your monthly visit from aunty flow? We hadn't either—that is, until we found Janeen and Danielle of Holy Sponge! They are on a personal—and professional—mission to bring sponges to mooning women everywhere.
The concept is simple: cotton tampons are rigid and uncomfortable and they're often made with cotton that's grown with pesticides and then bleached (and they're far from environmentally friendly). Sponges, on the other hand, are all natural, safe, easy to use, easy to reuse and—best of all—they fit every woman's unique shape.
We recently caught up with Janeen Singer, founder and maker, to ask her everything we've ever wanted to know about this awesome alternative to tampons and pads.
How did you discover sponges?
You could say that we found each other. I was on a journey—literally and metaphorically a few years back. I was moving from the east coast to the west and taking my time along the way. I was also on a journey to transform several areas of my life, one area being my environmental impact. I had been thinking about how much fem-care products contribute to landfill trash, and tampons were not also working for my body anymore. On my path to California, I happened to be reading a book that introduced me to sponges. In Inga Muscio’s book, Cunt, the author gives a thorough intro to the wonders of sea sponges for menstruation and I was fascinated. I arrived in the Bay Area, started using sponges and never went back!
Where can women purchase Holy Sponge! sponges?
I run this little company out of my home workshop/office and sell sponges (and our other products) primarily through Etsy. Our sea sponge kits are available at Homestead Apothecary (Oakland); Five Pins Project (SF); Otherwild (LA); and we are doing a popup this month at my favorite salon, Manifesta (Oakland).
What is your favorite part of using sponges?
It’s being able to rinse a sponge under warm water and have the gentle experience of inserting something warm and soft for menstruation (rather than a dry, rigid wad of cotton). Sponges are really soothing and intuitive. I like to say they are a spa for your vagina. When I first started using them, I felt like something in my body and cycle was healing and integrating. Then, I got really angry that I had not heard of sea sponges as an option for menstruation until I was 30 years old! I felt like I was robbed of the beauty of my menstrual cycle because I was raised in a time and place where huge corporations have an investment in convincing women that their blood is dirty and tampons are “clean” and “safe” (yet those same companies won’t offer a list of ingredients on their products). I want sponges to be available to as many people as possible so they can have as many choices as possible when it comes to a truly safe and environmentally friendly menstrual cycle.
What is the Holy Sponge! vision? Where are you headed?
Essentially, we want to take down patriarchy, one (GMO) tampon at a time. One way we want to do this is to educate folks who bleed about their cycles and their health—telling the truth about the toxins in commercial products. My partner, Danielle, and I are teaching a workshop at Homestead Apothecary on The Politics of Menstruation on July 24th. In the next year, we hope to take Holy Sponge! on the road—teaching at universities, organizations and small community-run shops.
What would you say to a woman that wanted to try out the sponges but wasn’t sure?
I would ask her about her cycle to see where exactly her hesitation was and I’d try to address that specifically. If she were concerned about how to use them, I’d encourage her to try them at home first. Some women are hesitant to use sponges because they aren’t sure about using them out in the world, especially if they may not have access to a private restroom. We have some customers who like to only use them when they know they are staying in their home for the day. Sponges are worth a shot to at least try because they have so many advantages. They're completely natural and they result in no landfill trash at any stage because they're compostable. They also last for three to six cycles and they re-connect women to their menstrual blood.
Starting your own business is obviously super challenging. Do you have any advice for other women who are starting out on an entrepreneurial journey?
If you feel passionate about something, go for it. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Get advice from people who both support you and will give you honest feedback. Beware of critical family members. It’s often the case that they love you and are trying to protect you from their fear of your failure. Remember that it’s your life and listen to your own heart. Reach out to other business owners and lastly, do not under-sell your work. People will always want things for less but if you value your own time and work, others will too.
Your website is as much about the beauty and ritual of the feminine cycle as the sponges themselves. Has the ritual experience always been apart of your life?
I’m glad to hear that the ritual aspect is conveyed on our site! When I was a teenager growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I became a Born Again Christian. When I look back at that experience and how the religious aspects of Christianity affected me, I see ritual all over my life (prayer, readings, gatherings, etc.). The only problem was that male authority dictated those rituals. Around my Saturn Return, all of that began shifting. That religion felt far too narrow for me and so did everything that was shaped around it. I experienced a return to the sacred feminine, a return to my body (which actually felt like encountering my own body for the very first time), and I created new rituals. Finding sponges and honoring my menstrual cycles has been an important part of that journey.
Lead Photo Courtesy of Rachel Budde, Product Photos Courtesy of Janeen Singer