Dear Elon Musk, If You Want to Save Earth, Look Between My Legs
...And the legs of any menstruating woman in India.
You will see plastic.
Right now, there is a genuinely lovely world-wide movement to ban disposable plastic and where is everyone starting? With the mouth. With straws. A happy and perfectly benign place to start. And not that I think straws shouldn’t be banned. Not for one minute.
Not needed. I can drink it straight from the glass. Or the plastic bottle it comes in that no one dare tell a Cola company to throw.
Why Should Rockets Be Cooler Than Pads?
Instead, we talk about how terrible straws are when they get stuck in the stomach of a whale and the whale dies. These aquatic disasters must stop. But when little boys and big boys, and basically boys drive these antiseptic and politically effete environmental campaigns, it makes me mad. I mean seething, raging mad. Because I am supposed to throw away my straw but put plastic into my vagina as a sanitary napkin or tampon every month for a week. Never mind the lovely red rash I have to walk around with because of my skin being unable to take synthetic. Never mind the toxins I am ingesting so close to my most sensitive skin.
And sending large satellites that carry servers for data – basically, being a glorified outer-space delivery boy is way cooler than making new sanitary napkins for women like me.
That’s why big business is called BIG business. It is never about the vagina. It’s always about the other part of the anatomy that is shaped like a rocket. Or a plane. About projectiles and things that men worry about. I want you to go to your next board meeting as if you were a woman with her period. Now stuff two big plastic pads into your underwear. Go on. Do it. Add some waste blood. Take your pick. Get it from the best meat-shop you can find. Now let the blood dry inside your thighs and mix with the plastic as you speak – about straws –and about saving the planet – preserving species and plant types on Mars.
Why Eco-Friendly Pads Have Failed
It isn’t as if small-scale revolutions in the business of napkin-making have not been tried; they have. At a boutique store in Auroville in Tamil Nadu, I saw a counter selling lovely cloth pads. But they require you to wash and re-use them. Not workable for many reasons and let me name just one. The rain. What do you do when the pads don’t dry?
The NGO she was working for had some fairly path-breaking technology at play here. It was entirely organic and therefore rash free. I tried it. But where it breaks down – literally – is in the adhesives it uses to stick it to your underwear, and also the tensile strength of the pad itself. So if you plan to walk around wearing it, after a couple of hours, it comes off the underwear and if not – it starts to disintegrate. And you are left with lovely bits of banana-powder-type things floating around.
What if instead of artificial intelligence we focused on au naturel? What we already have fitted and ready to use? What if, instead of electric fan propulsion driven Musk Electric Jets, we found natural adhesives to stick dried banana pads to cotton underwear? There is the question of global warming you and so many like you say you are deeply concerned about. I believe you. That’s why I am writing to you. That, and the fact that dropping your name gets me some eyeballs which if I wrote to my Prime Minister with his currently sagging ratings, I am not sure would have the same effect.
India’s Plastic Problem
But let me imagine that both our PM and you Mr Elon Musk, and everyone who screams ‘Save The Planet’ were to put your non-artificial intelligence together. Call a few scientists, chemists, botanists at some lovely chateau in Switzerland, looked out at the clean Alps, and found us a way to not walk around with plastic between our thighs?
I was just there in May, in a lovely little town in Uttarakhand called Bhowali. Everyone has to burn their pads in a pit in their backyard. There is some kind of garbage disposal system sputtering to life, but it takes these bags of burned ash and food cans and packets down to Kathgodam. There is no incinerator with the municipality in and around this idyllic hill, with pine cones and plastic competing for space. Plastic is winning.
I was first alerted to this crisis by an organisation called Goonj that specialises in disaster relief. I was covering a devastating flood that had hit Bihar in 2008. Ten years later, rural women are still waiting for an alternative.
Thanks for the Vibrator, but What About Pads?
I was being funny to get your attention Elon Musk, when I asked you to drop your space plans and give us a plan instead. But I also wasn’t. Big industry and big economics often gloss over small-scale and grassroots. But do not forget – before man went to the moon, actually exactly a hundred years before it, he went for the vibrator. Before outer-space, came a vital tool to deal with inner-spaces.
And men found that so many women suffered from hysteria from the lack of attention to their basic needs. Eventually, doctors got tired of having to give so many patients hand-jobs.
The precursor to the vibrator was the size of a dining table, and the coal engine that powered it was located in a separate room. It was called ‘The Manipulator’. We’ve come a long way since that hysteria.
But if you came up with the next level of cure for an equally basic need, you will be saving the planet. And if you need it to be sexed up, call me. I can spin a word or two.
(Revati Laul is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Delhi. She tweets@revatilaul. This is a personal account. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)