Even though it’s Jewishly-founded, the period startup HelloFlo first marketed itself as “Santa for your vagina,” earning praise for its funny, no-frills approach to menstruation. But four years after the release of the company’s viral video “The Camp Gyno” (filmed at Jewish sleep-away camp Surprise Lake), it’s even harder to tell the difference between the advertising and the advocacy. Instead of selling its monthly care packages, HelloFlo’s website now offers content designed to “educate, inspire, and entertain.” The bright colors and uplifting headlines are corporate feminism at its finest, with only a Kotex sponsorship to give it away.
HelloFlo’s creator, Naama Bloom, the daughter of Israeli parents based in Brooklyn, has moved on to brand management at Zulily, but she’s found a new way to monetize menstruation: HelloFlo: The Guide, Period. Co-written with journalist Glynnis MacNicol, Bloom’s book discusses puberty with the frankness that made HelloFlo famous. In nine chapters, it provides in-depth information on pubic hair, brain and breast development, and periods, along with earnest asides such as “I feel most confident when I stop worrying about what other people want me to be or look like.”
While Bloom’s refusal to body-shame is admirable, her cheerful tone can’t conceal the guide’s consumerist bent. My review copy was delivered with free pads, and the section on periods encourages readers to “take a stroll down the feminine care aisle in a drugstore or supermarket.” Likewise, the two chapters on hair removal seem excessive, as if deciding between waxing and shaving were as important as self-administering breast exams.
Bloom’s commercialism is particularly disappointing in light of the book’s oversights. Although she’s targeting teenage girls, she never mentions birth control or masturbation, topics that are arguably far more taboo than periods. She also implies that menstruation is a necessary evil, one that unites young women with “Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Emma Watson, Malala, and every female Olympian.” Recent science suggests quite the opposite: not only it is possible to stop your period through contraception, it may even be preferable. (Personally, I’m delighted to no longer be dealing with what HelloFlo calls the “Red Badge of Courage.”)
So if you’re searching for a puberty guide that touches on “everything that’s useful,” as Bloom claims, look elsewhere. HelloFlo’s latest release has moments of genuine humor, but it’s neither all-inclusive nor as transparent as its author insists.
Photo of Naama Bloom by Sam Khan