When you think about period pants or period underwear, chances are you associate them with Thinx. It’s understandable, the American brand were the first to successfully market this product (but not the first to make it). Thanks to their risqué visuals on the New York subway going viral, Thinx were able to make period underwear mainstream.
In addition to being known for their memorable subway ads, the brand also have a long history of questionable behaviour. Whenever people ask why they are problematic or what they have done, it can be hard to pinpoint everything. I also found that there is no one place that lists everything, so here is an attempted timeline.
2016 – Thinx rip off bloggers
Menstrual Cup educators Put A Cup In It publish a breakdown of how THINX scammed bloggers with their deceptive referral program.
2016 – Thinx ‘She-E.O.’Miki Agrawal pens an open letter to critics
She essentially asks for your blind support
March 2017 – Racked article detailing toxic work environment goes live
The article details issues such as: inadequate maternity leave and hostility to salary negotiations.
Among the accusations:
- Company co-founder and CEO Miki Agrawal’s management style is verbally abusive
- The brand’s health insurance is too expensive for employees to afford
- Two employees are let go and only find out when they cannot access their emails
NOTE: Many publications report that Agrawal steps down as CEO just days before the Racked articles goes live
March 2017 – Trans activist & model speaks out
Multiple people come out to double down on accusations, most notably transgender and agender activist and model Tyler Ford. They post a thread on Twitter about their own experience with the company and how the brand attempted to tokenise Ford as a model.
You can also find the thread here.
March 2017 – Miki Agrawal addresses claims
Agrwal responds first in Instagram comments and then in a personal statement. In the piece she states she is writing “as a human being, not as a representative of Thinx”, and reveals the lack of any human-resources infrastructure.
NOTE: One employee tells a writer at The Cut that staffers have been advocating for an HR structure since late 2015.
March 2017 – Agrawal accused of sexual harassment
Just a week later, Thinx’s troubles continue with sexual harassment allegations. A complaint filed by a former employee said Agrawal frequently discusses employees’ breasts and her interest in entering a sexual relationship with one of her employees. The Cut also reports that the claim said Agrawal routinely changed clothes in front of employees and conducted meetings via videoconference whilst apparently naked.
Former head of public relations describes a culture of fear and a pattern of ageism. The filing names the company’s COO and CFO for the failure to address repeated complaints regarding Agrawal’s behaviour.
Agrawal hints at taking on a new role within the company.
May 2017 – Sexual harassment claim is settled
An attorney for the Thinx employee tells Jezebel, “All I can tell you is that the matter filed with the NYC Commission on Human Rights has been resolved, and the complaint has been dismissed. Thank you.”
July 2017 – Thinx announce a new CEO
Bloomberg report Maria Molland is appointed as new CEO. Molland states Agrawal is no longer involved with the company. She is still tied to her bidet-attachment startup. A Thinx spokesperson tells Bloomberg the Tushy team is no longer based in the same offices as Thinx
Main points from the interview:
- Salaries of underpaid workers are adjusted
- All employees now have a handbook that details protocols for handling workplace complaints
- The company is now providing health care to the majority of their employees (35 at the time)
- Parental leave extends to 12 weeks for employees who have been there at least a year
Former CEO Agrawal lands a second book deal.
September 2017 – Thinx finally get a HR department
Thinx hire a vice president of people operations, Sharon Salmon. One of her responsibilities is building a HR team.
January 2018 – Racked report new changes
- Thinx plan to move to a more family-friendly office complete with lactation pods
- Molland adds annual training sessions conducted by a third-party
- Quarterly anonymous cultural surveys are carried out
- They are expanding rapidly and have a target of 78 as opposed to their previous average of 32
- They improve their health insurance subsidies
- Molland reflects on 2017 and outlines charitable contributions Thinx have made in the past year
Agrawal continues her redemption tour (and continues to run her bidet company) and does multiple interviews focusing on what’s she learnt.
June 2018 – Thinx launch overpriced sex towel
The towel featuring their signature four-layered technology designed to absorb fluids on one side and retails at $369. It is understandably not received well.
March 2019 – inc.com check in with new CEO
Main takeaways from the article:
- The company has doubled in size and is searching for fresh funding to grow
- It is the fastest-growing women-led company in 2018 with $39.6 million in 2017 revenue
- They invest more in advertising with focus on television ads, home mailers, outdoor and print advertising, Facebook & Pinterest
- More competitors arise
- London is Thinx’s second biggest market after New York
- The brand are keen to explore more of the Europe market and Asia
- Molland confirms she speaks with Agrawal for the first time on a shareholder call, states she is “part of our history” and that they “don’t really think about [the past] anymore”
November 2019 – Artist says Thinx campaign ripped off their work
Artist, musician, and “higher self” meme-creator Bunny Michael shares a side-by-side comparison of their own images in comparison to Thinx’s latest campaign with Illana Glazer. Michael states that Thinx were fully aware of their content as the brand approached them in April about partnering for a book project. When they announced the project was scraped, Thinx asked Michael to write a blog instead.
Thinx responded to the claims and maintained the campaign is not plagiarism as there are three and four Ilanas. Of their response, Michael told The Daily Dot, “It’s a bummer and I feel gaslighted.”
January 2020 – Scientists find toxic chemicals in Thinx underwear
A University of Notre Dame scientist finds significant levels of PFAS, a group of potentially harmful chemicals, in Thinx menstrual underwear. Fast Company report on the topic too.
Thinx deny claims and publish a post on their process. It’s worth noting Notre Dame University is third party testing that Thinx do not pay.
As of September 2020, there has been no follow-up update.
June 2021 – Yet another company finds more of the same toxic chemicals in THINX’s underwear
Mamavation tested period underwear to see if it had any traces of PFAS. Their lab results showed that 65% of products tested could be contaminated with PFAS. 100ppm standard is the standard used to determine if food packaging is compostable. Although we don’t know much fluorine is dangerous vs. safe in the vaginal area, this is standard Mamavation used to measure. Unsurprisingly, THINX are top of the list testing at over 100 ppm of fluorine.