The co-founder of THINX period underwear talks to us about smashing gender norms

“What’s a film festival without a panel on period underwear? TBH I guess it’s just a film festival.”

That was the first line in an email I received letting me know that THINX, a feminist AF company creating leak-proof, sustainable underwear for people with periods, would be doing a panel at Sundance. Obviously, with an intro like that, I couldn’t NOT go.

Miki Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of THINX, spoke at a panel about sustainability and storytelling during the festival, surrounded by other leaders in their field trying to make the world a better place.

"All the women in the room, can you raise your hands?" She asked the crowd. "OK, now, put your hand down if you've NEVER ruined a pair of underwear or sheets during your period."

You can be sure that every raised hand in the room stayed up.

After the panel, Miki and I stood over a wine barrel to chat about all things periods, feminism, Sundance, and storytelling.

"I think filmmaking is storytelling, and I think storytelling is how you change culture, and change behavior. THINX is in the business of changing culture and behavior, and I think it all goes hand in hand. If we’re able to be among storytellers who believe in the power of story and behavioral change, I think it can be amplified globally in a much more powerful way," she said.

As if words like that didn’t make Agrawal cool enough, the CEO was wearing a giraffe-printed onesie, a huge blanket scarf, and an impressively sized fuzzy hat. As the panel was wrapping up, she climbed off the stage, mouthing that she had to go pee.

It’s clear Agrawal is following the advice she wants to give to young girls in the world: Don’t try to be anything you don’t want to be, or do anything you don’t want to do.

"Be unapologetic about yourself, let your own freak flag fly. Don’t let society to tell you to put your skirt down and be, like, super proper all the time. Climb some trees, fuck up your knees, make mistakes, make out with boys or girls, just do you authentically."

Just before coming to the panel, I’d been stressing out in my hotel room that the black suede skirt I’d just purchased was too short. When I mentioned this to Agrawal, she laughed and waved her hands at me.

"Girl, you look great. You look amazing," she told me. "Think about what you can do with the time you spend worrying about stuff like that."

I had to admit: she had a point. Her words made me think of one of the most heart-wrenching quotes from Emma Cline’s “The Girls,” which is this:

I waited to be told what was good about me...All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you — the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.

So what if girls learned to spend that time becoming themselves instead? Women and girls are conditioned to worry. We worry about whether or not our skirt is too short, or what others think of us, or – Miki would be quick to point out – if our periods will show up unexpectedly and embarrass us. THINX wants to eliminate at least one of those worries, and empower women across the globe while doing it.

This attitude of women supporting women seems engrained in Agrawal’s way of thinking — she’s built her company and her life around it.

When I asked her how she thought young girls should support each other, she had an answer I didn’t expect. The answer, she said, lies in the ways of bonobo apes.

“You know the bonobo apes? The bonobos work as a matriarchy. Every time there’s an aggressive male that tries to get with a female bonobo, all the females come together to shun that male away, and that aggressive male dies a sad and lonely death by himself," she explained.

The act of joining together to say “not appropriate” to males who misbehaved, Agrawal said, resulted in the “violent” bonobo society transforming into a gentle, loving one. (Hmmm, I wonder if there were any other events recently in which females joined together to demand cultural change? Ring any bells?)

"Ladies, don't be afraid to stand up and say you don't like the way you're treated, either by your boyfriend, or your partner, or the world. You should only choose partners who lift you up and make you feel like a better version of yourself. If they make you feel sad or uncomfortable, they’re not getting anything from you.

So keep raising your voices. Keep joining together. Keep demanding respect. Those boy bonobos have nothing on us.

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