My period is a dark, viscous, murderous red. Yet tech companies keep selling me products to control it, all cast in that mellow-cool shade of my generation: millennial pink.
I’m frequently served ads for period tracker apps and other forms of reproductive health monitoring and pregnancy management on social media. And I’ve noticed among the subtly cute icons, the minimalist san-serif fonts, and clean lines, a beige-pink palette that looks nothing like what comes out of me once a month.
Tech companies: Please stop marketing my vagina to me in a color that reeks of stale marketing meetings, approachability, and tranquility. I’m not afraid of my period, and your app can’t tame it.
Starting this spring, women can enable the feature during setup. Period days will show up in the Versa’s calendar tracker in a chic light pink. The blue days are fertile ovulation days. Baby blue.
For what it’s worth, Fitbit also incorporates other shades of pink: a fat, hot pink droplet indicates days of heavy flow, a few hot pink circles mean spotting.
The functionality itself provides more than just a calendar. There are also options to track fluids, and other symptoms some women may get, like headaches and cramps. Plus, Versa users can access educational and editorial content about women’s health or join women’s health-oriented communities.
Aside from whether or not you buy into any period app’s general value proposition — that “tracking” one’s period helps you have safer sex, pregnancy wise; or that mentally and physically preparing for your period by putting it in a calendar somehow makes your life better? — there’s something else, um, fishy, going on.
The gateway to all this reproductive knowledge is painted in millennial pink.
Does this palette — Pantone’s 2016 color of the year — look familiar to a certain period vs. ovulation calendar?
Millennial pink, also called “Tumblr pink,” is the muted pink hue that’s dominated runways, interior design, home goods, and book and magazine covers galore. It’s not just one color of pink, it’s a spectrum of matte pinks and beiges that have a somewhat subdued vibe. The Cut aptly describes millennial pink as running the gamut “from salmon mousse to gravlax.”
If you’ve seen it, you know it. And it often comes with a side of hot pink or orange-y red, or is complimented with a tranquil blue-gray or a vibrant green. Pantone’s Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, says it has to have a tinge of orange to it, too.
Many publications have opined about the prevalence of this color and its supporting characters: what it means, why we like it, why it just won’t go away. In an exhaustive timeline of millennial pink from its origins to its hegemony, The Cut notes that what makes millennial pink so appealing is its nod to femininity, with a dose of ironic distance; or, as they call it, “ambivalent girliness.”
“With Millennial Pink, gone is the girly-girl baggage; now it’s androgynous,” writes The Cut.
Pantone points to the sense of calm millennial pink conveys. It writes in its 2016 color of the year announcement:
As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as an antidote to modern day stresses, welcoming colors that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent. Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.
Unsurprisingly, these sorts of pinks also connote youthfulness.
“The grouping of pinks that fall under the Millennial Pink umbrella are engaging,” Pressman told Mashable over email. “Playful and innocent, they carry with them a suggestion of a sweet taste or scent. They have a lightness, romantic sensibility and this attitude of carefree youthfulness.”
This is the color — the de-feminized signifier of youthful nostalgia and order over chaos — that period trackers and women’s health apps choose for the design and marketing of their product. It represents more than just a use of a popular color; coded into these design choices is a sense of bridling.
And, it’s everywhere.
I first noticed the not-so-bright-pink in an advertisement to freeze my eggs. The multiple shades of pink weren’t the only thing I found problematic about the ad, but it was what got my attention.
I also noticed it in ads served to me for rhythm method period tracking and vaginal bacterial analysis.
But the period app is where 20-somethings’ favorite pinks really rules the day. The top three menstrual tracker apps in the Apple app store use it in their branding. There is even a tracker app called Pink Pad whose use of pink runs the salmon spectrum from mousse to smoked. In addition to the actual UI of Pink Pad, their social media branding features funny and inspirational quotes on a background of, you guessed it, light pink.
You know what’s missing from most of these ads? Red. Rusty or scarlet, nearly black or a waterier apple color, red is almost entirely absent from the UI and marketing materials of period tracking and women’s health apps and tech services. Maybe it’s too on the nose. Maybe it’s off-putting, sexy, powerful, or scary. In any case, the color of blood is not the color of period apps.
Red’s absence in place of the loaded millennial pink is disappointingly predictable. It doubles down on the association of periods with death, injury, and fear.
“The main reason designers and marketers of women’s health product would want to avoid the color red is because of its association with blood,” Pressman said. “Red can also signify danger, evil and anger, probably not the feelings one wants to engender when trying to promote health.”
But red’s exclusion in place of the much friendlier pink is a bit ironic, and more than a little problematic.
If pink signifies restrained girliness and order, the prospect of a period tracker app, especially one branded in pink, belies a misunderstanding of periods.
Now, I do not love my period. It is mostly just an inconvenient fact of life. But during my period, I’m nicer to myself, without feelings of guilt and debilitation. That’s because periods help women understand ourselves; they don’t work against us (although it may feel that way sometimes). So an app, colored to convey a sense of control, that purports to master one of the powerful biological markers of being a woman, misses the role that periods actually play in women’s lives.
Plus, using a color associated with “youthfulness” to market a product that monetizes the period — the traditional marker of the end of childhood and the beginning of sexual maturity — denies, shushes even, the full-fledged womanhood that a period represents.
Both through apps and their marketing, the tech industry’s approach to women’s health is to turn an internal rhythm into a digital record, to transform a bright and messy reality into a clean and muted one. Millennial pink represents more than just an aesthetic choice: It’s prudish, and infantilizing.
Period trackers may be helpful to some women. But to the companies making and marketing these apps, please, don’t elide this aspect of womanhood by painting it with a trendy, approachable color that turns femininity into ironic girlishness, a period of bodily and emotional rawness into tempered calm. You might be afraid of our periods. But we’re not.
Let it flow.
Robot vacuums have seriously taken over the internet, but vacuuming is such a mind-numbing chore that it’s easy to see why no one can shut up about these devices (including us).
Mopping is the only thing that might be worse than vacuuming — that hardcore scrubbing is no fun. However, we haven’t really seen robotic mops take off in the way their vacuum counterparts have.
But we want to change that.
So what’s the hold up, you ask? Many homes just don’t have as much hard floor space that would require regular mopping, and the technology behind a robot doing a thorough wet cleaning is a slightly more advanced than dry suction. But as more folks have seen how handy a robotic vacuum is, it was only a matter of time before they realized the serious convenience a robotic wet scrubber could bring.
So yes, robot mops are a thing now. But if you’re reading this, it means you’ve caught the market early and can get a grasp on the different types before it gets overwhelming. We’ve broken down the pros and cons of true robot mops and 2-in-1 robot vacuums to help you assess which type of helper your home needs.
True robot mops
When you think “robot vacuum,” you probably think iRobot — which isn’t surprising, as they have been one of the biggest leaders in the robot vacuum game. It’s not surprising then that they’re also the only major brand to dedicate a robot specifically to mopping, and have been working on perfecting the technology behind using a robot to give floors a truly deep clean. However, it is important to remember that the technology of the mops is much simpler than that of the Roombas, so things like smart navigation and running on a timed schedule are lacking.
The Braava jet 240 is like the mop version of the deep-cleaning Roomba 980 and is iRobot’s leading robot mop. Its ability to give heavy duty floor scrubbing is due to its precision spray jet (similar to a Swiffer Wet Jet), a feature we haven’t really seen in the robot mop market otherwise. This thorough wet mopping is ideal for serious sanitization and tackling things like grouted tile, which were previously hard AF to get into. The Braava jet is also smaller than iRobot’s other robot mop, allowing it to more easily squeeze between appliances like the sink and toilet. Three cleaning modes are available for versatile cleaning: Choose from wet and damp mopping as well as dry sweeping using the iRobot app, with the option to set up virtual walls to prevent the bot from consistently getting stuck.
One downside of the Braava jet is that it can only run for about 30-60 minutes at a time — and unlike its Roomba counterparts, it will not return to its dock when it needs to be charged. This is fine if your space isn’t big, but a slight bummer if you have a big area to cover in a short amount of time. The Braava jet is ideal for large kitchens, bathrooms, or offices or classrooms with tile floors that are constantly walked on by dirty shoes.
The iRobot Braava jet is regularly priced at $199, which is already a sweet price, considering it’s basically the most serious robot mop out there — plus even the cheapest Roomba is more expensive. It also frequently goes on sale for $179.99, which is even sweeter.
Meet the Braava jet’s big brother: The Braava 380t Robot Mop is iRobot’s other ahead-of-the-game robot mop. The main difference between the two is that instead of using a jet to spray like the 240, the 380t’s water is stored in a tank and uses a damp, reusable cloth to do its cleaning.This design makes the 380t ideal for cleaning large surfaces of tile, cement, and linoleum floors. The tank can also be filled with wood cleaning oil or polish, which makes the 380t ideal for homes with hardwood floors.
The 380t is also ideal for larger square footage as it can go for 90 minutes before needing to charge — a huge step up from the run time of the Braava jet. (And if you only need a dry sweeping without filling the tank, the 380t has a mode for that, too.) While the 380t does have GPS mapping technology of its own, many customers extend the cleaning path with NorthStar Navigation cubes, which connect to the mop and are set up in different rooms or levels of the home to create multiple cleaning areas without having to move the original cube. Like the Braava jet, the 380t will not go back to the dock when low on battery.
The Braava 380t is slightly more expensive at $299.99 (often on sale for $249). Still, that’s a super reasonable price when compared to the rest of the devices by iRobot.
These robot vacuum combos come equipped with a water tank that can be attached or removed from the device, often via velcro.
There are upsides and downsides to buying a 2-in-1, and they depend on your cleaning needs. If your home has a lot of hard floor to cover or floor that is dirtier than just a small spill or stain, a true robot mop is probably the way to go. However, if most rooms in your house are carpeted and you’d just like to have a mop handy for simple upkeep or damp dust mopping, a true mop may not be necessary — and having that vacuum side would be a hell of a lot more beneficial. Combination vacuums also have slightly smarter technology, meaning that unlike the true mops, the following devices will return to their dock when they need to be charged.
One of the main players in the combination category is the ILIFE V5s, a robotic vacuum equipped with a water tank. Just fill it up, stick a cleaning cloth on the bottom, and bam: You’ve got yourself a robot mop. Rated 4 stars on Amazon, buyers rave about the pet hair suction and the strength of the spot cleaning mop feature when using the remote control. Choose from spot or edge cleaning for specific jobs, or switch to the automatic feature for the V5s to come out of its cradle at random and return when it needs to be charged. Predetermined schedules can also be set, so unlike with the iRobot mops, you don’t have to be home to get the bot’s cleaning started.
As with any combination vacuum, the mopping feature probably won’t replace hardcore hand mopping or a jet mop. Some customers do note that the ILIFE’s cleaning path is somewhat random and that it tends to get stuck under lower furniture or appliances, but say that they simply set up some physical barriers to prevent that. If your floors face a lot of dirty shoes or dirty paws, the ILIFE V5s could be a life-saver when it comes to light maintenance mopping.
The ILIFE V5s is priced at $189.99, which is a stellar deal even if it was just a vacuum. So the fact that it’s a 2-in-1, has pretty high ratings, and is still under $200 is a serious steal and perfect for those balling on a budget. (A pro model with extended battery time is available for $199 and is an Amazon’s Choice product.)
Another good option for households with pets is the bObsweep PetHair Plus. This Amazon’s Choice product has seriously good reviews, with 87% of customers giving it a 5-star rating and positive comments about its ability to deal with pet hair.
This new model has improved suction and sweeping patterns, so the chance of this little guy getting stuck, sweeping where it has already swept, or not being able to find its charger are minimal. Like other combination vacuums, the mop consists of a water tank and reusable pads. Run time is about 75 minutes before the PetHair Plus will need to go back to its dock. The PetHair Plus also features a small display screen with updates, so you can always figure out where bObsweep is in its cleaning schedule. And the ability to be able to set schedules in general is a plus, as some robot mops are only able to work when you physically press the button on the bot.
Remember, this isn’t ideal for seriously soiled floors — but for things like spills or muddy paw prints, it’ll get the job done. However, customers mention that it’s perfect for a quick touch-up of hardwood or tile floors, especially if you use polish instead of water. Apparently, customer service is also stellar, so if your bObsweep has issues, you’re in good hands.
This bObsweep Robotic Vacuum Cleaner and Mop typically goes for $428.98 (in line with a few Roombas) but is almost constantly on sale.
Another contender in the combination category is the ECOVACS Deebot M80. Similar to iRobot, ECOVACS has been a strong force in the robot vacuum category, with numerous models and best sellers on Amazon. Though they haven’t devoted a device specifically to mopping yet, the Deebot M80 is a 2-in-1 device that uses a detachable water tank and reusable pads for mopping.
The reviews on the vacuum end are good, but again, they do do warn that the mop can’t replace a true, deep cleaning mop. However, reviews mention that when the tank is filled, the M80 mops and vacuums at the same time, and is able to recognize rugs (for the most part) so it can pause mopping while going over them. ECOVACS devices are a great choice for households with allergy-prone or asthmatic residents, as the bots are equipped with a filtration system to tackle airborne allergens or mites.
One main advantage of the Deebot M80 is its Amazon Alexa compatibility and the ECOVACS app. While many robot mops are only able to use a remote control, the M80 gives users much more control over when and where their bot cleans thanks to timed schedules. Some Amazon reviews do mention that this Deebot has a tendency to clean aimlessly or isn’t able to find its way back to the dock, but those customers also say that its mopping abilities make up for the navigation issues.
The Deebot M8 regularly goes for $229, and for a robot vacuum and mop with relatively high reviews on both features, is pretty amazing.
Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that would hold discussions on nuclear relations with North Korea were it not for all those new gadget announcements that sap up all our time instead.
In our secret silo his time around are the latest Samsung flagship smartphones; a phone that goes an entirely different direction from being your complete portal into the world; and a water dispenser that, incredibly, is connected to the Internet. Yes, we’re as shocked as you are that companies want to hook up their devices to the information superhighway.
As always, these are not reviews, as no matter how much we’d like to quench our thirst, we have yet to try any of these items. Neither are the ratings indicators of quality — they merely point at how much I’d like to play around with each gizmo.
Oh, look, it’s a new flagship smartphone duo from Samsung. Shockingly enough, they’re called the “Galaxy S9” and “Galaxy S9+” (pictured above). They have a similar appearance to the previous year’s models, but there are also a few differences, such as a new camera and stereo speakers.
There’s a 960-frames-per-second slow motion mode, and there’s the option to add music to clips or turn them into GIFs. An adjustable aperture accounts for how much light there is in the field of view and can be adjusted accordingly for sharper photos.
And, just as you can do with the iPhone X’s Animoji, you can create emoji that look just like you, which I’m sure will be a massive selling point for [checks notes] someone, somewhere. Not I.
Beyond fingerprint recognition, the S9 can identify its owner through iris or facial recognition to unlock the device. I find the prospect of each unnerving and awkward, and likely would stick to pressing my thumb down on the correct spot.
The S9 has a significant advantage over a lot of the competition by retaining a 3.5mm headphone jack. While it’s not enough for me to consider a switch, I sorely miss that in my iPhone 8.
Of course there’s a string of other incremental upgrades from the previous phone. It’s well designed! I’m sure the screen displays images with incredible clarity! It… doesn’t excite me. It’s a smartphone, and I’m sure it’s an excellent one. But its distinguishing features seem more like baby steps than a giant bound forward.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Emojis That Look Like Me
At a time when engineers and executives who have worked on social networks are decrying the effects they’re having on us and our minds, I’d wager many people are looking for a phone that has essential functions and removes the temptations to refresh feeds or plow through emails.
The original Light Phone had one function: calls. The successor, Light Phone 2, plans to go a little beyond that with alarms and messaging, while Light, the company behind the device, is considering adding features like maps with turn-by-turn directions, calculator, weather, music, and hailing a ride home with Uber. It definitely will not include email, news or social media functions.
Crucially, it will provide its services through a black and white matte E-Ink screen in a largely text-based format. The proposed design is minimalized and sleek, and since the screen cannot possibly display pictures or video, you won’t get sucked into an Instagram feed for hours.
I like the idea a lot, more so than having a device simply capable of calls. It offers necessary connectivity, and I truly hope those other features being considered are included to make Light Phone 2 functional beyond the bare minimum. It’s being offered at US$250 in its crowdfunding campaign, with a likely retail price of $400, which seems fair in the current market.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Fewer Distractions
Is There Water?
Here’s a nifty water pod system that seeks to bring an end to bottled water, no matter which type you prefer. The rOcean device can filter, carbonate and flavor water to your preference, and the company behind it encourages re-use of its pods to reduce waste. Since the carbonation happens in the device itself, you can dispense the water into the container of your choice.
Flavor refill pouches ($15 each) can flavor up to 50 liters of water each. And just like the carbon dioxide cartridges, you can order more automatically when you’re running low.
Naturally, there’s voice control through Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as controls on the device and an app. The rOcean bottles have RFID tags, so family members can use their own bottles, and the system can be programmed to dispense water automatically based on each person’s preferences.
One possible problem point here is the need to hook up rOcean to a home water supply. That could prove difficult for those of us who aren’t particularly mechanically minded, but once it’s done, that’s it for good, hopefully.
There’s very little to dislike here. I can see myself quite happily having one of these and using it regularly. That is, as long as I can set it to dispense a drop at the exact right temperature to open up the flavor of my whiskey.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Picture-Perfect Refreshments
The only thing worse than your phone running out of power while traveling is the often fruitless search for a place to plug in. Your phone deserves better, and you can get it with an Anker power bank on sale today for 58% off.
Anker devices are often on sale at Amazon, with most of them boasting an Amazon’s Choice seal of approval. Consider the Anker PowerCore Speed 20000 to be part of that club. It’s small and compact enough to fit in your bag without any hassle, but it supposedly packs quite the punch.
Its PowerIQ technology allows it to deliver a fast charge to USB devices. It can deliver power to devices like the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 multiple times over, and according to the product page, only needs a 6-hour recharge. Your phone and tablets will probably thank you for hooking them up with more power — if they could talk, that is.
Amazon typically lists the price at $100, but you can get it today for only $42.