When it comes to period pain, especially endometriosis and adenomyosis pain, many women will try anything to alleviate the agony akin to Freddy Krueger stabbing your abdomen.
But what if the remedy was truly off the wall?
File this under: Why didn't I think of that? Freelance industrial designer Lauren E. Lee came up with an innovative new concept—a heated, protruding communal wall called the “Warm Wall” to remove the stigma and taboo of menstruation while providing a soothing spot for women to, literally, lean on.
It was all part of her master's thesis project for Pratt Institute. Lee worked on the wall, which provides a gentle heat similar to a heating blanket or hot water bottle, from 2016-2017.
“I wanted to use menstruation as a topic for my thesis, and I wanted to address the taboo of it,” says Lee, 32, of the inspiration behind her invention, which is made of porcelain tile and electric heat.
"Women’s period pain is invisible to the public. It made me think of public ways to alleviate that pain. I wanted it to be something simple and understandable to everybody. There’s something nurturing about a curved, warm wall; it has a femininity to it and feels maternal in a way like a warm belly.”
Before coming up with the prototype, Lee, who is based in San Francisco, toyed with the idea of a menstruation-utility belt stocked with Midol and tampons. But she soon realized she didn’t want her invention to cost women a penny. Instead, she turned her focus to public restrooms, where her creation would be as commonplace as toilet paper or hand soap.
“If something is publicly provided in a restroom, it becomes more normal, and a shared experience, and you realize you’re not suffering alone,” Lee says. “Men can walk in a bathroom and already have everything they need. We’re expected to wear menstrual protection and go out and buy it for ourselves. The bathroom is something everyone uses, but it could be more empathetic to women’s needs."
Although Lee admits she doesn't personally know anyone who has been diagnosed with endometriosis, she does have several friends who have complained about killer cramps.
"Periods can range from ‘Not that big of a deal’ to ‘I punch walls.' It’s not something that’s talked about very much." Lee hopes her wall will help break the silence of bad periods. Already, she confides, it's had that affect on her. "Before this project, I didn’t talk about my cycle very much. You just assume it’s a part of life and don’t look more into it.”
While the wall is only a one-of-a-kind, Lee is in awe of the incredible response she’s received, and hopes the Warm Wall will come to a bathroom near you.
“I think it would be great in workplaces and schools—especially middle schools where the discussion on periods really begins,” says Lee.
“It’s something that could open up conversations for women.”