Commentary: Manure Calendar Too Dirty?

  • Not pretty enough? A calendar promoting composting human waste that features scantily clad women raises questions about gender equity. Composting toilet made by Way of Nature, Israel via Wikimedia Commons.

August 2, 2013

I spotted the calendar featuring scantily clad ladies on a bachelor friend’s kitchen wall. I was troubled by his support of the objectification of women. But the dude excitedly pointed out that this was no ordinary girlie centerfold—that it was created to promote composting of human waste—and featured what were called "ladies of manure."  A woman featured one month sat on an outdoor composting toilet with a lacy thong draped around her ankles.  Other ladies laid on the ground giggling and topless, with their chests covered with finished compost.

I looked up more information on this calendar and came across the Kickstarter crowdfunding pitch by the Miami-based Fertile Earth Foundation. The group described its work as a "tasteful way to get people to think about their waste.”  Here's how they describe how it came together:

"We've been working on this calendar for over seven months now, meticulously selecting women that are not only beautiful, but play an active role in changing people's minds about waste."

So I found this gross. And I'm not talking about the compost-to-skin contact. I guess I expected educated people—who are concerned about things like composting waste—to be a little more aware of other issues, like gender equality. Especially in a world that’s recently seen horrific rape cases at the hands of men who take the objectification of women to an extreme.

At an event we hosted last fall about environmental issues in the last federal elections, some people raised the point that to get noticed, environmental issues may have to be made sexy—which kind of gave me pause. 

Naturally in this line of work, I get to know a lot of people who see themselves as environmentalists. And I have a lot of respect for them. Often they make next to no money and hold fast to what many see as hopeless causes. That's admirable. But is sexy really the road environmentalists want to take to stir conversation?

If nothing else, I hope the calendar biodegrades well in the compost pile.