hello… period

I’ll admit I’ve been busy with school and since my topic for my graduate work is menstruation, at the end of the day, I frankly do not feel like talking about anything to do with it. Nonetheless, I owe it to you, my readers, (whoever you are) to keep on going with this project.

My adviser directed me to an article in the Globe and Mail today which started quite the online conversation. Along with Tampax and Kotex, Always has now started a transgressive ad campaign (at least that is what some people are calling it) that seems to be challenging some of the popular stereotypes of feminine hygiene advertisements.

I for one disagree with calling such ad campaigns transgressive, alternative or rebellious. Any feminine hygiene ad that encourage women to buy a non-biodegradable product, that distance her from her menses is not transgressive to the norm, but rather is the norm.

As I was thinking about this, I realized maybe these ad campaigns really do change people’s perspectives on menstruation. And maybe they are starting a conversation that is worth taking part in. However, on the other end of the debate are those who think there is no need to discuss such a thing or lament on the fact that women are supposedly oppressed because advertisers show blue liquid instead of red in their commercials.

Are they right?

Some of the comments to the Globe and Mail article have been troubling me. For example, one post stated that “Just because it’s natural and healthy doesn’t mean we want to see it”. Really, is that why we don’t want to see it? I thought it was because “it” is gross and makes people uncomfortable.

One comment I found to be incredibly frustrating asked this: “Do we really need to see menstrual blood to understand what pads/tampons are for? For crying out loud here, use some common sense, women who use the product know absolutely what the end use is and I for one don’t really need the ‘reality’. Stop with the feminist rhetoric over this.”

I guess some people think that when women get frustrated with the euphemisms in menstrual product advertising it is because we want to see a bloody tampon. That is not really the root of my frustration. The root of my frustration is that these products are still being sold to women as a commodity that will help them hide the fact that they are menstruating. Do I want women to go around throwing bloody tampons everywhere?

No.

It is not the imagery I want to see, but more so a discourse that actually captures the truth about the menstrual experience. By hiding the truth, advertisers encourage women to do the same and this is where feminist rhetoric kicks in. By silencing an experience so central to women’s (and men’s) lives ads like that of Tampax, Kotex and Always encourage a menstrual culture of shame and secrecy.

I wanted to post some of the commercials I have been analyzing over the past year to see what you think of them. Do you think they are more positive or negative than their historical counterparts? I’ll admit I think these commercials are quite funny, but at the same time I fear they are just being used to cover up the truth of the matter. It is good to laugh at the past, but is a pink tampon really going to challenge the current menstrual culture we live in?

I hope to hear from you. dropsofscarlet has been quite lonely lately and all the silence makes me think that maybe the comments above are not the opinions of a select few, but the many. Regardless I will continue with my work and hope you will join in the conversation.

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This entry was posted in femcare.

2 comments on “hello… period

  1. Rachel Erb says:

    The message which I’d like to see changed is not so much that menstrual fluid is blue, but that menstruation is gross, messy, inconvenient and that X brand of pad or tampon is going to make it less so, or will help us “outsmart” it.

    In my experience, it was pads and tampons that made menstruating gross, messy and inconvenient. Once I freed myself from needing them, I learned that having my period is really not a big deal.

    I’m thankful for this because, for one thing, it has made it really easy to talk to my kids about it. If it’s not a big deal for me, it’s not a big deal for them and it can be discussed casually whenever it comes up, like when they ask what those funny garbage cans in public washroom stalls are for, or like the time my daughter found a bloody tampon in a public toilet, or when I leave my diva cup sitting out in the bathroom.

    It’s just part of life. It’s not a big deal.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to change our own attitudes about menstruation. We need to pass this on to our kids. We need to educate people whenever we can.

    I came across a woman in the grocery store handing out samples of menstrual pads. I walked by and took a look. When the woman asked if I’d like a sample, I said, “No thanks, I use a cup”. Of course, she’d never heard of such a thing and we had a long conversation about it. We need to talk about these things!

    I tend to feel like the messages coming across in almost all advertising are inaccurate and sometimes even damaging to some degree. I wish people would use their own heads more and stop relying on advertising to make decisions. Most of what is advertised to us is unnecessary. If this weren’t so, it wouldn’t need to be advertised!

    Anyway, these are some of my thoughts on the topic – disjointed though they may be!

  2. Your words are so true and I hope that as I grow older and share my life with my niece, and maybe even my own children in the future, getting your period will be seen as a fantastic moment in a girl’s life. I really enjoy hearing about the red parties or period parties that some mom’s hold for their daughters and think it would be wonderful to be able to do the same thing for the young girls in my life.

    Over the past year I have definitely been challenged to rethink how I manage my menses and talk about menstruation. I have had the opportunity to talk about this with my dad, brother and father-in-law and find it really liberating. I at the same time find it to be really educational because we cannot ignore the opinions of men when creating a new discourse on menstruation. They can join with us and help us redefine what menstruation is all about and how we should respond to it and care for ourselves.

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