THE BLOG

What If Tampon Adverts Were Honest?

19/06/2017 13:04 BST | Updated 19/06/2017 13:04 BST
Jupiterimages via Getty Images

2017-06-13-1497385957-9012594-EmmaBlackeryPeriod.png

Image: Emma Blackery's 'If Tampon Commercials Were Honest', which does a brilliant job at poking fun at the myths that tampon commercials have perpetuated. The highlight of the video being Blackery sitting on the toilet on her period shouting 'Why is it blue?!'.

Blood isn't blue. Now, before you look at me confused for stating the obvious. Think, about why nobody sent tampon (and/or sanitary towel) adverts that message. It may sound a silly thing to focus on for some people. Who cares if they show the absorbency of the pads through blue liquid? The blue liquid makes it feel more scientific; like you are at a hospital. Clinical. That's probably why they do it. So it seems cleaner. But women don't bleed blue liquid, and each time blue liquid is shown it reminds women that the world is afraid to see their blood. It reminds women that for a lot of people periods are the opposite of being clean. They are dirty and impure.

Periods then become something shameful. Before, you start arguing with me, first answer me why school children in the UK are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary towels. And why homeless women have to use whatever they can get their hands on when they are on their periods, and why women in Nepal are forced into huts when they are menstruating away from everyone else. Finally, answer me why women in Swaziland are prevented from doing household tasks and forbidden to enter the cooking hut when they are on their period. The answer is simple. These events occur because periods are treated as something that shouldn't be talked about and so women either go without or are made to feel sinful for bleeding because in some societies menstruation is associated with being impure.

Therefore, tampon and sanitary pad adverts when they stick with blue liquid to advertise their products are adding to this shame. After all, it wasn't until 1985 that 'period' was said on American TV in a tampon commercial for Tampax by Courtney Cox.

Actually this secrecy continued until the last couple of years when the companies finally started to listen to that fact that people knew that blood isn't blue and women are not carefree and happy on their periods and constantly wearing white trousers.

Famously, BodyForm actually responded to public opinion. In...you guessed it, advert form. In the advert we see Caroline Williams, a fictional female CEO of Bodyform, responding to a viral Facebook post by a man called Richard to Bodyform's Facebook page. Caroline within the opening shot of the video pours a drink of blue liquid from a jug, obviously poking fun at the blue liquid used in adverts. She then goes on to talk about how the adverts Bodyform have put out so far has been created to protect men from the "harsh realities of womanhood".

As despite what Bodyform have said; there is no such thing as a happy period. Let me just stop here and say that although I can say that I have never enjoyed my period; I think we need to dispel the myth that menstruating can only be horrible. Though for those who suffer from painful, or long periods this is unfortunately a lot of the time the case. Therefore, more needs to be done and periods need to be discussed more in order to help women (and those who menstruate) periods become less uncomfortable. As if we just talk about periods as being unbearable we start to lose the reality of the pain, and this often contributes to why many women bear agonising period pain that isn't normal.

The advertisement however does not focus on this, but instead goes on to show videos of men reacting to the reality of periods in a focus group fictionally set in the 1980s. The men are seen crying, not able to cope. Hence, why Caroline insists the ruse has been necessary up until now.

The video ends with Caroline laughing and mocking Richard for 'letting the cat out of the bag'. Now, all men have to know the truth about periods. All I could think is that shouldn't everyone known a long time ago?

I do as well have other issues with this video. The idea that men can't handle periods is a stereotype that still persists. While it is true of a lot of men; it is ridiculous and shouldn't be.

This is why the charity Binti believes that men from a young age should also be a part of the discussion, as it will then "create a generation that are empathetic and not ashamed" and think menstruating is a "normal process". Education over protection then is what Binti believes is the key.

Something, which is evident in their video that highlights how red liquid can be used to demonstrate blood on sanitary pads and how it is something that we should not be embarrassed about. Significantly, we are told this by 9-year-old Aaron showing how you are never too young to be educated on what periods are and how to smash the shame surrounding menstruation, as Binti believes that education around menstruation and normalising the conversation is going to make generational change.

So Bodyform instead of trying to shift the 'blame' onto Richard maybe you should have just laughed at yourself and instead of still using metaphors for blood; maybe you should of actually shown some.

Recent videos however have seen Bodyform ditch the blue liquid, and their commercial 'Blood' does in fact show blood. It shows women bleeding from their knees, their face, their feet; although not from their uterus lining shedding. A lot of you maybe crying out at me at this point. Ok, ok, I can accept that they shouldn't use fake blue liquid; but surely we don't need to actually see a women menstruating. No I'm not suggesting we go graphic, graphic. But there are lots of ways they could incorporate a woman leaking into an advertisement to sell their product. And until the taboos surrounding menstruation start taking a backseat in society more; maybe that is what we need.

Instead, we have an advertisement where the focus is on women being active. Where they fall down, but always getting back up again even though they're bleeding: "No blood should hold us back". Which do not get me wrong is an important message.

However, the advertisement also shows the new way that tampon advertisements try to sell their products. The focus now is on empowering women. Women can be active. Sporty. They don't have to conform to stereotypes.

That is certainly what Bodyform's Red.Fit campaign seeks to do and Bodyform's YouTube channel is full of videos including workouts and recipes for women on their periods.

Always have taken the same tack with their #LikeAGirl videos. The 'Keep Playing' video for example tackles the stereotypes and challenges women in sport often face. Like, the misconception that women should be small and dainty and can't be beautiful with muscles.

Always have taken the same tack with their #LikeAGirl videos. The 'Keep Playing' video for example tackles the stereotypes and challenges women in sport often face. Like, the misconception that women should be small and dainty and can't be beautiful with muscles.

Great. But what does this have to do with menstruating? Don't get me wrong I'm a fan of any marketing campaign that can bring positivity and empowerment to women's lives. However, tampon advertisements appear to be so focused on behind breaking stereotypes around women, especially surrounding women and sports; that they forget to break the stereotypes around menstruation.

We may now be away from the blue liquid, and instead are focusing on empowering women; however, Bodyform and Always (and Tampax) please empower women even further by making sure you #smashshame around menstruation as well.

You too can do your part by supporting the work of charities like Binti who work to smash the shame surrounding periods and seek to not only educate women and men about menstruation through the Binti education; but also provide sanitary products (and sustainable ways of producing sanitary pads) to those who need them.