Revolutionary, or about fucking time?
By Anna Freeman
It’s quite frankly dumbfounding that until 2016, a real-life sanitary pad hadn’t been used in an advert selling sanitary pads. Seriously.
Bodyform changed that. They ran an apparently ‘groundbreaking’ advert that depicted a woman using a – shock horror! – sanitary towel after starting her period. And here the company is again with a campaign to stop menstruation shame. Period.
Their latest advert has ditched the weird, blue gel-like substance that is used as a stand-in for blood and have opted for a red liquid – revolutionary, I know (wink wink).But let’s give credit where credit is due: this is the first of its kind to get upfront and candid that women bleed for roughly one week of every month.
Bodyform’s advert features blood-like liquid not once, but TWICE. First we see the red liquid being poured onto a sanitary towel to demonstrate its absorbency. Then we see period blood trickling down a woman’s leg while she’s in the shower, prompting her boyfriend to go and buy her some sanitary towels in the shops – without embarrassment.
The feminine hygiene company carried out research that found that one in five women felt their confidence had been damaged because periods weren’t discussed openly. ‘We know that the “period taboo” is damaging,’ said Traci Baxter, marketing manager at Bodyform. ‘It means people are more likely to struggle with the effects of period poverty, whilst others struggle with their mental health and wellbeing.
‘As a leader in feminine hygiene, we want to change this by challenging the taboo and ultimately removing the stigma, making it even easier for anyone to talk about periods, now and in the future.
And sure, that is heartwarming to hear and the advert is in your face and cool – sort of like a Lana del Ray video, but with more blood and a giant sanitary pad – but that’s where the praise ends from me. Let’s not forget that it was feminine hygiene companies that created period shame in the first place; telling women they should hide their tampons and pads; that blood was too risqué to openly discuss until 2017; and menstruation is just a drag we have to live with in the privacy of our bathrooms.
In fact, I’m almost angered by the blatant co-opting of a feminist movement for capitalist gains. Devising a hashtag #bloodnormal after women have already done the hard work themselves of breaking down period taboos. The slick ‘live fearless’ tag line at the end of the advert stirs something up in me that can’t be described as anything than despair. Surely we would have been living fearless already if Bodyform and their counterparts hadn’t systematically told women they should keep quiet, calm – and carry on.
The problem with big businesses is that their intentions are usually questionable at best. Do they really care about women’s wellbeing? Or do they just want to sell faux female empowerment to us? Repackaged to fit the changing tastes and ideals of modern women. Perhaps it’s a mix of both. But let’s not get carried away by branding Bodyform ‘revolutionary’ or ‘groundbreaking’ as so many people are – they’re fixing a problem they created in the first place.