America’s Least Favorite RelativePosted: July 10, 2011
By Becka Wall
Girls and women are all familiar with it: the dreaded monthly visit from Aunt Flo.
She means well, but man, can she screw up a pool party or a special event. Americans have always seemed to be majorly uncomfortable with periods. Women in commercials for
feminine hygiene products (pads, tampons) are shown dancing around in white skirts, synchronized swimming in pools, and laughing hysterically as they walk down the street. Marketing campaigns show blood as a blue liquid that looks Gatorade – and until recently, there was no red shown in association with periods in either print or television advertisements.
That’s right – an ad for Always ultra thin with Leak Guard has a single red spot in the middle of the pad in their print advertisements for the product.
This is a historic moment – the first realistic interpretation of what color women’s menstrual blood is! But the impact is limited – the ad only appears in print, and there has never been red shown on television on a pad or tampon. There’s also been a movement to get rid of the cheesy schmaltz that comes along with tampon and pad commercials.
It’s almost hilarious that these things are considered such breakthroughs – seeing as, when a woman is on her period, one red dot hardly even covers the first hour of the 3 – 7 day event. And the movement to make period ads less cheesy and expose marketing techniques is admirable, but she is still racially ambiguous and wearing all white – those subliminal messages are just called to our attention.
Americans have always had a problem with accepting this decidedly messy and unladylike period (ha! period pun.) of every month – when women get cramps, cravings, and constant trips to the bathroom. We’re marketed products to only have our period a couple of times a year instead of 12. Women on television are shown rarely getting or discussing their periods. The website TV Tropes has a huge piece on this – the topic is only discussed on television in episodes discussing pregnancy or exploring a girl’s first period – her entrance into growing up and puberty. Sometimes it’s used for comedy, but typically it’s shown as turning a woman into a PMS nightmare and a topic to force men to leave. Girls in sci-fi and action movies never get their periods.
The list goes on and on, but you get the point – women’s periods are a taboo topic on television – and apparently, so is realistic depictions on the airwaves. After all, what does it say about us that a single red dot in the middle of a menstrual pad is a groundbreaking move in the world of advertising?
Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All.