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Period positivity

Talking about periods is slowly becoming more acceptable. In Spring 2019, a period ‘emoji’ for smartphone users was even released, after a global campaign to eliminate the stigma surrounding periods.

This stigma can inhibit open discussions about the different, and less damaging, menstrual products out there. It can also have other adverse effects such as poorer menstrual health, including impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

The problem with marketing

Companies selling menstrual products are often a key source of information about periods. This means the way they market their products can have quite a big influence on how we view menstruation.

In 2007, advertisers were still using blue liquid to demonstrate absorbency compounding the idea that periods were unsightly and needed to be presented in a clinical and sanitised form.

Some companies, such as Tesco, are still using the term ‘sanitary protection’ which, as one of our subscribers kindly pointed out, is unhelpful because periods are not unsanitary, and we don’t need protecting from them.

There is also a big emphasis on being discreet. For example, Tampax has a whole blog on ‘How to use a tampon discreetly’ seemingly aimed at teenagers. It states, “Be discreet when bringing a tampon into the school toilet, but have fun with it, too. Challenge your friends to come up with the best hiding spots ... like, try tucking it in your bra or sock. Just make sure it’s secure – you don’t want it falling out onto the floor on your way down the corridor!”

Obviously, it is fine for anyone to not want people to know they are on their period. However, for many, it might be liberating not to feel like they have to hide their menstrual products.

Image: no shame couple changing the sheets after period blood leak
In 2016, US company ‘easy period’ released an ad campaign consisting of a series of four images that depict situations where women might normally feel ashamed during menstruation – taking a bath, leaking on bed sheets, having painful cramps or being naked with a tampon in.

Positive change in marketing

In 2017, Bodyform became the first brand in the UK to show red liquid being poured onto a pad (which at least looked like actual blood) after its parent company Essity surveyed over 10,000 people and found 74% wanted more realistic representations of periods in adverts. 

While it is great to see change starting to hit the mainstream, by only focusing on blood and leaving out things like ‘endometrial tissue’, it can still be seen to be a somewhat sanitised version of menstruation.

Many companies in our guide have also adopted a period-positive and open approach to talking about periods in their marketing.

Mooncup have a blog that covers a range of issues from menstrual health to period poverty. They have also produced a number of videos including a ‘Love your vagina’ song, a ‘tampon vs. cup’ rap battle, and a ‘period drama’ about ending the taboo.

Modibodi use blue for the liquid in their infographics (although their products are designed for periods, incontinence and lactation so there isn’t a clear colour choice!). However, in their informational video, they use a noticeably more realistic liquid to demonstrate the products’ absorbency.

Bodyform has released an advert showing a plethora of vulvas ‘lip-syncing’ to ‘Take Yo Praise’ by Camille Yarbrough. The line-up includes a conch shell, a leaf, origami, fruit and a woman in full vulva costume:

Bodyform's 2019 advert

TOTM have a ‘Period Powerful Hub’ on its website which definitely contains a lot more red than blue.

Organicup has a period guide on its website covering aspects such as period clots, heavy periods and irregular periods.

There is also more acknowledgement of the fact that it is not just women who have periods, with companies like THINX sharing the experiences of trans men who are still dealing with menstruation while identifying as male.

There is also a rise of companies targeting advertising at ‘people with periods’ rather than specifically women.

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