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My Fellow Menstrual Constituents,

Now, I am usually meant to be posting a blog piece once a month (just like our periods), but there was something I came across this past weekend that brought me back to my keyboard much sooner. Like any other millennial, I got trapped into doom scrolling through stories, and I came across a Period Product Advert that a friend of mine shared to their stories. Her comments on the post caught my attention, and as I tapped into the reel and watched the advert, I was left speechless…

Now growing up, I had always watched Period Product adverts that had emphasized messages of concealment which was further emphasized with visuals of “blue blood liquid” being poured into the pad. But beyond this, I always struggle to relate to the depiction of menstruators on the TV screens who were always happy to have their period. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who is Period Positive, I can speak openly and confidently about my period, especially with how strong and resilient it makes me feel. On some days, I even like wearing my “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Bleeding” t-shirt, to drive the message home. But on MOST days, I just want to get into my bed, with my hot water bottle and eat a whole tub of chocolate mousse. It is important to realize the power of perception these period adverts can drive to young people who menstruate AND to men and boys. If our periods are associated with happiness and joy, then this drives a false reality for the actual lived experiences.

Candice Chirwa with a Period Positivity Tshirt.

Now before I get into my solution, I think it would be important to provide a brief history of menstrual advertisements. The first print advert for “sanitary” aprons and belts appeared in 1920 which marketed the products to be discreet, convenient, and a solution to “an intimate feminine problem”. In addition to this, menstruation was depicted as an “illness”. Until 1972, menstrual product advertisements were prohibited on US television and radio networks, and it wasn’t until 1985 that the term “period” was uttered in a commercial. In as much as times have changed it is worth having a conversation about the lived experiences of people who menstruate in these adverts. I selected three interesting period product adverts that will show you how through messaging, the period stigma is present. Take a look:

Protectu Bloomers
Kotex, 1926
Modess – 1920s
Pursettes Tampons, 1974

With these images, we can all agree that times have changed in how periods are portrayed in adverts, however, I still feel there is a major element missing and that is representation. When flipping through the pages of a magazine or watching a period product commercial, one might be quick to notice the overwhelming prevalence of smiling, carefree menstruators engaging in various activities. While positivity is undoubtedly essential, this portrayal can isolate those whose menstrual experiences are far from joyful. The reality is that menstruation is a complex and multifaceted aspect of life that encompasses a range of emotions and physical challenges. Sure, we all wish our periods were a magical experience filled with joy, but the reality is far from the fairytale depicted in these ads. By consistently showcasing individuals who menstruate as forever happy-go-lucky, these ads create a make-believe world that can leave us feeling like we missed the invitation to the never-ending party. It’s like I said in my TEDx Talk, the depiction of our periods carries importance in how we remove the stigma.

Candice Chirwa “Bad Blood” – TedX

So I’d like to take this opportunity to address this blogpost to advertisers. Please do not take this as an attack but rather an invitation to change the status quo. It’s time to break away from the stereotypical narratives and embrace real conversations about menstruation. By portraying menstruation as a natural and normal part of life, period ads can contribute to dismantling the stigma surrounding periods. Firstly, it’s important to feature a diverse range of individuals, representing various ethnicities, body types, and gender identities. This not only ensures inclusivity but also helps break down stereotypes associated with menstruation. Secondly, let’s move beyond the ‘always’ happy (No Pun Intended) content that is portrayed. Acknowledging the range of emotions and physical experiences associated with menstruation not only reflects reality but also fosters a more inclusive and understanding society. Understand the real power you hold in creating a more empathetic and understanding society. If young boys and men start to see adverts that market the product including diverse experiences, then the next time a menstruator states that they have intense period pain or other symptoms, people can respond with the statement: “I believe you, how can I help?” Recognizing and validating the varied experiences of those who menstruate helps break down stereotypes and fosters a sense of connection among individuals with diverse menstrual journeys, AND that’s the power advertisers carry.

I am hopeful that there will be about positive change, but it only happens when WE demand of it. So the next time you see a period advert that doesn’t really represent your lived experience, don’t be afraid to speak openly about it. Let’s create a world where period conversations are not just open but celebrated. Your voice has the power to shape a narrative that truly reflects our diverse, authentic, and beautifully unique experiences with menstruation.

In Solidarity,

The Minister of Menstruation

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