Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tampons, Periods, and Dancing

I don't have cable when I am in London at school. I can't afford it. Because of this I have been out of the loop, so to speak, of current commercials. I don't really miss them, but tonight, when I actually tried to be healthy and went to the gym, the treadmill I was on had a mini television screen and 40 whole channels. As I was flipping through stations I came across this:

At first I was not aware this actually a commercial for tampons but it makes sense. Advertising techniques are getting old and periods aren't fun. Those buying products for periods are aware of this.For once, the company almost frankly, or at least more so than other advertisements, states what exactly tampons and pads are for. The commercial acknowledges that women do not believe the advertising that certain products will make them want to dance in white clothing during their periods. At the same time, this advertisement reminds me of one for one product or another, that I really wish I remembered, that was marketed along the lines of "You are too smart to believe advertising," and then goes on to say that their product is meant especially for these kinds of people. While I believe it is great that such companies are getting closer to the truth about the reason for their products, it is not because they actually have respect for their consumers, but rather, they recognize that more and more people are becoming aware of common advertising techniques.

Other product advertising that I believe need critical examinations are birth control and pubic area shaving devices.

Really?? Not only does this follow similar advertising techniques of tampon companies by making shaving look fun and worthy of singing and dancing, it also fails entirely to say straightforward what their product is for. Yes, most people will understand what this is for, but why can they not even use other socially acceptable terminology like "bikini line" rather than mowing the lawn.

(Some of the text in the video has been added...the lines that use improper grammar such as "your" instead of "you're." Sorry, I wish I could find a better version of this).
I am having a tough time finding birth control commercials that I remember. At one point, there was a company that played their commercials before movies at the theatre and never explicitly said what it was for. Birth control was never mentioned. One that I remember contained only young females going on a camping trip. There were no men with them and one girl was talking about the importance of remember to pack "it" (a package of pills). While I do recognize that some girls are prescribed the pill for acne and reducing period cramps but it appeared that the entire group of girls was on the pill, with no males in sight. Another company had a campaign of advertisements in which girls whispered and passed notes to one another in high school and photo booths and giggled when boys asked what they were talking about. Is there some law I am unaware of that did not allow for birth control or contraception to be explicitly mentioned in public? This ad that I have linked to, while it does finally mention what exactly they are discussing, the women still have problem saying the terms "period" or "menstruation," and refer only to it as "that time of month." What is so horrible about speaking frank terms?

Emira Mears, writing for the blog Scarleteen, has an interesting post regarding the Eight Myths About Washable Menstrual Pads. She writes, "I've lost my patience with trying to pussyfoot around the issue until women are willing to talk about their own blood."
Menstruation is something natural. It happens whether women wish to acknowledge it or not. It's not fun (at least I have never spoken to someone who found it fun) but it happens. Why do women (and men for that matter) not discuss it as such? Although the first commercial I posted tries to make it clear that periods are not times when women wish to dance and dress up, the very product it's advertising is one that attempts to make menstruation cute or pretty by dying tampons different colours. What the hell is the point of this? Are women too embarrassed to see the colour of their own menstrual blood? How does combining it with blue make it any more attractive or pretty? Is this dye even healthy for you? Mears discusses this very point:

"So why then, you may correctly ask, does the disposable product industry rely so heavily on their 'sanitary' image? Same reason that toilet paper is white, because it has become normal. There's a complex historical argument behind this, but basically somewhere after the second world war, white became a symbol of sanitation. In actual fact, the tampon and disposable pad industry operates under no regulations that ensure sanitation and they aren' t really all that sanitary. They're just white."

I believe that these topics are not ones that need to be coded and hidden. Similar to how I believe people should use the word "vagina" rather than "vajayay" or any other childish term, people should simply come to terms with the fact that women bleed every month. Sometimes we shave our pubic hair and quite a few of us take various forms of birth control. If we cannot talk about these using real words there will always be a sense of shame around normal female bodily functions such as menstruation which is something entirely out of our control unless we wish to suppress them with birth control that prevents it from happening so often.

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