As a young seven or eight year old, watching advertisements featuring pads was an extremely confusing exercise. I recall watching perturbed women who would find themselves at great ease on noting that a new pad could soak blue ink better than the one they had been using.
I always wondered why they felt so much joy on this discovery, what function could the soaking of blue ink possibly hold? I often tried asking my mother what was going on in the advertisement, but only ever received a disinterested silence. And so, the mysterious pad belonged to the foreign territory of the young adult world that I was in a hurry to enter.
A few years, later, I came to resolve these mysteries in a classroom full of young, uncomfortable pre-teen girls. The collective sense of excitement and awkwardness stemmed from our previous encounters with the silence that surrounded the conversation around menstruation.
what function could the soaking of blue ink possibly hold?
Some of us had heard strange myths: one of my friends thought that we bleed every month because of a wound that all girls are born with, and pads are basically a special kind of band aid. At least, the rumor got the part of pads being used to soak blood and not ink right!
I remember how embarrassing it was, and still is, to find that your pants are stained. In school, one of my classmates cried her eyes out on noting that her skirt had red splotches on it. My sister screamed at me whenever I stained a bed sheet, wondering when I will grow up and why I can’t seem to put on a pad right.
For the first few years of getting my period, I never left home without a jacket, just in case I would need something to cover a potential stain on my pants. I found myself experiencing pervasive discomfort at the thought of the stains being discovered by those around me.
After my father had an operation, he was advised to use a pad by my cousin (a doctor), I handed a pad over to him and will never forget his uneasiness on taking this from me. What is it about the sight of pads and period blood that we find the need to erase it from the media we consume?
“It doesn’t upset me when people call me names and talk about my period blood – but just don’t call it gross. Because there is nothing gross about period blood. When we think about periods, it’s my ability to reproduce, it’s my ability to give birth. If there’s nothing gross about a man’s body fluids, then there is nothing mysterious or evil about women’s body fluids either.”
Bodyform’s short 20 second video puts me at a refreshing ease. The advert normalizes the sight of period blood and pads. The first sequence features a test tube containing red liquid being poured on a pad and this is followed by a man purchasing pads. The montage of spontaneous images goes on to display blood dripping down in the shower and a person donning the costume of a blood stained pad hugging people at a party and dancing. The lack of a linear narrative and sheer randomness disarms the viewer. The video is not preachy and yet delivers a wonderful lesson, the kind we, as women know already know.
The organisation is currently running a campaign titled #bloodnormal:
Periods are a natural part of life, so why are they rarely given any screen time? Surely hiding something so normal only adds to the shame and embarrassment many women feel when it comes to their periods. Let’s be open about it.
Our #bloodnormal campaign aims to call time on period taboos. We’ve conducted an online survey of among 10,017 men and women and found that 74%* of them want to see more realistic representation of periods in advertisements. We show true-to-life situations; we show blood; we show the world that the only way to kill stigma is to make the invisible visible.
By bringing blood out of the dark, onto our screens and into the conversation we’re paving a positive path for women of the future. After all, shouldn’t period-talk be as normal as periods themselves?
Menstruation is a natural process and yet, we are surrounded by cultural markers that seek to de-normalize the sight of period blood. Bodyform’s advertisement offers us a cause for celebration as we can now finally view a pad that does not soak blue ink as we progress towards a realistic representation of menstruation.
Featured Image Credit: The Fader