Ah, periods. For around 50% of the population they arrive in a spectacular and slightly alarming fashion in your early teens and then continue like clockwork (my own clock being slightly faulty and terrible at timekeeping) until the sweet release of menopause. What can make the early few appearances of Mother Nature’s little gift even more of a struggle are the negative or sometimes completely no reactions at a time when you most need reassurance. I remember proudly announcing my first period at age 13 to my horrified father who dodged eye contact and just mumbled ‘oh, you’ve got… that now, have you?’
Bodyform have just gone live with their #bloodnormal campaign, the first company ever to show period blood for what it is, red, rather than the confusing cyborg-blue liquid usually used in adverts for sanitary products. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it really is. Imagine if laundry detergent companies used the same clinical fluid when they are showing the power of their product’s stain removal? You’d completely disconnect with it, not understanding how it relates to you or your muddy trousers. Well that’s exactly what these period adverts have done for girls since the beginning of time (or since the birth of the advert at least). By more closely depicting real life and real experiences, Bodyform are enabling a whole new generation of young girls to feel comfortable with the changes in their body rather than scared, awkward or confused.
The media have occasionally been known to contribute to the problem, by dramatising something to the extent that it retreats further into ‘taboo’ causing untold trauma to those who are affected. Think Time magazine’s 1982 cover on “The New Scarlet Letter“, more commonly known as herpes, which was pegged as being the downfall of the sexual revolution. Publications such as VICE have since attempted to reverse this totally unnecessary stigma with articles such as “Let’s Not Make Such a Big Deal About Genital Herpes“.
Similarly, the coverage from high profile individuals such as Prince Harry publicly being tested for HIV has led to an increase in awareness and access to information, and has combatted the stigma surrounding a lack of knowledge about the disease and reluctance to get tested. The strides made by the media, brands and social outlets to talk about taboo, therefore removing their ‘taboo-ness’ are so important, not only to people who feel stigmatised, but to everyone, to remove the fear and shame associated with certain topics.
Pfizer’s first ever and breakthrough Viagra campaign utilising famous face Bob Dole completely took the conversation about erectile dysfunction out of the shadows and allowed men to seek advice and help without fear of judgement.
It’s not just a problem when the media writes negatively about taboo topics, completely unreported stigmatised subjects are just as damaging. In a world where pretty much everything is instantly accessible on the internet, including a website where you can use your cursor to virtually slap a man in the face with an eel (seriously, eelslap.com is a REAL website), not being able to find information on something that is concerning you is very depressing indeed (and leads you to spend more time venting your frustrations on eelslap.com).
Similarly with so much utter drivel being spewed by trolls into every dusty, cobwebbed corner of the World Wide Web, the media has a precious opportunity to act as a voice for hope, and a voice for good. To cut through the crap and reach the readers who need it most with a message that what they’re going through is normal and they’re not alone.
So hats off to Bodyform, and all brands who take the veritable leap of faith, venturing into the unknown for scared, stigmatised folk everywhere. Here’s hoping that in a few year’s time, pre-menstrual teens will welcome their periods, knowing they’re fully clued up … and not at risk of looking between their legs to see a bright blue puddle in their pants.