Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

My Red Self

Written by Jenny Russell
Feminine hygiene products have a marketing problem, and television commercials are the worst. That’s because all across America, families are eating dinner, trying to maintain the fiction that Mom isn’t shedding her uterine lining right there underneath her nice, ironed skirt. So while there are a few commercials where they pour blue liquid onto a pad to demonstrate its absorbency, most of the ads sort of dance around the issue.

Feminine hygiene products have a marketing problem, and television commercials are the worst. That’s because all across America, families are eating dinner, trying to maintain the fiction that Mom isn’t shedding her uterine lining right there underneath her nice, ironed skirt. So while there are a few commercials where they pour blue liquid onto a pad to demonstrate its absorbency, most of the ads sort of dance around the issue.

A lot of television commercials tell you how their product will help you keep your period a secret from everyone, as if it weren’t just sort of a given that if you’re a woman of a certain age that you presumably menstruate every now and then. I remember the big thing with OB was that the tampons didn’t have applicators, and were small enough to fit in your pocket. That way, you didn’t have to take your purse with you to the bathroom because if you did, then everyone would know that you had your period. I’m surprised they didn’t develop OB-tampon-pocket-privacy-cases because presumably, if their ad campaign were really successful, then even the Chapstick-shaped bulge in your pocket would be too embarrassing for people to bear.

I’ve noticed that a lot of commercials for pads and tampons advertise a “quiet wrapper” too. Like anybody is going to comment on the crinkling of paper coming from your stall in a public restroom. “What’s that sound in there? Are you opening a candy bar?” Silence. “Is it a Snickers?” I’ve heard people argue that the quieter wrappers might help to keep girls who’ve recently gotten their first periods from being embarrassed while at school.  No time is a good time to start being embarrassed about your body and how it works.  That time spent ducking through the hallways, trying to avoid seeing anyone while on your way to change your tampon is time that is completely wasted. I confess to being one of those teenagers who was embarrassed to open her tampon wrapper while in a crowded restroom, and you know what happened to me? Pee performance anxiety, that’s what. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat on the john in a Burger King somewhere while a line formed outside my stall, utterly incapable of getting a flow started. If I had been taught as a lass to rip noisily into my tampon wrappers, to aggressively and loudly rip the adhesive pad from my underwear, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so many urinary tract infections as a college freshman adjusting to life in co-ed dorms with OMG CO-ED BATHROOMS.

On the Tampax teen website, they have a section on “keeping it quick and quiet” in public restrooms. Nowadays, I try to reserve that effort for special times, like taking a crap at my boyfriend’s parents house during Christmas dinner. Because the bathroom, seriously, is like right there next to the dining room.

Thankfully, people are starting to lighten up about the menses. New products like the Diva Cup, which collect menstrual blood and only need to be emptied out every 24 hours, have gone a different way with their marketing. On the front page of their website, they refreshingly proclaim the environmental friendliness of their product. The Mooncup Menstrual cup advertises its product in a similar, non-insulting manner—they just tout the comfort, convenience, and relative thriftiness of the product when compared with something that you have to buy every month. I wish that more pad, tampon, and other menstrual product manufacturers would stop marketing their products in these crazy ways and focus on the features of the product that most women actually give a crap about. Is it cheap? Is it easy to use? WILL BLOOD GET ON MY UNDERWEAR? But NOOOO, the pad and tampon companies, like clothing and cosmetic companies, the diet industry, and pretty much every other company that targets women, have to try to make us feel bad about ourselves, which is, excuse the pun, A BLOODY SHAME.

Illustrations by Justine Zwiebel  and Jasen Slutzkin

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