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No blue liquids or euphemisms


woman-beach-dancingFinally, an advert for period products we don’t need to cringe at: a tampon ad goes viral.

An advertisement for period products has gone viral, with five and a half million (and counting) YouTube hits, coverage in the Irish Times, the Guardian, and the Telegraph as well as numerous blogs.

Camp Gyno, a video created for the launch of Hello Flo’s tampon delivery service, features a young girl who gets her first period at holiday camp.

She becomes the self-appointed ‘self-gyno’, source of all knowledge and dispenser of towels, tampons and mirrors.

She loses her power when Hello Flo begins to deliver monthly packages of towels, tampons and sweets to her friends – or, as she refers to it, becomes ‘Santa for your vagina’.

So why has this advertisement become so talked-about?

It is one of the very few to cover periods in a realistic and celebratory way.

There are no sanitised euphemisms; it is an advertisement about periods uses the word ‘period’, as well as other commonly avoided words including, ‘blood’, ‘red’ and ‘vagina’.

Instead of the usually ubiquitous blue liquid, the preteen girl does a ‘menstruation demonstration’ featuring ketchup spurting out of Dora the Explorer. Towels and tampons, instead of being accessories that must be hidden, are flung about joyfully.

In short, as Jennifer O’Conell in the Irish Times puts it, this advertisement  ‘portrays a girl’s first period as an event that confers authority and knowledge, not the shame-and-secrecy model espoused by most advertisers.’

Indeed, Camp Gyno marks a departure from the norm.

Other than a hilarious spoof from Bodyform and Kotex’s deconstruction of periods, your average advert for towels and tampons either features women ‘defeating’ their periods by parachuting in white trousers, or desperately trying to keep their period a secret.

This habit of couching periods in euphemistic terms and concentrating on ‘hiding’ periods, contributes to period-shaming.

While women in the UK aren’t made to live separately or hide away during their period, there is still a lot of discomfort surrounding the idea of women on their periods.

How many of us have been accused of having PMS and told ‘It must be that time of the month dear’ or been asked ‘got the painters in love?’

You know that you live in a society that isn’t comfortable with women’s bodies when being told you are on your period is an insult.

Of course, advertisements for towels and tampons might be seen as a trivial point and cannot undo the centuries of fear and fascination around women’s menstruation. Yet they still grate and can still contribute to a culture where menstruation is misunderstood and mystified.

These advertisements also matter because they don’t stop at period shaming.

Kotex recently released ‘sport liners’ designed for crotch sweat, because women don’t have enough to be self-conscious about already.

The advertisement features women exercising and then fleeing the scene terrified when they realise that they have crotch sweat marks. But it never actually reveals why it’s quite so awful that women’s bodies respond to exercise by sweating.

While the Camp Gyno advert is a very refreshing change, the product it advertises is not without its problems.

On its site, one of the selling points Hello Flo promotes is the ‘discreet packaging’ so that no-one needs to know you are receiving towels and tampons. The inclusion of treats in the package can play to the stereotype of women needing chocolate to survive their periods.

Nevertheless, it represents a welcome move when it comes to depicting periods in adverts.

Let’s continue to have a bit less shaming and a bit more humour.

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