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What’s The Logic Behind Showing Blood As Blue In Period Ads?

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

The visual media we have been exposed to has shaped a part of who you and I are today. In fact, it continues to shape us, whether we like it or not. We are consuming content every day, every hour of our lives. And this is precisely how advertisements use behavioural psychology to create needs in us.

Representational Image

Additionally, by upholding awkward silences and pursed lips that period conversations invite in their advertisements, they seem to normalize it. From showing period blood as just a stroke of blue liquid to showing only one gender that is experiencing menstruation, a lot is misrepresented in our advertisements. Let us take a look at it:

  • Variety of products: Compare the number of sanitary napkins ads we see and those of menstrual cups, tampons or cotton pads. Because of this underrepresentation of alternatives, a lot of women remain unaware of their options and continue to use the commercial sanitary napkins. Most of these are non-biodegradable and can also increase the risk of vaginal infection.
  • Periods aren’t the cause of all problems: A failed exam, a lost match or a bad day at work cannot be attributed to periods. While there’s no denying about the cramps, mood swings or nausea one might experience, it doesn’t become the cause of an utterly lousy day. Also, a scented floral pad cannot solve it for sure.
  • Just say it. Period: It’s funny how some advertisements sell a product for periods without ever mentioning the word itself. Euphemisms like “Mahino ke mushkil din” take its place. Sometimes, even if the protagonist doesn’t say anything, people around them understand that they are on their period. Ads should try and clear the air around the taboo to use the word and talk about it in general. As people normalize it in popular media, it’s usage will gradually become familiar too.
  • People of a wide age and gender spectrum menstruate: From the younger generation of 10-15 years old to the middle-aged 45-50 years old, people across this age spectrum menstruate. However, ads only seem to represent a part of the range. Relatable advertisements can educate them better about periods and their product options. Similarly, periods are not only a cisgender phenomenon. Many people undergoing hormone replacement therapy can experience PMS, mood swings etc. without the bleeding.
  • Add some humour: It’s no secret that humour is the best way to give out a message and help change perspectives too! Some humour in mainstream ads can make it fun and also deliver serious messages efficiently. People grasp it easily, and it resonates with them.

sanitary pads in the market

With that said, we must also acknowledge the few ads, videos and initiatives that have been path-breaking as they shift away from the prevalent stereotypes. Let us have a look at it:

  • Rio heavy-duty pad ad: This sanitary napkins’ ad shows blood on screen in a first. It shows the flow types with the help of a balloon opening from which the liquid comes out. Starring Radhika Apte, it is one of the few ads also to show an entire pad soaked in blood. And although a little late, it’s a ray of hope to see ads breaking stereotypes.
  • Thinx: With a unique concept, this ad shows that if in a fictional world, everyone has periods, then the awkward air around it wouldn’t exist, and people would freely talk about it. It intends to give out a powerful message of normalizing conversation on periods.
  • Don’t hide it. Period: This campaign aimed at changing how we perceive periods by redesigning the conventional sanitary packaging. Each pad carries a bold message to normalize the conversation around periods. It also comes in a reusable canvas bag unlike other sanitary napkins and thus reducing plastic.
  • India’s Best Sanitary Napkin Ad: This video by Being Indian with the same name has a sarcastic take at how the conventional period ads have unrealistic promises and portrayals that are beyond reality. From the pad soaking every ounce of the liquid to all of the person’s problems being solved with it, the video is a crisp example of what is wrong in our advertisements. Although released in 2015, it’s sad that even today if we look around, we’ll realize that not much has changed.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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