With mensuration being a taboo, most of us are unaware of it until we experience it or are informed about it. On talking to my male friends, most of them shared that they were introduced to the concept on reading biology lessons or talking to peers.
Living in a society where there is a lot of hush-hush around periods, advertisements play a major role in imparting information and knowledge about the same. They hold power to change the narrative around periods. However, they have been highly misguiding and misrepresenting people on their periods.
These have a few things in common. Girls accomplish all their dreams. They climb mountains and go on trips. All this by wearing a sanitary pad of a particular brand. In the above still, a girl wins an award post wearing a pad of whisper brand. Like seriously?
As they get to wear sanitary pads, a group of girls are shown dancing and jumping in joy as they don’t have to “check-check”. Such a portrayal is ridiculous. This is far from reality. It sways the truth of period pain, cramps, mood swings and uneasiness.
By showing such an unrealistic representation of periods and menstruating people, these ads propagate the idea that people who menstruate do not face any issues. It shuns the idea of the requirement of WASH facilities in addition to menstrual products.
Another problematic approach is showing “blue liquid” instead of “blood” to portray the absorption capacity of the product. This is absurd. This leads to confusion among viewers as the same is used in advertisements of diapers. The same led to my friend presuming pads to be an adult diaper for women as they do not have the freedom to stand and pee.
This false representation highlights the very idea to hide blood and bloodstains. It implies that period blood is shameful and needs to be hidden.
According to the general ethical principles of advertising, “The principles of the moral order must also be applied when it comes to advertisement.” Advertisements are considered indecent to show reality in a sanitary pad ad. It is taken to be injurious to public morality. This is nothing but a gentle caress upon the unrealistic societal norms set to conceal periods.
Finally, a bloody awesome sanitary pad ad marks the change in India. To my surprise, this shows “blood” instead of “blue liquid”. No matter how small, this is a victory, a revolutionary choice against a stigmatised one. The ad was uploaded on 30 December, 2020, on YouTube. However, I recently saw it on television.
All the ads by Stayfree have changed and are showing blood now. In times to come, I hope we get to see a more realistic picture of menstruators during periods. I hope we go beyond the notion of hiding a very natural, biological process behind “unn dino” and “check-check”.
With the first step, it seems that Stayfree has set itself free from silence, stigma and taboos surrounding periods because there is nothing to whisper.