Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

“Happy It’s Here”

October 16th, 2009 by Elizabeth Kissling

P&G_WhisperProctor and Gamble has just launched a new internet campaign in Singapore for their menstrual pads. The flash-heavy website tells why girls are Happy It’s Here :

Happy, confident, and loving life. You know what you want and where you want to go next. You feel wonderful about being a girl!

This is not a new product, but a new campaign for the pads known as “Always” in the U.S. Guess what they’re called in Asian markets.

Wait for it.

Whisper“.

That’s right. P&G’s ad promotion “to instill a positive attitude in young Singaporean women about their menstrual periods, seeking to dispel some of the squeamishness toward the subject that persists in much of Asia” is for a product called Whisper, with all the connotations of menstrual silence that carries.

In fairness to P&G, the name change from the U.S. product pre-dates the new internet campaign by ten years. And I wanted to give them a break after reading this quote in the Wall Street Journal article about the new campaign:

“We see our role as being over and beyond just selling the products,” says Sujay Wasan, associate marketing director for P&G’s feminine-care division in Asia. “Periods are not a necessary evil, or a curse, or a problem to be solved. It’s an absolutely natural part of being a woman, and it needs to be appreciated and celebrated,” he said.

But then I finally figured out how to turn off the site’s annoying music (yeah, I’m not really their target audience) and started poking around. I saw the links for “about your period” and “28-day cycle” and assumed P&G was serious about trying to do a little menstrual education here. So I clicked on the 28-day cycle link from the menu, and pretended today was the first day of my cycle so that I could check it out. I read, “Day 1: During your period you may feel thinner. That’s because your body may burn carbs better. Tip: Show off your figure at the gym, beach or by the pool!”

Now, on the one hand, I’m glad to see some recognition that bleeding isn’t the only thing happening during menstruation and acknowledgment that the menstrual cycle is not a bodily process isolated in the uterus and vagina. But advice to young women to practice being a sex object really grates my cheese. And it only continues: on Day 2, I’m told that since I’m burning up those carbs and feeling so thin, I should put on some hip-hugging jeans. Day 5, I’m told that I’m unlikely to feel jealous, so I should let my boyfriend have a guy’s night out. Heterosexist, much?

It goes on and on, with descriptions of the cycle in terms of emotional experience rather than physiological processes, and even though there’s a caveat at the beginning of the calendar that every girl is different, it offers mighty presumptive advice for dealing with these emotional changes. Happy It’s Here assumes that all girls are heterosexual and aspire to be paragons of femininity, as defined by the beauty product industry and other handmaidens of the patriarchy (yes, I’m using the p-word).

It also overemphasizes emotional element of the menstrual cycle, at the expense of knowledge about the physiology and anatomy of menstruation.The only mention of hormones comes on Day 15: “Estrogen is low and that nasty progesterone kicks in. Brace yourself for mood swings, irritability and bloating.” Oh, that nasty progesterone! If only it weren’t essential for fertility, a functional uterus, and bone health.

Sorry, P&G. I know you’ve been working on normalizing menstruation in your marketing campaigns, but this isn’t helping.

[H/T GladRags]

  

5 Responses to ““Happy It’s Here””

  1. Laura Wershler says:

    That was depressing to read. Add this description of what ensues during a menstrual cycle to the many others I’ve read in popular magazines and you’ve got a nothing more than a plethora of half-truths and incomplete information that serves only to further confuse and misinform young women. It’s time to STOP TELLING girls and women what to expect during their cycles and when to expect it and START ASKING them what they observe, experience and feel.

  2. Chella says:

    Wow. Gives a whole new meaning to ‘whisper campaign’…

  3. Heather Dillaway says:

    What’s so interesting about this and some other things I’ve seen lately is that making “positive” change for women’s health often carries a huge price (for individual women), and it is often beauty ideals and negative body image that are reinforced in the face of making this “progress”. Has anyone seen advertisements for the “Booby Ball,” and the “Save the Boobs” campaign? I find it equivalent to this “Whisper” campaign in what it is trying to do overall, except that the “Save the Boobs” campaign is making efforts to raise money for breast cancer rather than elevate the status of menstruation. Both, however, reinforce the heterosexualization of women’s bodies, cement the idea that women should be looked at and women should be ready to be looked at, and reify damaging beauty norms in very harmful ways overall, in my opinion. YouTube actually took the video off their site “because of a use violation” but you can view the “Save the Boobs” ad here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/24/save-the-boobs-is-this-br_n_298349.html

    What I want to know is when will we be able to make positive strides in women’s health without denigrating women in other ways? Ugh.

  4. Erick says:

    What I’d like to know is just how many women respond to the idea that they can
    and should be happy that “it” is here. Ooooo…It!

  5. James says:

    Hi all, interesting discussion that you guys have here. Yes, I am currently living in Singapore, and happened to pass by the roadshow that Whisper was holding in conjunction with this campaign. My immediate thought was ” Why would girls be HAPPY it’s here?” Seriously, I can’t see how the message resonates with women. Looking at the post by Elizabeth, I am getting more disgusted abt this whole campaign. On the other hand, Kimberly Clark’s Kotex seems to be approaching the area of feminine care from a more matter-of-fact manner, where they had done a good deal of research and realised that women in Asia don’t really know abt their bodies ( http://www.facebook.com/iknowmovement ).. One status update was read ” Did you know that 82% of 2000 young women in 6 Asian countries do not know the number of holes in their genitals?” Interesting fact.. hope Kotex will be able to bring more good to women on the topic of menstruation..

Leave a Reply

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.