Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Shameless, Part 2

February 7th, 2013 by Elizabeth Kissling

Guest Post by Chella Quint, Adventures in Menstruating

So I like the new Mooncup ad for lots and lots of period positive reasons.

Here it is again:

I watched it, I enjoyed it, I shared it, but I couldn’t ignore this other blog post title forming in my head after the first viewing:

“OMG! They’ve used an educational rap!” say several slam poets and rap battlers (including a statistically small number of female rap battlers) at once as they collectively facepalm.

Yeah, so, there’s that. A number of readers will know I perform regularly on the spoken word scene and I’m on my university’s slam team. Lately, there’s been a little more slam/battle crossover in the spoken word universe, so I thought I’d check in with a few pals for some peer review. They’ve each agreed to weigh in below on their impressions of the video’s effectiveness from a wordsmith’s perspective.

Sticking with the marketing point of view though, cultural appropriation of rap for commercial purposes is such an old trope that it’s more status quo than newsworthy. In fact, in this particular advert, I really think that the usual criticism is mostly offset by the genuine use of rap as protest against disposables.

Interesting as it might be to me, I know that the femcare industry and most consumers don’t need to read a peer review of the authenticity of the rap battle. I had a hunch that Mooncup’s choice to adhere to some of the conventions of the genre has actually helped them get the message across more effectively (and certainly more effectively than more typical #OMGRAP ads currently making the rounds).

I don’t think it’s a gratuitous use of rap. I think it’s a well observed and effective pastiche.

When I got in touch with Mooncup last week to get the stats for last Friday’s post, I also checked out the origin story for the rap battle. Kath Clements, their Campaigns and Marketing manager, was happy to share their process:

“It was a real collaborative effort between Mooncup and [the ad agency] St. Luke’s. We needed a device for positioning a debate and a conceptual framework – we put it in our natural habitat which is the toilet! We were aware we were appropriating a thing with cultural connotations, so we tried to do it with finesse.”

I asked her about how it was written, and she told me that St. Luke’s worked with a producer who battles in his free time, and liked the concept enough to help them out and write it pro bono. He also coached the actors who play Tampon (who has actually rapped before in her own right) and MCUK (I just got that joke), who appeared in Mooncup’s last viral ad campaign.

With that insight, it looked to me like I could analyse the battle in good conscience. See, I really like the wordplay, puns and syncopation of classic freestyling, and my twelve-year-old self delightedly and ignorantly partook in gentle games of The Dozens with my middle school pals. The casual sexism and homophobia that I’ve witnessed on the current battle scene puts me off, though. I valued this ad’s depiction of women in a rap battle scenario. So I wanted to check out my theory that the quality of the pastiche and the rhyme are part of the payoff for this ad.

The first bit of commentary comes from Harry Baker, who’s been on Don’t Flop but who also raps about maths and slams about dinosaurs, both of which are more my speed.

“I think it’s almost too obvious that it’s made up of key statistics made to rhyme, but I guess that is the point of the advert. Things like the ‘no strings attached’ line would get a reaction from a crowd probably. So first reaction is ‘eye roll’ + ‘rap to get down with the kids’ but the rhyme/hook is there. For me I’m fine with it being a rap battle between two women, and it makes sense as a way of A vs B advert information, but the rhymes themselves aren’t really good enough to get away with it, or do the genre justice – I guess it’s good they want to use the format in mainstream media (pastiche is a great word) but what I would watch for/do in a rap battle is the intricate word play and rhyme schemes which I feel this lacks!”

Shameless. Or, How To Make An Ethical Femcare Ad.

February 1st, 2013 by Elizabeth Kissling

Guest Post by Chella Quint, Adventures in Menstruating

I saw a femcare ad that I actually liked.

I know, right? I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I’m kidding. I’m exactly the same person. It’s the ad that’s different.

Now. I don’t promote individual femcare companies. I do ad analysis. As long as femcare adverts remain the loudest voice in the menstrual discourse, I’ll keep encouraging people to use social media to create a two-way conversation and to increase their advertising literacy. Since I started this project, though, I’ve longed to see an ad that was period positive: that didn’t use shame to sell or use humour at the expense of menstruators. This is the first one I’ve ever seen.

It’s a viral video that’s been put out this week by Mooncup UK, a small (but growing), ethical company producing reusable, medical grade silicone menstrual cups. The ad directly challenges the current market leaders and promotes their own product without once dipping into the fear/embarrassment/secrecy triumvirate used throughout the history of femcare.

Here’s the ad:

And here’s the analysis:

Like a number of femcare ads that have made news over the past couple of years, it’s funny, viral, and sends itself up.

Where previous ads by bigger brands have gotten it wrong, though, it’s usually been because there were still echoes of the history of shame, fear and manufactured problems that could all be solved by the product. Ads for disposables somehow never seeming to mention the inconvenient truth (thanks, Al) about landfills and waste.

But the Mooncup ad works because:

They have a massively on-message USP. The unique selling point is that it’s reusable for years. Those who prefer tampons to pads could be persuaded to make the switch. I know many people who have sung their praises for ages, and while I’ve been doing the Adventures in Menstruating project, their company’s reach has grown far beyond its Brighton offices, and awareness around menstrual cups generally (a number of companies produce silicone and latex menstrual cups around the world), has spread, mostly by word of mouth, small distributors, and a few clever ad campaigns.

Brand loyalty for products that you don’t need to replace often is built through trust, reliability, and integrity. It’s a classic advertising model, but it’s usually applied to big ticket items like cars. Gives a whole new meaning to Think Small.

I’m aware that there are very different business models working with a one off purchase vs. repeat purchase disposables. If tampon companies respond, it’d be refreshing if they used what I like to call the Ocean Breeze Soap model. (Tampons are convenient in a pinch. Just like other disposable products are handy for the same reason. It would be way better for the environment if we used fewer convenience products, but if you do choose to use a disposable product of any kind, we hope you’ll choose ours.) Disposable femcare companies can’t deny their carbon footprint, but they frequently take the lazy option and distract consumers with shame and fear.

Shame is out of the equation. Its persuasive powers aren’t tainted by the classic canon of leakage fear, invisibility, euphemisms like ‘comfort’ or ‘freshness’, or that mysterious blue liquid. (Okay seriously – what IS that stuff? Do they use water with food colouring? Wildberry fruit punch? What?) They don’t need to use shame – no femcare company does.

They have a convincing argument backed up by statistics (that they are willing to share and which you are welcome to read and critique further). This ad lists the reasons why menstrual cups are better in a direct product comparison: better for your body, better value financially, and better for the environment than disposables. (In the style of a rap battle. But I’ll come back to that in my next post next week.)

I emailed Mooncup and requested data to back up the claims, and they, impressively, sent it straight over:

Source: no of tampons (22 per period)

Source: tampons absorb “everything”

Source: Mooncups hold 3x as much as a tampon

Love Your Body, Love Your Beach, Love Your Cup

September 5th, 2011 by Chris Bobel

Mooncup, the British reusable menstrual cup makers, just launched their Love Your Beach? Love Your Vagina campaign—a compelling attempt to connect the care for your body/care for your planet messages at the root of the push for alternative menstrual care.

My first reaction: that deliciously sensual vulva has HAIR! ‘Atta girls!’ This body-positive, earth-loving feminist is on board.

Then I read British journalist/commentator (and self described “broad-minded broad”) Julie Burchill’s piece in The Independent about the Mooncup ad and was brought back to reality, that is, the reality that is colored by menstrual taboos and woman-body-hating. Oh geez, really, Julie? Et tu?

In short, Burchill rails against not only the soft cup, but also the sponge and reusable pads, and by extension “breastfeeding, small shopping, slow eating”—other movements, she concludes that “conspire to straight up KEEP WOMEN AT HOME FOR AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE” (yes, her words, her emphasis). Words like gory, inappropriate, and vile pepper her indictment against options she rejects before she tried them. Her basis? Her “best ex-hippie friend, happily brought back to the land of the living.”

If you strip away her regrettable squeamishness at trying something new (single use pads and tampons FTW!), we find a rather clumsy critique of eco-feminism. Though I can’t be sure since I keep tripping over Burchill’s ignorance and the REAL public enemy.

I, too, shudder, when a product is sold to women (or anyone) because THEY MUST or THEY SHOULD. When this US national breastfeeding awareness campaign heavy-handedly warned women that NOT breastfeeding effectively meant selfish mothering, lots of feminists protested.

Give me info, support, and compassion, not a big finger wagging in my face.

So I hear Burchill’s frustration with ‘Go green, you bitch’ messages, but here, it doesn’t stick. She is mad at a cup maker for promoting a product she thinks sets women back. But for me, the scoundrel is not MORE options, but rather our old nemesis the menstrual taboo which grows out of a long standing discomfort with women’s bodies ON THEIR OWN TERMS. We are cursed with an egregious inconsistency bred out of sexism: Women’s bodies on display? Cool. Women’s bodies as commodities? Score! Women’s bodies lactating, menstruating, doing what bodies do. Eeewww!

Exposed breasts and reusable cups and a expanding field of options—these aren’t the problems limiting women’s potential.  No, deep-seated discomfort with women’s bodies in their natural state–that’s one that really keeps us back.

News: Mooncup leaks less than pads or tampons

April 10th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling
Mooncup, shown actual size

Mooncup, shown actual size.


A small study published this month in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology tested effectiveness of the mooncup. The results won’t surprise anyone who has used one: “The Mooncup leaked 0.5 times less frequently and required to be changed 2.8 times less frequently, on average, during one menstrual period than regular sanitary protection.”

And now a femcare ad campaign that’s not afraid to say VAGINA

March 18th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Triangle of flowers labeled "Lady Garden".Or coochie, or bajingo, or vajayjay, or any other term for female genitalia. The big news in U.S. femcare this week is the launch of Kotex’s new “Break the Cycle” campaign, and the refusal of American television to air commercials that use the word vagina. As Amanda Hess put it, “you know, the place where the fucking tampon goes.” Meanwhile, Mooncup has launched new ads for their menstrual cups with a “Love Your Vagina” campaign in the UK. The campaign includes posters all over the place with different names women have for their vaginas – fru-fru, bajingo, coochie, lady garden and vajayjay – and the domain name LoveYourVagina.com.

According to this article in Marie-Claire,

Mooncup intend[s] to stimulate debate and encourage women to care about their vaginal health as much as they care for their hair, nails and make up. Kath Clements, Campaigns Manager for Mooncup, says: ‘We hope the ads will get women thinking, smiling and talking about their vaginas.’

No word yet on whether British media are permitting television ads.

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.