Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Little Girls! Just Say Yes to Your Dreams!

March 18th, 2013 by Chris Bobel

Seen this one yet? (or the (eerily) related “Birth Control on the Bottom“?)

We posted “Sassy Girlz Candy Birth Control Pills” (written by Carissa Leone in 2011) in our regular installment Weekend Links on Feb 2. I had a mixed reaction. And when a couple re:Cycling readers described the video as “nasty,” I knew we needed to dig in a bit.

Let’s discuss.

There’s something very absurdly funny about eating birth control, even if the women are still tweens and the birth control is merely mulit- colored jelly beans intended to get young girls in the pill-popping groove before they are saddled with a baby and an half-finished high school education.

First of all, women CAN eat their birth control, donchaknow… Warner Chilcott brought to market their chewable, spearmint flavor oral contraceptive, Femcon Fe, for women who have difficulty swallowing pills and apparently, find stopping for 30 seconds to swallow water.

But I digress (I guess I just want to be clear that we are ALREADY munching our pills).

It is hard not to love how this sketch takes down the pandering to the girl tween market. Oh lordy. There’s so much potential there! (one estimate figures that kids aged 8-12 years are spending $30 billion OF THEIR OWN MONEY and nagging their parents to spend another $150 billion annually!) Little girls quickly move from Disney to diets, from fingerpaint to fake eyelashes, from tutus to belly shirts…..I have seen it with my own girls and it feels, frankly, like an inexorable force.

Viral sketch writer Carissa Leone graciously replied to my questions regarding the piece. When I asked her what inspired her, she channeled her Women’s Studies training (go team!) and supplied her two main reasons:

(1) “I saw a little girl on the subway,holding a baby doll in one of those pretend baby slings…and I thought, “If only she really knew what motherhood was like. I wonder if anyone has explained the authentic experience. I wish she were carrying a briefcase and reading a teeny issue of Ms. magazine instead… “

AND

(2) “The idea that women can/should have it all, in terms of relationships and families and career still seems to be put forth as a tangible (and”correct”) goal in Western culture. It’s a pressure I and many other peers feel, and one that I don’t think is truly possible, or necessarily awesome.”

And Big Pharma takes a hit, too, per the spot’s director, Brian Goetz, who offered this when I asked him about what led to the sketch:

“I wanted to do the video because the script spoke so well to the branding of pharmaceutical commercials, where no matter what the product, as long as you say there’s a problem and that you have the solution, throw some happy people and fun b-roll in it, you’ve got a successful campaign. On top of that, it’s always fun to legitimize terrible ideas in sketch comedy. And if that means having multi-colored jelly bean birth control pills, all the better.”

But I think there’s more to it that that.

Why do I find myself laughing and crying at the same time? Well, I just finished my advance copy of Holly Grigg-Spall’s forthcoming Sweetening the Pill  or How We Became Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control (out this Spring with Zero Books). In it (and here as well, on this blog), Grigg-Spall makes the case the hormonal contraceptives have become so normative that we, as consumers, permit an imperfect (at best) product to flourish even while other options may be more appropriate. The one-pill-fits-all mindset is so pervasive and bores in so deep, so young, Grigg-Spall argues, that when someone says, ‘hey! I don’t want to be on the pill,’ these—what she calls “pill refugees” — are hastily branded as irresponsible, antifeminist, or just plain dumb. That is, the pill gets constructed as our savior, our liberator, our saving grace, even when its not.

And that’s where this spoof enters….since the pill IS all these things, let’s get those girlies on board NOW! Why wait? Good habits start young, after all. And product loyalty is not just for toothpaste and laundry detergent….

And so, “Sassy Girlz Candy Birth Control Pills” is super smart feminist critique. It calls out the enduring wrongheadnessness of romanticizing motherhood and co-opting what I would call a tragically hollowed-out pseudo feminism harnessed to push product:

  • Little girls playing Mommy is cute, and kinda bullshit!
  • Its never too early to teach little girls about options!
  • She’ll know that birth control means winning a college scholarship

Yup. There’s lots of problems with that. Thanks to the feminist satirists to help us see.

But I have to say one more thing.

Leone and I discussed (what I consider) the unfortunate below-the-belt invocation of gender dysphoria to as she put it, “most absurd, heightening beat” in the sketch (here’s another, more recent example of same, on SNL). I don’t think trans or gender queer or otherwise gender variant people should ever serve as punchlines, as I told Leone so in our email exchange. When I inquired about this moment in an otherwise spot-on sketch, she said that is was never intended it as a negative perception of transgendered kids. But still  it is, and I think it points with a big fat finger at how much work we still need to do to move trans issues from margin to center.

Let’s push forward without leaving anyone behind. Let’s laugh at feminist satire that avoids (even unintended) transphobia. Let’s keep our targets clear and our allies clearer. Let’s say YES to that dream, for real.

An Antidote for Feminist Fatigue?

January 21st, 2013 by Chris Bobel

I am demoralized.

The gang rapes in Delhi India and Steubenville Ohio and EVERYHERE, ALL THE TIME, have me feeling hopeless and fatigued.

Soon, I will face 30 undergraduates in my introductory Women’s Studies class, and I will, again, attempt to contextualize rape and link it to the pernicious and enduring realities of hegemonic masculinities, misogyny, and social constructions bodies as commodities.

And I will hear victim blaming, neocolonialist attacks on the global south, the forced binary of good vs. evil, and other apologia for why, how, when and where rape “happens” as if it is an unstoppable force that some of us (the chaste, the modestly dressed, the sober, etc) can avoid.

And I will go home and cry in my pillow.

So I am looking for inspiration to go on, to keep talking and, the harder part, listening, and not give in, not resign myself to ‘this is the way of the world. Don’t fight it, just accept it and move on.’

This 5 minute PSA created by Jason Stefaniak and Siobhan O’Loughlin helps. A lot. It is a clarion call to embodied autonomy, and I am so grateful to the creators and the funders who made it possible.

You can read the full text here, but here’s the first few powerful lines:

This is my body.
I do what I want with it.
This is my body.
I make my own choices.
This is my body.
I use it as a canvas, tattoo it, decorate it, and pierce it.
I take medicine if I want to and only undergo medical procedures I choose.
I eat what I want, exercise for my health, and wear what I like.
I fall in love with whomever, fuck/sleep with whomever and marry whomever I choose.
I decide when and how to become a mother.
This is my body, not yours

These decisions have nothing to do with you. If I’m not hurting you or stopping you from pursuing your inherent right to happiness, it’s none of your business. This is my body, not yours.

Stefaniak released “This is My Body” on July 23rd, so it is hardly ‘news’, but that fact hardly diminishes the URGENCY of the message. Can you imagine a world in which we lived by such a simple credo that reminds us of these truths:  My body is NOT your blank screen on which to project your anxieties or your fantasies (or both). My body is NOT your property, NOT your business opportunity, NOT your playground, NOT your battlefield.

Watch and affirm our work–which simply must be our COLLECTIVE work— to RESPECT the INTERGRITY of everyBODY, everyONE.

Happiness Is in the Eye of the Beholder

October 22nd, 2012 by Elizabeth Kissling

Guest Post by Chella Quint, Adventures in Menstruating

When periods hit the news, and they do every now and again (no, not once a month – that’d actually be nice, and proof that it was a normal, neutral topic of conversation), my friends have me on speed dial. I’ve been hanging with my Off the Shelf Festival pals this week, though, and was apparently experiencing some kind of menses media blackout, because I was none the wiser about the latest Bodyform brouhaha until I got a Facebook message from my friend Bill that said ‘Quite remarkable’ with a link to a New Statesman article entitled Fighting Snark With Snark: Bodyform viral video destroys commenter.

So I clicked the link.

Nutshell: a guy recycled an old joke about femcare ads being unrealistic (This was at the expense of his girlfriend, whose period apparently resembles scenes from the Exorcist. Nice work. You’re a real charmer.) to made a tongue-in-cheek jab at the company, posted it on their facebook page, a zillion people ‘liked’ it (although there is this ‘fake likes’ issue so I do wonder a little – genuinely – not a lot, but a little), and the brand replied with a viral video, which only took a week to turn around.

Check it out:

Analysis: First thoughts? I did say I like a two-way conversation, but damn. There’s nothing more two-way than a brand adbusting an adbuster. He’s hardly destroyed though. He’s made rather a lot of, addressed repeatedly by name, and given an awful lot of attention. They put the response together in a week, which is only a few days longer than I’ve taken with some of my ad parodies, and they made a whole film with acceptable production values and neat touches. (Right at the end, the mobile phone rings with the classic Bodyform ad as a ringtone, and then the correct part of the song picks up to carry on as non-diagetic sound for the outro. Classy.) The guy in question was an easy target, though, and commented in a way that amusingly got under the skin of a femcare company with the following message: periods are horrible, women on their period are out of control, and Bodyform were terrible for pretending it was all sunshine and flowers. So in the clever-clever video, Bodyform duly apologise for pretending periods were about unrelated lovely fun things, etc., but – here’s the kicker – then agreed that periods are totally horrible – so horrible that nothing to do with them can be shown on screen, and the truth makes grown men cry.

By the time I’d watched it, though, my pal Seonaid over on the west coast of the US had caught up and sent me a link from an ad website, with simply ‘Awesome’ written above it. Huh. Seonaid is a hip cool lady and knows her stuff. She thought it was awesome, thought of me, and sent it straight over. So I watched it again. The (FAKE! TOTALLY FAKE! A DUDE OWNS THAT!) CEO pouring out some blue liquid from a pitcher into a glass and then the recall of her drinking it at the end, that was pretty funny – really sound visual comedy, and the fart was a great afterthought (Teasing a guy for thinking women are classical and not grotesque? That’s a good gag. Oh yeah – playing by the rules of signers in femcare ads, though, she totally drank from a big old pitcher of blood. But I digress.) The original post is a riff on an old joke that people throw around all the time about unrealistic femcare ads of the ’80s, but this time someone actually told the joke to the brand itself using social media, which many people found refreshing.

It was a tweet from my Sheffield buddy Saul that I’d most like to respond to:

Saul Cozens ‏@saulcozens: @chellaquint is this a step in the right direction http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Bpy75q2DDow … it still feels a bit too coy but it isn’t trying to hide anything

Good shout, Saul. I wasn’t sure either. Incidentally – I met Saul after he saw my TEDx Sheffield talk, which is a potted history of femcare advert messages. So if you add my femcare research background, my fanzine shenanigans, my natural skepticism, and my initial reactions to the Bodyform video, when I read this tweet I went back and watched the video again, not with the surprise and glee expressed by most of the people who’ve analysied this story for articles that are now cropping up in feminist blogs, ad industry press and in the mainstream media, but with a need to work out why everybody seemed to love it, and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

I hate to be a killjoy. I love joy. I’d be joy’s EMT, do joy CPR…heck – I’d even take a bullet for joy. But this facebook commenter’s post and the response, while funny on the surface, and clearly a lesson for all the advertisers and quite a few filmmakers, isn’t all it seems.

As we saw earlier in the summer, Facebook posts on femcare pages do garner attention, and Bodyform were right to respond (although if Femfresh had responded saying anything other than ‘You’re right, our stuff is pointless, possibly harmful, and we are slowly learning how to say the words vulva and vagina in pubic. PUBLIC. We mean public. Dammit.’ their product would have tanked immediately, which would have made lots of extra space on the shelf for reusable femcare products like menstrual cups, but been rather bad for their business). Femfresh should have responded this way, but either didn’t have the brand knowhow, or knew they had something to hide, and sarcasm couldn’t make it better. I made a spoof ad in response to that Femfresh campaign, you know. Not to go into a sulk or anything, but I’m a little disappointed they didn’t make me my own movie. I’m not in it for the attention – I do this because I want people to engage with their media environment – but at least after that case and this one we know for sure that femcare companies are hanging on our every word. It’s too bad that so far they only respond when there’s an easy target who’s comment plays right into theirh hands. Because this guy’s post and the ‘you asked for it, buddy’ reply both play up the same stereotypes of ‘all periods suck’, ‘all women are hormonal and out of control’ and ‘all men have to either deal with it or be shielded from this horror’ which is not very period positive, and throws in some mental health and physical disability stuff right in there with the sexism. I think the way to explain period positive to people is: the woman is not the butt of the joke.

Here’s his comment (sic):

Hi , as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years . As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things ,I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding , rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn’t I get to enjoy this time of joy and ‘blue water’ and wings !! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn’t wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen …..you lied !! There was no joy , no extreme sports , no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving , gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform , you crafty bugger.

Bodyform were eating this stuff up though. It follows the classic advertising technique where the company has to convince you that you have a problem, before they can solve it for you. If you think periods are ok, you probably won’t have a lot of time for people who seem afraid to talk about it. But if you are a company that targets people who think periods are gross, this is right up their menstrual street. Which is why their response video intro on their page says:

We loved Richard’s wicked sense of humour. We are always grateful for input from our users, but his comment was particularly poignant. If Facebook had a “love” button, we’d have clicked it. But it doesn’t. So we’ve made Richard a video instead. Unfortunately Bodyform doesn’t have a CEO. But if it did she’d be called Caroline Williams. And she’d say this.

See what I mean about the totally fake CEO? She’s a made up character. Which reminds me – Richard’s girlfriend is a nameless, faceless possessed child. There are no women in the fake focus group (the fake-us group? the faux-cus group?). There are no real women anywhere in this exchange, with no real voice – they’re simply spoken about. Yet loads of women enjoyed watching it all unfold. I’d imagine the ‘battle of the sexes’ trope provides for a satisfying ‘smug male’ smackdown. I suspect some women who really do have horrendous periods caused by underlying medical conditions may have felt vindicated to finally see their take on things put across on screen. It’s definitely funny that the only graphic description of periods in the ad is accompanied by a subtle zoom out that takes in a conveniently placed plate of red jelly (that’s Jell-o or generic gelatin dessert, for speakers of US English). The eating and drinking menstrual blood metaphors are a little surreal – I’m not sure if they were going for vampire or cannibal, but these bits add a quiet menace that keeps up the horror movie theme running through the whole thing, just in time for Halloween.

Bodyform could have taken this opportunity to tell the real truth: that periods are part of a bigger cycle, can be anything from painful to annoying to no big deal to an exuberant turn up for the ‘not pregnant!’ books, or just, you know, a sign that you are in good reproductive health and everything’s ticking over nicely, like your pulse, and your blood pressure and your peak flow and stuff like that.

For some people, it’s just fine, you know. Periods are a part of life – like every other bodily function. We call them bodily functions because most of the time, they’re functional. Stuff works. And when it doesn’t work, like with this awful cough and head cold combo that is sweeping the UK right now (I hope this makes it into some professor’s pandemic prediction algorithm, but I’m nerdy like that…), you get cranky and irritable and may feel short tempered, like my wife does right now. I don’t think she’s acting like a character from The Exorcist, though. I think she has a head cold, and I will probably buy her some ginger ale to sip and try not to bug her too much. Like I said, this guy sounds like a real charmer. Bodyform is his target, but it’s at his girlfriend’s expense, and she’s not the only one on the receiving end of the putdowns.

The original post is at a woman’s expense. It’s written in a patronisingly innocent tone toward Bodyform, and the butt of the joke is the man’s girlfriend – a woman whose period causes her to become, quote, “the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin”. He does call out their outrageous adverts, but not for implying that women’s real bodily functions are normal. He says (and Bodyform sticks with this view in its response) that women lose it during their periods, which are unmentionably horrible, and men are the real victims.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed. There are a number of dissenting voices in the comments on the Facebook page, calling this stuff out, but many of these commenters are dismissed with replies that are patronising or accuse the poster of, charmingly, not being able to take a joke because they are currently on their period.

Here are a couple:

I estimate about 25% of the female responses on here are very aggressive towards Richard, even though he was clearly just making a joke. Hmmm what on earth could be currently causing about a quarter of women to act like psychos, lacking any form of reason or logic? – Chris Dubuis

Lol, seems like half the woman on this post have their monthly friend. Good thing Richard is on their mind! – Paul Antoniuk

Here’s one from a woman who wanted those who were not amused to shut up:

Very clever Richard and I like the companies come back……. both VERY clever……… LIGHTEN UP LADIES…….. it’s a joke, a HA HA, a giggle, snicker and or snort…… it’s all for fun……. I found it amuzing, thank you for writing this Richard. it was a hoot – Linda-Lee Bosma

Wow. Effective reinforcing of negative messages, Bodyform. But here are a couple of commenters who do a better job than Bodyform in terms of injecting some fair representation and role reversal into your humour:

Richard, sometimes a man just needs a little more game in order to get a date with a skydiver, dancer, biker, surfer or rock musician. Keep trying, buddy, and good luck. – Liisa Pine Schoonmaker

@Richard…I train at a MMA gym..I train in Muay Thai Kickboxing, regular boxing, and BJJ. I do it while my “Happy Period” is in session. I don’t let it slow ME down. I also do the fun stuff like dancing and amusement parks. So, I guess they must have made the advertisement about me… – Lorelle Massageworks

They did have a particular target in mind for their advert, but it’s not the person above, it’s not Richard specifically, or men generally, or women who have painful periods. The whole thing’s a smokescreen. The truth rocks up 45 seconds into the viral video, when the C.E.FAUX (That works, right?) says:

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but there’s no such thing as a happy period.”

She looks straight into the camera, delivering a direct hit to the Always ‘Have a Happy Period’ campaign. (This tagline was in use in the US, more recently in the UK, and is still around in other European countries. It’s most well known for, ironically, a fake viral campaign that started out as a McSweeney’s article, and coincidentally namechecked another fake exec, but this one was male.) It’s not ok to pretend all periods are a walk (rollerblade?) in the park, but the reverse is also true. It’s not all doom and gloom, and it’s irresponsible to insist it is. Even their focus group fake out (The voice over: “We ran a series of focus groups to gauge the public’s reaction to periods.” is run with clips of men crying while watching a screen we ca’t see.) Playing up the negative maintains the taboo even while trying to pretend to break it down. It may seem funny on the surface, but look below the blue liquid for a minute and things do get scary.

This ad isn’t just a coy game with Richard, though, and it’s not just complicit in supporting men’s negative feelings about periods and the people who have them, or even those annoying old ads. It’s a big ‘up yours’ (as it were) to Always, a coded message to potential customers to laugh along with them at the international maxi-pad market leader’s catchphrase, and a bit of (nearly) subliminal encouragement to jump ship and declare new brand loyalty with cheeky old Bodyform (which many Facebook page posters have now done, including one lady from Canada, who went so far as to say that she had never heard of Bodyform before, but should she ever be in the UK and have her period, she would seek their products out specially, in some new kind of uber-brand-loyalty I have never before seen, except in my head where I covet Smeg fridges and they populate my fantasy dreamhouse).

But back to the ad. Fakety-fake-faker Caroline ‘Fake’ Williams continues: “The reality is, some peopele simply can’t handle the truth.”

One perceptive Facebook commenter seems to reply directly to this:

Finally, at last, we have found value in the truth. By the way, just when was it that man first became incapable of handling the truth? Speaking of the truth, when did we stop telling the truth? Ah! There in lay the rub, If we don’t tell the truth, how on Earth are we going to be able to handle the truth, let alone ever know it when we hear it? – Bradley Acopulos

A good point. Simply saying you’re telling the truth doesn’t mean you actually are.

Bodyform uses a clever ploy but it just reminds me of Nick Clegg. (I guess at this point, Bodyform would say, ‘It’s called a metaphor, Richard.’) At 18 seconds in, the actor hired to impersonate a pretend CEO says: “We lied to you Richard, and I want to say sorry. Sorry.” At the Lib Dem party conference, Nick Clegg apololgised for promising he wouldn’t raise university tuition fees, when he should have been apologising for raising university tuition fees. Bodyform apologises to a guy for making periods look like fun, but they should be apologising to women for playing up to the stereotype that periods turn women into possessed little girls.

So. It was remarkable, Bill. I have felt the urge to remark upon it at lengt. It was awesome Seonaid. I am in awe at the irresponsible and seemingly irrepressible force behind age-old period stereotypes, propagated by people who do their research and should know better. And Saul, it was not a step in the right direction, they were being coy, and unless advertising changes radically, they’ve probably got plenty to hide.

Cross-posted at Adventures in Menstruating

Menstrual Marketing Around the Globe — Israel

May 22nd, 2012 by David Linton

Scary Little Menstruating Girl

[note: Although re:Cycling has an international audience, the following post is written from the perspective of an North American consumer.]

As is well known, cultural practices and attitudes regarding menstruation vary widely from place to place and time to time. re:Cycling has commented on the variety frequently in the past.  Differences also make themselves felt even in advertising and packaging of menstrual products, as the notorious Kotex Beaver ads from Australia demonstrate, despite the fact that the products are manufactured by global, trans-national corporations. Though the fact that the menstrual cycle itself is a world-wide biological phenomenon might suggest that views of its meaning and management would be universal as well, nothing could be further from the truth.

Kita and package of Kotex YoungConsider an ongoing marketing campaign that originated in Israel that features a cartoon character named Kita. To the best of my knowledge this campaign has not been adapted for use in the United States, nor, in my opinion, is it likely to find a place in American advertising nor on American market shelves. The spookiness of the cartoon girl who resembles a Japanese anime character seems strangely unlike the way that American consumers commonly depict young teens in a menstrual context. Even the lettering of “Young” and the way the term is used are unfamiliar to American eyes. Of course, the term “Normal Plus” is meaningless but that’s not unusual in advertising everywhere. And all the shades of red and the display of hearts across the bottom of the package are unfamiliar to American consumers as well. In fact, the menstrual taboos in America have resulted (with few exceptions) in a near absence of red, other than in carefully planted touches such as the ribbon on Mother Nature’s menstrual gift box in Tampax Pearl ads, the hair and lipstick of the magician in the Always pad ads, and the big red dot in many Kotex ads.

The Kita campaign began with careful planning and design. As this promotional video from McCann-Erickson, the Tel Aviv ad agency behind the campaign, explains, it began with the creation of a character and an internet world based on notions of what the target consumers – 10 to 13 year old girls – are thought to love most: shopping, the Internet, shopping, clothing, and, of course, in addition to shopping, more shopping. The character of Kita (“the coolest friend any girl could want”), who narrates her own creation and success story, speaks in a voice that is derived from the American “Valley girl” model, complete with plenty of “like” phrases, a few “awesomes,” an “as if” and a “duh” or two. How Kita immigrated from the San Fernando Valley to Tel Aviv is a mystery, although her native voice does come through a few times via some non-Valley pronunciations. (She pronounces “Kotex” as though it were spelled “Kodex.”) According to the boastful promotional video clip, Kita has achieved remarkably high market saturation. It claims that, “95% of Israeli girls know me and love me” and that “1 of every 2 Israeli girls (12-15) has a profile in Kita City.” Furthermore, since the launch in 2007, the “Kotex market share grew by 56%.” If this is what it takes — a menstrual role model who babbles in clichés, is consumed with consuming, wallows in the trivial, yet does so with seeming self-confidence and menstrual cycle savoir faire — to break down even an iota of menstrual shame and insecurity, who are we to object? And the fact that Kita has become a transnational, widely identified cultural meme, as the agency seems to claim, then maybe her next assignment should be to promote world peace. Ya never know!

Shit I Say

April 10th, 2012 by David Linton

Guest Post by Alexandra Epstein

A series of videos on YouTube have taken stereotypes to a whole new level.  Not only is ‘Shit Girls Say’ sexist, but it has created an empire of homemade ‘Shit (insert proper noun here) Say’ videos stereotyping hundreds of categories. To name just a few, “hung over girls,” “Asian moms,” “boyfriends,” “hot girls,” “fat girls,” “single girls,” and of course we cant forget about “girls who are on their periods.”

In this two-minute video, this girl seems to suffer from every social construction created pertaining to menstruation. From her constant longing for chocolate, to her feeling as if she is dying, to her mood swings, this girl over exaggerates all of the symptoms she claims to have.

The point of this video is to get a laugh, I know. So why be so harsh? It’s funny, right? The typical menstruating female is supposed to watch this and say “oh my God, I do that too! Haha!” However, not all women experience menstruation in the same ways. This generalization of how women act while they are on their periods is only reinforcing the stereotypes that men gain their information from and that so many women are trying to fight every day.

I have a proposition for someone. I want to see a new “Shit Girls Say on Their Periods” video. Only I want this video to portray a woman who embraces menstruation. I want to see a woman feeling extra creative, or extra in touch with herself, or even extra sexual. Why does this video have over a million hits? As a society we need to start changing the way people think about menstruation.

Culture-Jamming Kotex

October 5th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

If you’ve been with us for a while, you might remember that we (and our fabulous readers) had a lot to say in the spring of 2010 when Kotex launched U by Kotex (or YOU.BUY.KOTEX, as we came to call it) and its “Break the Cycle” campaign.

In digging up a copy of the “Reality Check” video that launched the campaign for one of my classes this week, I came across this critique of “Reality Check” by an activist/artist identified online only as Annamalprint. She’s a menstrual activist after our own bleedin’ hearts!

The campaign has won many advertising industry awards, and has been credited with increasing Kotex sales by 10%, by the way. We can expect those neon tampons to be around for a while.

Not Having A Happy Period

August 10th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

Editor’s note, August 10, 2011: Procter & Gamble has responded that this video was NOT produced or commissioned by them, and is in fact a spoof. While it is still offensive and worthy of criticism as such and your comments are welcome here, please do not direct your ire toward Procter & Gamble.



Edited again, August 10, 2011: I’m beginning to doubt the veracity of the unsigned P&G claim that the company is unaffiliated with this video. The same anonymous quote, attributed only to “Procter & Gamble”, is starting to show up in nearly every online discussion of this ad — at least in discussion of how offensive and un-funny it is. I’ve traced the video back to the Ads of the World site, which provides the following credits:

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, London, UK
Creative: Jim Thornton
Director: Ben Jones
Production Company: Helimax Films
DoP: George Steel
Producer: Sherry Collins

I note that P&G has not posted their denial at Ads of the World, or at Jezebel – two blogs with *considerably* larger audiences than re:Cycling. Color me suspicious. I’d like to hear what others think.

 


Final edit, August 11, 2011: Many thanks to blogger Jane Fae, who phoned both P&G office and Leo Burnett UK, and received the following statement from a senior representative at Leo Burnett:

“All creative agencies will look at different creative ideas to push boundaries and engage consumers. We will occasionally make test films to try and bring an idea to life without a request from the client. These films are for internal use only, for us to understand the power of an idea and are not for publication. This creative was never commissioned nor approved by P&G. We regret this has been made public without our approval or authorization and apologise for any offence caused.”

 


Procter & Gamble have finally responded to consumer complaints about their patronizing “Have a Happy Period” slogan, with a disturbing video showcasing what they term “some of East London’s finest transvestites”. This is so many kinds of wrong, starting with the conflation of transsexuality and drag performance. But instead of re-inventing the wheel and taking it apart myself, I’m going to re-direct re:Cycling readers to the excellent analysis Shakesville’s EastSideKate did yesterday.

I pulled this P&G contact information and sample letter from commenter “Teaspoon” over there:

Toll-free phone number in the U.S. (Always brand specific): (800) 888-3115
Web form for U.S. contact: http://pg.custhelp.com/app/ask

A sample letter that anyone may feel free to adopt or adapt as they like:

Dear P&G representative:

I was recently directed to a web video ad for your Always brand products intended for airing in England and possibly wider audiences, featuring London “drag queens” in tears over an ostensible inability to menstruate.  Quite aside from the errors inherent with conflating cross-dressing performance with transsexuality, this sort of advertising is cruel to transwomen who do feel incomplete, and it helps create a hostile situation for transsexual individuals.  These individuals already face a greater risk of violence simply for being who they are, and your advertising promotes further dehumanization of those who are different.

As a long-time loyal purchaser of Always brand products, I am dismayed by such mocking and harmful advertising.  Until the ad is pulled and a public apology that acknowledges the harmful nature of the ad is issued, I will no longer purchase Always brand products, and I will be reviewing my other purchases to avoid other Proctor and Gamble products as well.

Sincerely,
A former customer

“Hail to the D” Wins the Day

July 29th, 2011 by Elizabeth Kissling

There is much cheering in the feminist blogosphere this weekend, for good reason, as Summer’s Eve has removed three offensive vagina puppet videos from their “Hail to the V” website and their YouTube page. My co-blogger, Laura Wershler, will have a lot more to say about the Hail to the V campaign next week and I don’t want to steal her thunder, but I can’t help feeling a little cranky about the response of the Richards Group (the ad agency responsible for these ads). For more than a week, many feminist critics have written eloquently and angrily about how these videos are offensive on several levels, and the company continued to defend them. But a finally, a dude mocked them, and Stan Richards decided the ladies have a point.

Yes, Stephen Colbert’s satire was great, and I’m a fan — but if I had a nickel for every time a feminist critic said something about it would be obvious how ridiculous these ads (and these products) are if we saw comparable products marketed to men, well, I’d have a lot of nickels. I’m just sayin’.

For those with Vaginas

March 17th, 2011 by Chris Hitchcock

Here’s an interesting political approach. While there are hairs to split (do all women have vaginas? do all people with vaginas consider themselves women? and what about those of us with no sexual partners, or sexual partners without penises?), there’s something to be said for appealing to the majority. After all, those of us who already get it, get it, no?

I do wish it came with an action plan, though. Links to a site for people to contact their congresscritters would be good.

Cup U

December 4th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Vanessa Tolkin Meyer recently published her thesis film on Vimeo: it’s a short film about the menstrual cup. It’s also about attitudes toward menstruation and how we talk about it.





Hate ‘moisture’? You’ll love these.

September 5th, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Guest Post by Chella Quint, Adventures in Menstruating

A date with Ryan

Ryan HATES moisture.

So Johnson & Johnson’s Canadian division’s just launched a new Stayfree campaign that I found out about when a Toronto reporter contacted me for an article she was writing. The campain is a series of viral youtube videos that simulate a date with one of three archetypal ‘Mr. Rights’, segue into a product testing situation, and conclude with an offer of a coupon for a free pack of pads.

Now, you can’t argue with free stuff, and the viral nature of the campaign is a good hook to try and get women who have brand loyalty but who might be persuaded to swap, but I think it’s the pads market going for tampon users. A virtual date with attractive thirty-something guys with careers, skills and hobbies? That’s the top half of the 18-34 demographic and I’m pretty sure I remember reading we’re mostly tampon users, though a lot of people have swapped to reusable menstrual cups, so I think on that front these ads aren’t going to work. They’ve already got a couple of things working against them, and only the free stuff in their favour.

Then there’s the length of those ads – two-and-a-half minutes of talking nonstop and the woman’s just nodding? I ramble on about menstruation, but I do let people get a word in edgeways.

Taking the ads as a whole, the ‘I’m on a horse’ Old Spice ad surreal shift to product testing mid date is funny, and the fact that it is so much of a cliché is in keeping with the new ‘tongue in cheek’ ad style, but the message is all wrong. It’s interesting that comedy femcare ads are happening now (this is the third big comedy campaign after Mother Nature and the role reversal Kotex ones, and the nth viral…). I may have no show left to do soon because I’ve parodied femcare ads for the past five years and now they’re parodying themselves. Maybe they’ve been reading my zine. Still though, I wish they’d stop making the same old mistakes. Periods don’t need to be invisible, they don’t need to be negative, and they don’t stand alone – they’re part of a whole biological process and not a creepy ‘other’ that women ‘suffer from’. They’re too inconsistent to be properly funny. If they’re going to go to all that effort, they’d do better to leave out the negative messages. But I’m making sweeping generalisations. Let’s break it down. Here’s where they go wrong on their dates:

Brad The Chef:

They’ve missed a trick with the tomato sauce spilling on the chef’s shirt. It figures that the first time ever there’s a red stain in a femcare ad it’s on a dude.

Then he says “I like thinness, don’t you?” Ok so body image obsessed then…  Fail.

Ryan The Toymaker:

Stereotype of the do-gooder, check. Good effort. But then he says, “I hate moisture.” (Like it’s evil.)  ”Don’t you just hate moisture?” And then the camera…nods?

Dismissive euphemism for blood aside, if they both hate moisture, that is going to be one…chaste relationship.

Moisture? Liquid? They may have tried to appear ‘brave’ or ‘savvy’ by sticking a dude in the ad, but Stayfree doesn’t have the ovaries to use red liquid or say blood? In 2010? Either would be fine. Their version of the visual and the vocab makes menstruation disappear…in an ad for maxipads.

Finally, the killer for Ryan is when he says, “It’s not fair that you should have to experience this every month. It’s just not fair.”

I’m assuming that’s part of the parody – the middle distance stare, the reverent whisper – but the pitying tone means we’ve just been equated with homeless cats (one of the cats is named ‘Spazz’ – in England, that term is really offensive…) and disadvantaged children in our ‘inability’ to cope with menstruation. We are disadvantaged. Poor us.

Doctor Trev:

Dating the men of Stayfree

August 31st, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

Via Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet, I learned of this new internet campaign from Stayfree.


At last, my girlish fantasies realized! I have always dreamed of a man who would have dinner almost ready when I got home, and then mansplain the intricacies of feminine hygiene products while the risotto simmered.

Except I grew up in the 1970s, so my fantasy man shaved his face, not his chest, before our date.

[See also A date with Ryan and A date with Trevor.]

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.