Periods. Menstruation. ‘That time of the month.’ A visit from ‘Aunt Flo.’ Whatever you call it, approximately half of the world’s population will experience, or has experienced menstruation – usually on a monthly basis!
So, why do people still feel triggered by seeing period blood on TV or in advertising?
Last week, Aussie feminine hygiene brand Libra dropped their #bloodnormal campaign, with an ad that ran during Survivor on Channel Ten. Within moments, TV viewers bombarded social media with divisive opinions on what they’d seen.
You see, Libra’s ad wasn’t a stock-standard ad for pads with absorption demonstrated via a few droplets of a mysterious blue fluid. It featured realistic girls, in realistic situations, experiencing realistic periods – with realistic blood.
After seeing the ad, Twitter users called it “inappropriate” and “absolutely disgusting” while others praised the campaign for normalising menstruation and showing real women having real periods.
Those who found the ad offensive are missing the point. By showing period blood on primetime telly, we are able to remove the stigma that menstruation is ‘unclean’ or something to be ‘embarrassed’ about.
This stigma is quite clearly something still being experienced in 2019. According to a study conducted by Libra, periods are perceived as more of a taboo than drugs, sex, STDs and mental health problems.
An indication of this is the great lengths women will go to conceal their periods in public. The study found that 58% of women will avoid swimming and check for leaks after sitting down, 60% stay away from light-coloured clothing, and over half hide their pads and tampons in a pocket, sleeve or bra.
A horrifying example of this kind of period-shaming is the case of Alisha Coleman from Fort Benning in the United States. In 2016, Coleman filed a discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, claiming she was fired for having period leaks on the job.
According to TIME, Coleman was working as a 911 dispatcher in 2015 when she experienced pre-menopause symptoms that caused her to leak menstrual blood in the office. Her supervisor warned her that “if she ever soiled another chair” she would be fired. Soon after, another heavy period caused Coleman to leak blood on the office carpet and she was let go from the company.
However, adult women aren’t the only ones affected by the stigma and discrimination surrounding periods. Libra’s study found that 70% of young Australian girls would rather fail a subject in class than have their peers know they are on their period.
“Perhaps that’s because periods aren’t something we commonly see on TV, in movies or on Instagram,” says Dr Lauren Rosewarne, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
“If young girls are brought up to hide their period, then they will continue to feel and believe it’s something shameful, embarrassing and needing to be hidden,” she added.
It’s about time we stop adding to the harmful rhetoric around female menstruation and accept the fact that periods are something all women experience. Menstruation isn’t disgusting, or inappropriate, it’s a part of everyday life.