“When she bleeds the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She smells like a gun.” ~ Jeanette Winterson
So, we’ve spent a lifetime watching sanitary towel and tampons adverts that show product demonstrations using some smooth, pale blue gel/liquid which doesn’t resemble anything that actually exists outside of those commercials.
Which isn’t surprising really, what with it being computer generated, and actually not existing anywhere outside of those commercials.
But, finally, last week saw the unveiling of an ad campaign that showed some real(istic looking) red blood in it.
Which makes a lot more sense when you think about it.
Given how we buy those things to soak up blood and liver coloured uterine tissues.
And have done for as long as anyone can remember.
It’s frankly quite ridiculous that I’m writing about this because it constitutes any kind of a step forward.
But it does. And I am.
Although, to be honest I was initially slightly disappointed with the ad.
The blood it shows still isn’t the kind of blood that’s relevant to the product being advertised.
Instead the advert depicts sports/training related bleeding. Hardcore sports/training related bleeding. The kind you’d need to cover with bandages.
The first time I watched it I still didn’t feel as though they came up with anything that was real for me.
Possibly because with the state of my health over the last six months or so the idea of me managing to be hardcore at anything other than sitting and sleeping has been no more realistic than the suggestion that I bleed blue menstrual blood.
But then I thought about it some more and realised that I don’t actually want to watch a video of someone else’s used sanitary towel or tampon; and with the possible exception of Germaine Greer I’m struggling to think of anyone else who might.
I barely appreciate having to look at my own blood, I’m just not dedicated enough to the cause to enjoy the sight of anyone else’s.
And to be fair to Bodyform, who commissioned the adverts I’m talking about, I know far more people who workout while they’re on their period than wear tight white trousers or skirts, well, ever.
Because those things are destined to be ruined period or no period.
It is nice to see women depicted doing a range of activities, and doing them well, in spite of their menstrual cycle. And pretty and girly just doesn’t fit with the theme of menstruation given that it’s neither pretty nor girly.
It does make me miss Thai boxing.
And the thing with this campaign is that it’s more than just a video.
In another shouldn’t-be-ground-breaking initiative Bodyform have set up a section on their website called Red.Fit.
Here they’ve collected information and advice from physiologists, sports scientists, nutritionists, and coaches to help us to better understand our monthly cycle and the differences, in what our bodies are capable of and what they need, at each of the stages.
They’ve broken the menstrual cycle down into four phases:
Bleed – pretty self-explanatory.
Peak – which is when you’ll feel the best and be able to perform most effectively.
Burn – which is where your body burns the most energy as it’s making you more fertile.
Fight which is the phase where you’re pre-menstrual and feeling crappy and crabby.
On the page for each phase there’s a bit of an explanation of what is happening inside your body; where your hormones are at, how your immune system is performing, and what you’ll need most in terms of nutrition.
This is followed by some information and a video about the best types of exercise to aim for during that phase. Then there’s some nutritional advice along with a video of an appropriate recipe, and an audio clip of a motivational coach advising you how to feel good about yourself.
The message is: We get it, we know how this feels, how it’s not always pleasant, but here’s a way to make sure that ‘No Blood Can Hold Us Back’.
Go and check it out. It’s an interesting site.
The sections aren’t actually massively detailed – they certainly aren’t wordy – but they still offer more information on what to do to feel the best you can than the menstrual cycle section of the NHS Choices website.
And the more I looked at it the more mystified I was as to how it could be that nobody had ever put all this stuff together and widely disseminated it before.
I mean, I’ve been having periods for more than 20 years now. How can this possibly be the first time I’ve come across this kind of thing?
All of this information should be included in ‘The Talk’ we give to kids when they’re on the verge of puberty to explain what’s about to happen to them.
Then it should be repeated to them throughout their early teens to make sure that they become familiar with and know how best to look after themselves.
Instead of having to figure out how to navigate their cycles through a lifetime of trial and error and maybe a couple of minutes of conversation with the nurse every few years when they go for their smear test.
Bodyform also have another initiative that aims to help us to communicate with each other about our periods.
They’re running a petition to have these ‘Femojis‘ made available universally:
I particularly like ballon lady.
And the more emojis the better I say.
In fact if these are released I may never have to message Raj with a single written word again.
Anyway, what did you make of the ad?
Or the website?
Or the emojis for that matter?
Does all this make you feel empowered or is there anything you’d like to see done differently?
(All images by Bodyform)