Why Can’t We All Just Go with the Flow?
Photos and Words By Kimberly
Why is Viagra ready for prime time—making lite of the rowdy antics of overaged and undersexed men—but talking about periods still gives us pause?
In middle school, we invented new ways to “smuggle” our tampons and pads along with us to the ladies rooms. Because whenever a girl got up to use the restroom and brought her purse along, everyone would know what she was doing. Or at least, she thought this was the case.
The whispered murmurings of “Ooo, she has her period” and “Stay away! Someone’s in bitch mode.” rang in her ears as she scurried out the door. It was the earliest version of the walk of shame.
The stride of pride
But I also remember the first few times we took that walk as being a stride of pride. This was early on—when the guys didn’t understand what was happening yet, and a few girls were just starting to get their womanhood on. Those “special ladies” would rise happily, having hit the ground running early on puberty and wanting to let us all know it.
The entire process seemed mysterious. They raised their hands in every class, picked up small purses, and smiled at us as they left. They took their time, so we were left to wonder at what they were doing in there. And we all wanted to go, too.
“Once the boys were in on the secret,
it became a thing to hide.”
Once the boys were in on the secret though—that time of the month and the presence of a period somehow became a thing to hide. God forbid someone, especially a boy, saw you buying period paraphernalia at the store. You’d hold the product tightly in your hand as you stood in line, or bury it under a pile of magazines in your cart—eyes shifting left and right as you waited for the lady-helmed register to open (“oh, the man cashier’s register is free? you can go ahead of me”).
Brands breaking barriers
Women make up half the population. Bleeding is a totally natural thing we do. And we need to buy products to deal with it on a monthly basis.
So when a brand creates a truly innovative product for dealing with the monthly flow (one that doesn’t need to be repurchased month after month!), it should get press everywhere. And when that company takes it a step farther, with conversation-starting ads that portray periods in a real way, their marketing ought to be celebrated.
But this wasn’t the case with Thinx, the revolutionary brand of reusable period underwear. When founder Miki Agrawal started Thinx in 2010, print outlets covered the launch—but mainstream TV was a no-go. They called the kind of “real period talk” the brand was advocating too suggestive and potentially offensive.
Just this past November, the SF Bart banned one of their ads . The ad read “Pussy-grabbing-proof underwear,” a play on the term our new President elect popularized as “locker room talk” and which feminists took back for themselves. The less controversial ad that Bart deemed ok to run read “Glass-ceiling-proof underwear.” Good copy, but not as much of a head-turner.
“The period humor was a bit too realistic
for people’s sensitive eyes.”
Last year, Thinx fought against a similar ban of their ads in the NY subway. These ads featured photos of women underwear, a half a grapefruit and dripping egg yolks. Period humor—a bit too realistic for people’s sensitive eyes. Yet, it wasn’t the provocative image that reportedly got the transit authority upset. The word “period” stopped them in their tracks. Thinx ultimately won out—and got to feature its ads front and center. They’ve since doubled down on spending on provocative ads.
Blood is a thing. Accidents happen. Underwear gets ruined. We don’t all wear white and run through the fields. But when it gets too real, people continue to get real uncomfortable.
Conversation starters like Thinx and other product innovators in the period space like Flex and Lola have chipped away at the period problem. Forbes even called 2016 “The Year of the Women-Led Period Startup.” But plenty of work still needs to be done.
Say it loud
Let’s go back to being those girls who think about periods with pride. It should be ok to say something about it—in and on every channel.
“There’s no shame in this game.
Only the awkwardness we create in our own conversations”
Because there’s no shame in this game—only the awkwardness we create in our own conversations. Talking about periods, and being honest, is the only way for people to get used to it.
Let’s go on the “offensive” offensive. A period is the best way to end a sentence.