Holy Hormones Honey! Excellent commentary on making menstruation a visible healthy experience. Every woman and/or teen needs to have a bottle of Ruby’s Red Wash on hand for that break through moment! You could all start wearing those summer whites again….
Celebrating a Year of Visibility!
What do you know, it’s been a full year of Period Talk chats (#PeriodTalk) on Twitter sponsored by the non-profit You ARE Loved and Be Prepared Period! As the founder of Ruby’s Red Wash, I have enjoyed participating in some of these chats, as a special guest, sometimes as a kind of quiet lurker, but often as a regular participant in the conversations. If you have not joined in yet, I encourage you to do so, because it is a bit other-worldly. Imagine a virtual cocktail party with several conversations going on, but with a host stepping in regularly to keep the guests on topic. You’ll have to provide your own cocktail if you desire it, but there is plenty of conversation to quench your thirst.
As someone who thinks and talks about menstruation and tries to bring to light the imbedded cultural shame of it every single day, the significance of these regular, public talks on periods has not gone unappreciated by me. Though I am regularly immersed in the topic of periods, the experience of talking openly about menstrual bleeding on a public forum was a bit surreal at first. One does not normally talk about such things, right? And, especially in such great detail and with such candor. (Gee, I get to type the word “blood!”) The rules of the culture say that you are supposed to work out the details of bleeding on your own, maybe have a brief conversation with girlfriends every now and then, and then rapidly just move on. So, it has been refreshing and utterly liberating to actually speak ‘out loud’ (as best as one can on Twitter) about what it means to menstruate—lightly or heavily – with a pad or with a cup –as a pre-teen girl or a peri-menopausal woman—to have survived Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)—or to tragically know someone who has not. All of this storytelling, talking, divulging, inquiring, confessing, and “chatting” amount to real, human ideas and experiences and are part of what it means to be female. Yet, on a daily and routine basis, women and girls still filter this aspect of their being out of the lives they live and speak.
If you are female, you may think, ‘Oh I talk and think about my period enough,’ but you may not recognize the shackles which you wear thanks to the traditions of the culture, the habits of your family, or the messages from the schools you attended and the television you have watched, or worse yet, the content of menstrual product advertising which you have absorbed over the years. Menstrual product advertising remains a good indicator of where we stand with regard to “menstrual attitudes” and general attitudes about female being. The idea that we should keep silent about menstruating and make this part of our lives invisible is blatantly obvious in the recent advertising of a particular well-known brand of tampon. (Seriously, I will send a free bottle of Ruby’s Red Wash to the first person who comments with the correct brand name of the tampon!)
This advertising features a young woman arriving at a party or nightclub who is greeted by a cheesy looking guy who leers at her. Her comment is, “Ever wish you could make some things disappear?” And then he disappears. In another version, she says the same thing but steps in a puddle as she gets out of the car and then the puddle disappears. She then goes on to talk about the reason why she uses this tampon, i.e., she wants to keep her period “out of sight” or be “invisible” so that she can shine through (presumably without the muddiness of her menstrual cycle). This commercial has bugged me for some months now, because this scenario 1) capitalizes on the ever-present cultural message that menstruation is shameful and letting anyone know you are bleeding is doubly shameful, 2) asserts that your menstrual cycle is this thing separate from you that invades your being and clouds who you are, and 3) contends that menstruation is all tied up with how women want to be seen in the eyes of men. At the end of the commercial, the woman announces that she can “stand out” (presumably as her true self) when she’s wearing this fabulous period-erasing tampon and then she pseudo-confidently walks up to an attractive man at the party and says “Hi.” At the same time she says this, women on either side of the man disappear and go “poof” just like the cheesy guy did at the beginning of the commercial. I guess the message is that the other women weren’t wearing these confidence-instilling, all-signs-of-menstruation-erasing-tampons during their period, and that’s why they disappeared from our view, making the good-looking guy available? Because, after all, it is always about making ourselves attractive by making the truth of our real bodies invisible, especially to men, right?