Years ago, I interviewed for an intern gig at a PR agency. The VP, a steely blond named Sharon, seemed intent on talking me out of it. “You’re only as good as your last success, and clients only notice the mistakes,” she warned. When that didn’t deter, she leaned in and told it straight: “Look, this is an office of 13 women. And we all get our periods at the same time.”
I could not have been more mortified had she invited me to a first moon party but, in terms of bringing menstruation into the conversation, this lady marketer was light years ahead of her time.
Used to be, pop culture sailed clear of the crimson wave. The Spice Girls had about as much interest in appearing in tampon ads as they did in coordinating their outfits. But a decade or two later, here we are. Demi Lavato is the face of Tampax’s Radiant Collection. The Kardashians are doing Youtube videos for Kotex. And women across North America are being urged: #tweetyourperiod.
Periods have not only come out of the closet, they’ve gone full frontal.
Last month, in Manhattan, a pop-up shop materialized on 5th Avenue to give women a place where they could feel ‘represented and revered’ while shopping for menstrual products. Beyond tampons and pads, The Period Shop offered PMS massages, nail art, custom tea blends and ice cream flavours, and themed products like Period Power Candles, sweaters with tampon graphics, and necklaces with slogans like ‘OMG PMS’ and ‘on my period’.
And it doesn’t stop there.
For women who’d rather ‘experience’ menstruation from the comfort of home, an online subscription service is standing by to deliver ‘period treats’ to their door, just in time for the monthly visitor. Thanks to enlightened toymakers, there’s even a product to give Mom a leg up on talking to her daughter about impending womanhood. The Lammily Doll has a Period Party Package complete with calendar and sticker book, educational pamphlet, and doll-sized underwear, pads and panty liners.
In bringing menstruation mainstream, marketers are taking the curse off and helping young women get comfortable and informed. Which is good. And yet, the question remains: are we jumping the shark on this thing? Is the crimson wave triggering a kitschy lifestyle extravaganza? Probably. But before you shrug your shoulders, drink the Kool-Aid, and craft a menstrual quilt, check out this new ad from BodyForm, a UK-based feminine protection company:
No rueful humour. No perks or consolations. Just a lot of sweat, scabs and blood. Although this commercial doesn’t celebrate menstruation, its message of female empowerment is right on point. No blood should hold us back.
The Co’s Katherine Gougeon explores social and cultural details that have an outsized ripple effect. Follow her on Twitter @kgougeon