The feminine product company, Always, put out a heartwarming commercial in June, explaining why and how to break down the “like a girl” stereotype. We see young women asked to perpetuate and explain the stereotype of running, hitting and throwing “like a girl.” Then some young girls, maybe unaware of the stereotype, show off their version of doing things “like a girl.” We see the discrepancy, and can all agree that putting girls down by categorizing femininity with weakness and physical inability is a disappointing part of growing up. We, of course, should encourage young girls and women to be themselves, run however they want, be strong, and make up their own minds about what it means to embrace femininity for themselves. I don’t disagree with this commercial, and I don’t think it’s bad or wrong in any way. Yes! Let’s empower women! I’m with you, Always!
At least on this commercial, I’m with you. (And after some research, I think Always is actually advertising to women quite well. They are selling period starter kits for young girls to get prepared for their cycle and releasing some charming ads to boot.) Always is, as you know, a feminine product company. Companies offering menstrual “clean-up”, not excluding Always, have not always advertised well to women. Always is not exempt from the list of advertisers that tend to misrepresent the monthly cycle; although, they are producing better ads than most other companies. In some of their other ads, like in most feminine product ads, Always is still representing menstrual bleeding with blue liquid. As every woman can attest, uterine lining isn’t blue. It’s bloody, for Pete’s sake! It ranges from bright red to dark brown throughout the 3-8 days of bleeding. It also doesn’t spill smoothly onto a flattened pad from a clear glass. Every single woman has a pair (or a few) of stained undies from the effects of the heavy day that no tampon or pad on the market could defend. Most commercials for feminine products is still telling a big lie that with the right product, periods can be masked and secret. Always goes by the name of Whisper in Southeast Asia. There is still a message sent to women that your period should be a secret.
Harry Finley, the curator of the Museum of Menstruation, claims feminine product advertising started as early as the 1800s. The ads, since then, have sung the same tune. “The companies (usually run by men) take advantage of the secrecy surrounding menstruation. They’ve always been about covering up any sign of menstruation, sight or odor. The worse women feel about menstruation the more vulnerable they are and companies make money from that.” he explains.
The marketing executives of Always are on the right track with their campaigning.They are well aware there is a movement of feminist advertising they can’t ignore. There is a growing market of well-educated women, looking to take care of their bodies and choosing wisely where to spend their money. We are growing less and less ignorant of the subliminal sexism and hyper-sexual material in most advertising, thanks to projects like Miss Representation. Always knows they won’t make money producing advertisements that claim your husband won’t want to spend time with you if you have your period. Other companies aren’t necessarily behind this trend yet, and are unfortunately still banking on the lie that your menstrual bleeding and natural functioning should be something to be ashamed of. There are still commercials for tampons that can be discreetly hidden, ads showing confident women wearing all white and proudly walking up to their man, proud that he’ll never know their big secret. Advertisers are still feeding into the idea that women should be ashamed of their bodies, and selling products with perfume and harmful chemicals that we all know we aren’t supposed to be putting in our vaginas.
So, Always, a company dealing with our periods head-on, is asking us to embrace doing life “like a girl.” Then let me finish the ad with my own twist. Hey, Always! I want to get my period “like a girl”!!
Periods are not super fun, but they are just part of doing life like a girl, and I think we should all think a little bit about how we can open up to that fact. “Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl,” says a young woman toward the end of the commercial. Let me add, I also get my period like a girl. Because I am a girl.