Since the invention of color television, women and girls have been forced to watch advertisements for menstrual products that in no way reflect what it's like to have a period. You know the drill — blue liquid, dangerously white clothing, and zero public meltdowns in the aisles of Target. At long last, Bodyform's latest advertisement gives the people what they want. Hold on to your pantyliners, ladies and gents, because you're about to watch a commercial about periods that actually depicts periods realistically. In a perfect world, that wouldn't be newsworthy, but here we are.
Right off the bat, the 20-second ad makes it clear that they're not here for visual euphemisms. It opens with a shot of a pad streaked with blood (or at least viscous red liquid), a common sight for anyone who gets a period. The commercial then moves on to a series of images, including a man on a late-night period supply run, a woman lounging on a maxi pad-shaped pool float, and blood trickling down someone's thighs in the shower. Finally, it concludes with an explosion of a mysterious red liquid, because subtlety has no place in this advertisement.
"Periods are normal. Showing them should be, too," it concludes to tune of triumphant music.
The ad is part of Bodyform's Blood Normal campaign, which aims to break down the menstrual taboos that are so deeply ingrained in many cultures. "Periods are a natural part of life, so why are they rarely given any screen time?" says the campaign's webpage. "Surely hiding something so normal only adds to the shame and embarrassment many women feel when it comes to their periods. Let’s be open about it."
To that end, Bodyform has pledged to move away from the famously unrealistic menstrual ads, with their evasive language and smiling, sporty women, that have been the standard for so long. "We show true-to-life situations; we show blood; we show the world that the only way to kill stigma is to make the invisible visible," reads the company's website. With the release of its latest commercial, Bodyform delivered on its promise. According to the Independent, the ad is the first to use realistic red liquid as a stand-in for menstrual blood instead of the traditional neon blue.
It's all a bit self-congratulatory, but after decades of commercials that tiptoe around the very products they're trying to sell, the congratulations may be warranted. Menstrual stigma is a real problem for women (and some men) around the world. Despite the fact that half the world's population has had or will have a period at some point, women are discouraged from talking about it publicly. In 2010, for example, Kotex was told it couldn't use the word "vagina" in its advertisements on three broadcast networks; five years later, artist Rupi Kaur's series of menstruation-themed photos, one of which showed blood-stained sweatpants, were removed from Instagram twice. It's no wonder commercials about menstrual products spend so much effort dodging the subject.
To be fair, Bodyform definitely stands to gain from depicting periods in a realistic manner. According to its website, the brand commissioned an online survey of more than 10,000 people, and 74 percent said they wished for more realistic representations of periods from companies that make menstrual products. But no matter the motive, the commercial remains groundbreaking. The best way to fight any kind of stigma is to talk about it openly and honestly. With menstruation, that starts by getting rid of commercials that pretend women bleed thin blue liquid and happily do yoga despite feeling like their uterus is clawing itself to shreds.
For now, Bodyform's "Blood Normal" is one of few ads to do so. Check it out below.