According to Facebook, periods unacceptably ‘shock and scare’. Oh yup. Let us bleed in peace, for f**k’s sake, writes Kelly Bertrand – and let’s stop the narrative that periods are glittery, sparkly and mysterious.
If all of your knowledge of menstruation came from TV ads, you’d probably only know two things.
One: period blood is blue. And two: rather than being curled up on the couch in spastic agony, the only thing you’ll want to do when you’re on your period is pull on a pair of white jeans and go roller blading.
Unrealistic depictions of menstruation have frustrated period-getters (more like sufferers) for years. Minimising, hiding and changing how this natural, monthly and inevitable process implies that there’s something shameful or dirty about how women’s bodies are wired.
It’s 2021, but if periods are any indicator, it’s still a man’s world, baby. Much like how office air conditioners are set for male thermostats (yes THAT is why you’re always cold), men still have some weird thing about our times of the month – which leads one of feminism’s final frontiers (of which there are still many).
A Kiwi period care brand, AWWA, have refreshingly bucked the trend, this month releasing a 90-second TVC that showed the reality of a woman’s monthly battle (and yes I will call it a battle) to manage their periods.
The progressive ad is set during lockdown and features two flatmates who’ve synched (thank God it’s just two of them – I remember the days of four of us in a flat with the same cycle. Whittaker’s couldn’t make enough stock to keep up.) One of them wears AWWA and embodies freedom and ease as they connect with nature, while their flatmate encounters the hassles and discomforts associated with using traditional period products. The honest portrayal reveals the emotions and normalities experienced during menstruation, including real blood, never seen before on Kiwi television.
The ad is currently playing on TVNZ OnDemand and Youtube. It was also intended to play on Facebook, however the social media platform has since banned this from happening. AWWA was told from Facebook’s policy team that the ad’s content “violates the Shock and Scare” policy, so the ad remains disapproved.
‘Ads must not contain shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content’, as per the policy. Other examples of rejected ad content that falls within this same policy includes ads depicting violence, mutilation, torture, graphic medical procedures, etc. Obviously AWWA, a brand founded by Kiwis Michele Wilson and Kylie Mathews, does not agree that their ad fits this criteria and has since reached out to Spencer Bailey, Head of New Zealand Facebook. As of October 11, they haven’t had a response.
Some of the images that violate Facebook’s ‘shock and scare’ policy.
“As many will recall, we grew up watching period ads that made us feel embarrassed about having a period. The elephant in the room, the actual period, was always absent from these ads. AWWA is challenging the status quo, sparking positive conversations and in-turn normalising menstruating for all people that period.” says Holly Dean McDaniel, AWWA Global Brand Director.
Now let’s get to the crux of the issue – according to Facebook, period blood ‘shocks and scares’. A huge insult to those who menstruate and a direct attack on women, the controversial social media giant has banned all other attempts at realistically showing period blood.
Modibodi, another period care brand, similarly had their ad which used red to represent period blood rejected by the platform for the same reasons, but later backtracked and allowed the advertisement.
Historically, other period care brands have shied away from the truths of menstruating, using advertisements steeped in euphemisms and cute metaphors — blue liquids, the cat playing with tampons, the boyfriend dressed as a robot with his girlfriend’s pads which to be fair, was a classic. BUT, none of them actually mentioned or, crucially, SHOWED the issue the products were trying to help with – the period.
To be fair, it’s an issue that’s not unique to Facebook – in the entire three stock image libraries Capsule has access too, none offered any image of period blood (hence why our main image is intended to show the ridiculousness of a Facebook-approved period image.)
It’s 2021. We’re tired. We’re bleeding. Get used to it.